There is a phenomenon that is largely prevalent in my generation and the generations younger than me. It is the overuse and incorrect use of the word love. I think that mass advertising has had a huge impact on this trend. Have you ever stopped to really listen to the garbage coming out of your speakers? Have you ever been appalled by an ad on the radio or TV? You’re not alone. Last Christmas, the ads were so bad that I finally started shutting off the radio. We are constantly told that we will “love” products and services. Think about it. McDonald’s has a slogan that says “I’m Lovin’ It”.
Lately I have seen a lot of articles on how our culture is fearful of children. There is even a new phobia of pregnant women that has been in the news. Time ran a piece on child free living a while back. All of these articles make me deeply sad for these people. When I look back on my Twenties when I was single, I can say that I had periods of happiness. I got to live where I wanted, do whatever I wanted, and I was in charge of my life. At least that is what I thought.
I am starting to write my first novel; by hand.
Hello! My name is Alexandra. Most people call me Alex or Alexis, but I prefer Alexandra. No one really cares to ask me my preference, so I gave up on correcting people long ago. I want to tell you my story. I have heard my whole life that I am worthless and that my mom should have done away with me. The woman, whom all I can do is thank for giving me life, since that is all that she ever gave me. All I know of my father is that he was one of many in a long line of affairs. I am not even sure if the man’s name on my birth certificate is real. “David Miller” may as well be “John Doe” as far as I am concerned.
I have learned a lot about writing in the last two days. I have had the most intense days of writing that I have ever experienced. Characters pressed themselves upon me and I had to put pen to page, literally. I have written 36 pages by hand in two days. Not only that, I have written fiction. While I have had occasional ideas for a short story or a novel, I usually brush them off and assume that if I am going to be a writer it will be non-fiction. Then all of a sudden a character told me her name, and I began to understand what previous authors have said about characters introducing themselves. I was a medium for the characters to tell their stories.
The American Catholic Church is divided. This is evidenced by the media, research, and just by being involved in my local parish. We argue and fight about doctrine constantly. Somewhere down the line in the last 50 years being Catholic has become what “I” believe and not what Holy Mother Church has taught for 2000 years. Sure this is a product of Reformation-Enlightenment-Modern/Scientific Absolutist thought. An objective study of history and philosophical thought shows us how we got to this point. The philosophical strands that have cut through the West for the last 500 years, have resulted in our current “dictatorship of relativism”. The West has put the individual as the deciding force of truth, resulting in a chaos of subjective truth, while all together abandoning objective truth; that which the Catholic Church has taught for two millennia. And while it is useful to understand the underpinnings of our culture, the real issue is a lot simpler than blaming Descartes or Calvin. The issue is conversion.
I have learned a lot in the three years that I have participated in 40 Days for Life and have prayed outside of Planned Parenthood. The first time that I went, was when I was five months pregnant with my daughter. It actually was not a good experience the first time because someone tried to scare us off, but we stayed. Once my daughter was born I started taking her with me. She sat in her stroller, and now she walks with me or someone else while we pray, or she kneels beside me. We get lots of honks of support, and we get yelled at, or flipped off a couple of times. There is a lot of pain and anger in the world.
I think there is an undercurrent in our society that convinces moms that we should be able to do it all, on our own. We need to be supermom; standing strong and taking care of our families, communities, and jobs. Society tells us that we should not need help outside of our homes. To ask for help is to be weak. And we all know that weakness is the worst thing we can be in a society that worships the strong. We are not supposed to admit that we don’t have it all together.
Gone are the days, at least in our culture, of doing community laundry at the river, or collecting water from the town well. These were tasks that women gathered together for in order to share the workload, and quite frankly, to talk, socialize, and commune. Women are social beings and instinctively know that we are not supposed to go it alone. Motherhood and marriage are tough. That is why they are paths to sainthood.
The amount of socializing that we like to do definitely depends on our temperament and personality. Some of us are introverts, which means that we like to visit with others in a limited amount of time, but we still need that interaction. Some women are more extrovert oriented and really enjoy the company of others. No matter our personality, we need guidance and support from other women, especially other moms. Why do you think that Pinterest and Facebook are so popular? It is a way for women who are isolated from everyone else as they stay home with their children throughout the day, to connect with other people. It is a place to feel validated or to unload. Social media attempts to alleviate the enclosure of our post-modern lives, but they are not enough. We need actual contact with people that does not come through our computer screens.
Today I went to my first Mom’s Meet Up at my parish. I had seen them advertised, but I had missed them for one reason or another in the past. One of the reasons being that I am awkward around new people. I am terrible at small talk. With me you can just skip over the pleasantries and jump right into current affairs, politics, theology, or if you prefer, diapers and childrearing. I really dislike the conversation that is predicated upon “so what do you do for a living”. I am a wife and a mom. Next topic. I force my way through small talk, since I have gathered that is a necessary form of social interaction, but on the inside I am wondering when we will either find something we have in common or move onto something of more substance. Patience is not my middle name. More than anything, I just hate feeling awkward.
