Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Perfect Catholic Mom

The Perfect Catholic Mom
  • doesn't have a television.
  • either homeschools with a classical, Catholic-centric curriculum or has enrolled the children in an independent- perhaps Legionaire- Catholic school.
  • takes the kids to daily Mass and confession once a week.
  • smiles serenely as her husband drinks wine and smokes cigars a la G.K. Chesterton.
  • prepares only vegan food every Wednesday and Friday and everyday during the fast periods like Advent (St Phillip's Fast) and Lent (Great Fast) for her Byzantine Catholic family- or meatless every Friday for her Western-rite family.
  • doesn't celebrate non-Catholic holidays like Halloween or the secularized versions of Christmas and St. Valentine's Day.
  • stays out of politics except to vote.
  • only buys fast food during the 40 Days for Life.
  • smiles serenely as strangers gawk at her 8 kids at the supermarket.
  • knits and/or crochets while she waits for her sons to finish altar server training and/or her girls to finish Little Flowers.
  • knows that her kids know their catechism perfectly.
  • can keep her kids quiet in church with a simple look and doesn't need juice, a toy or a book to calm her toddlers.
  • smiles serenely as her OB/GYN sighs when she comes in for a 12-week pre-natal check-up again.
The Perfect Catholic Mom (TM) is a figment of fantasy, of wild optimism, of impossible expectations and perhaps depression over self-imposed perfection that hasn't been met. Still, many of us Regular, Doing-Our-Best Catholic Moms (TM) find it difficult to reconcile ourselves to reality and our humanity. I am one example of:

The Regular Catholic Mom
  • has a television, but most likely with no cable. She likes the kids to be able to watch Blues' Clues while she gets dinner ready. She even might let the kids' see Veggie Tales. Less screaming when Dad gets home. Dad might like to decompress after work with a DVD, as well.
  • educates her kids in many different ways. Some kids go to parish schools, and others even might go to a public school. All good, regular Catholic moms, however, know that it is her and her husband's responsibility to be extremely involved in the kids' education. They know what is happening in the classroom.  I, a regular Catholic mom, homeschool my kids, using the resources of a homeschooling, public charter school.
  •  is always at Mass on Sundays and major feast days.
  • tells her husband that GKC wouldn't want him using Catholicism as an excuse for smoking. I might grumble about a cigar if it isn't to celebrate a new baby.
  • struggles with going meatless- it's so easy to throw a chicken in the oven! We have been doing well with going without meat during Advent and Lent- going all vegan is another story.
  • lets her kids go trick or treating- just no scary costumes, please! Balance everyone! Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus is fun, but Mrs. Claus- sorry- all bishops are celibate. She doesn't exist- Rudolph also doesn't exist- he's not in the original poem :)
  • can be a bit passionate about politics, talking too much at dinner parties and running to turn off talk radio when the kids can hear.
  • sometimes has pizza night from Dominos or another place just because it is Wednesday- and perhaps only made it to a pro-life event a few times this year with promises to herself that she'll improve. Meanwhile- where is my knitting bag?

    I think you have got the idea! We regular Catholic moms have the same goal as those fictitious perfect moms- we want to do what is right for our kids and help get ourselves, our husbands, and our kids to heaven. We expect a big family reunion- face to face with God and His saints. My greatest hope is that imparting a sense of balance with my kids will help them love the Lord. I might let them buy themselves Silly Bands to trade with girls after ballet, but they will participate in church and be proud of the faith that has been given to them. My big kids will sing in front of a casket at a wake, but I won't expect them to go to the three-hour funeral the next day if they don't  personally know the deceased. We might just say a prayer and make a good dinner for Dad when he gets home.

    I'm just a regular Catholic mom
    doing my best like all the rest- 
    trying to learn to 'smile serenely'...


  1. I feel so much pressure to be Mom #1-- my friends pretend to be like that, but truthfully, most good Catholic moms are not that. I think we all just need to give each other a break!

  2. Yup Louise- like give ME a break- I posted the first draft half finished and not spell-checked which you read and commented on- I'm really not that bad!