I decided that it was time to check out the Mom’s group. I already knew some of the ladies involved, and they are very nice women. They also have children closer to my daughter’s age, which most of my friends do not. Most of my friends have children who are at least 7 years old all the way up to adulthood. So, this morning I packed Michaela up and decided to do a little penance by taking my toddler to daily Mass. If there is one thing that should free souls from Purgatory it is dealing with a toddler during Mass. What?! The consecration is coming up. That is the perfect time to yell out “hello” to Father. Let’s play peek-a-boo with mommy’s veil. She didn’t really need it anyway, right? We made it through Mass without any meltdowns. Sure Rosaries and hymnals were scattered across the floor. It’s an obstacle course for people to maneuver through on their way up to receive the Eucharist. Daily Mass is done in our small Blessed Sacrament Chapel. I digress. Clearly I need to write about toddlers and Mass at a later date.
After Mass, we went to the Mom’s group that was meeting in the parish nursery. That way our kids can play while we exchange war stories, I mean, how our lives are going. An amazing thing happened when I arrived. I was introduced to the women who I did not know and then we went straight into talking about our lives. No small talk or awkward chit chat. It was like I already knew the secret handshake by the sheer act of being a mom. At first I was so amazed that I did not know how to react. Am I supposed to already talk about my life? You mean I don’t have to justify my life choices in this social setting? Did somebody already mention how awful Obamacare is? You mean I can talk about my HCG reactions without getting strange looks? These women were comfortably talking about their husbands, kids, medical care, raising a family, the government shutdown, etc. No pretenses, no fear of social rejection. I had found the 21st Century well where women gather to talk.
There is this unspoken fear among mothers that we are being judged by other mothers. What?! You sculpted the David in your child’s PB&J?! I was lucky to find a slice of bread and peanut butter to put together. Your kids sit still during Mass with their hands neatly folded on their laps? My daughter threw Cheerios at the couple sitting in front of us and she was the one singing something that sounds like a cross between English, Latin, and a cow mooing during the Agnus Dei. Okay, so this might be a bit exaggerated. She sounds more like a barking dog.
Here’s the thing, fellow moms, we need to stop worrying about judging each other and just help each other. Stay-at-home moms like me who have infants or toddlers face a rather daunting task of raising their child alone all day. My husband works all day and I do not see most of my friends during the day because they either work or homeschool their children who are much older than Michaela. Moms need to get out of the house. We need a chance to unload. We need to be able to admit that we are exhausted and do not have it together. We need to encourage one another on the path. Christian community is about lifting each other up. So let’s stop worrying about other parents judging our choices. Absolutely no one can mother our children better than we can. That is why God gave us the child or children he gave us. He knew that we were the best for them and they are the best for us. So sign off of Facebook or Pinterest or whatever other social media you are using to combat your loneliness and isolation, and head out to your parish to meet other moms. If there is not a group in your church, then start one. Also, take your kid to the library to meet other moms there. We are not meant to be cooped up in our houses alone with our children all day. This is the secret that the women before us understood so well.
Do you need a quick and easy dinner? Here is one of my go to dinners. It is perfect for using up leftover chicken, beef, pork, venison, shrimp etc.. You can also use whatever you have in the pantry. Here is how I made these smothered burritos this time:
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
Chop up one medium yellow onion and sautee, add bell pepper (your choice of color) and soften, then add corn, black beans, and cut up cooked chicken. Heat through. Cut up one block of cream cheese and melt it into the pan. Add one can of green chilis. Turn off heat. Fill 8 large burrito tortillas and fold. Place them in a casserole dish. Cover with green enchilada sauce and cheese. Bake for 20-22 minutes until bubbly. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and other condiments. Enjoy! This is a family favorite and you can add whatever veggies you want. Try adding rice, or instead of black beans use pinto or kidney. Make vegetarian burritos for an excellent meatless Friday dish.
A vocation is not necessarily where we thought we would end up. Instead, a vocation is where God calls us to journey towards Him. In short, it is how He makes us saints. And that, my friends, is the meaning of life: to be a saint. We either choose to answer is call or we don’t. To be quite honest, I still struggle with openly answering His call in my life. Being a homemaker, was not what I had envisioned for myself. I have imagined myself having a career since childhood. I guess that is just what a child of the 80s and 90s did, even though my own mother took a long break from working to stay home with us. I also did not get married until I was 29, so I had been working for over a decade and I had lived all over.
I guess I left behind the notion of a big city career at some major university when I moved away from Washington DC for the last time. I did not know it then, but I was making a choice for the life I wanted to lead. I had really enjoyed city life for most of my Twenties, but by the last part of that decade of my life, I was burned out. I craved quiet and nature. And while DC is still my favorite city, whenever I go back, I know that I made the right choice. It is not where I want to raise a family.