    Now- HOW to get rid of that irritating bullet point at the bottom.....argh....serene smile!

  3. Louise- you are Mom #1- especially if you don't buy Chinese Christmas lights this year! (kidding!) (sort of) :)


    While not a mom yet, I am constantly thinking about what kind of mother I will be, can I raise our children to be good Catholics, internal conflicts over what kind of mother I will be just because I will have to work outside of the home, how things will get done if both of us are working out of the home, etc.

    I needed to read something like this, especially since all of the blogs/articles I've read are always focused on the "perfect" mother. The one who can stay home, who can breast feed til baby is over a year old, who homeschools while cooking a delicious, from scratch meal, Dad comes home at 6 and all is well, etc. Then I realized...the moms who are most like how I will probably be are TOO BUSY to blog! They are probably out there, but stuck in traffic or something, lol.

    I might not be able to do everything, but if I can love my children with all my heart and teach them to love God (and their parents!) with all of theirs, maybe I will have done my job.

  5. Rabbit- My FAVORITE Catholic Mom/Homemaking blog is Like Mother, Like Daughter (link in my eclectic links to the right). Leila does do many Great Catholic Things- but she doesn't worry about perfection. Peruse the archives; I bet you will love that blog, too. Her greatest lesson- plan your meals!

  6. Haha, yes, I know about her, that's how I found YOU! :) [We plan our meals already, so looks like we are ahead of the game! It's just easier, especially with DH's wacky schedule.]

    Before I finish my lengthy comment, ITA with the vegan meals in your OP. Ugh, it is HARD. I wrote a blog post last Lent about it, as it was my first year doing it the Eastern way, and DH's first time doing it hardcore. Very challenging, but we made do.

    It's funny, because to me, women like Leila (this includes my own mother) are pretty close to what I feel is the "perfect mother." I’m sure they’d all laugh at me for thinking this. But I still can’t shake the idea of THAT way is the only way to be a mother. Which leaves me feeling like a failure and I’m not even pregnant! For a variety of reasons, I will have to work after kids come, and that makes me feel badly at times.

    What I have looked for, and so has one of my college roommates, are examples of other Catholic moms who can't stay home, or even those who choose not to stay home. She has one child, with a baby due any day now and works. It's very hard for her to find any measure of support with which she really can identify. The other working moms she comes across are not Catholic, and all of the moms in her parish stay home. Even her parish’s mom’s group is held on a weekday morning. The worst part is: we can’t easily support each other—we’re on opposite coasts!

    Not to make this any longer, but my own mother isn’t as Catholic as I am (if that makes sense), so I don’t feel comfortable discussing this aspect with her. My friends aren’t practicing anymore or aren’t married, so they don’t get it (save the aforementioned friend and another far-away roommate who is now a stay at home mom). Our parish is very small, with only 3 young children. DH & I, at 34 & 30, are the youngest adults in the parish. It would be lovely to have some compatriots on this journey. Regardless of our parental status, it’s very lonely at times to be Catholic!

    Wow, that was much longer than I'd thought--it's probably because I have very few people with whom to discuss these matters. Sad, isn't it?

  7. It is a tough mission given to Catholic moms...

    Raising our children to live in this world, but not be "of" it, is a constant challenge.

    I feel blessed that with a 12 year gap between my twins, and my next child, I had plenty of time to settle into this parenting thing, and discover what battles are worth fighting, etc.

    With my youngest 4, I am so much more relaxed about the things that really don't matter. We've even had ice cream sundaes for supper at least twice in the last 8 years :) But seriously... It makes it easy to appreciate how fast the years fly by, and how precious these mothering moments are... even the imperfect ones.

    I am so far away from perfect in the domestic sense. I am intensely disorganized, and always welcome help in those areas. (I mean tips of course, I'm not soliciting housekeepers... LOL)

    I know planned meals help. I've got to get back into doing the weekly menues.

    I'm going to check out that blog you posted about. Sounds great.

    It's all such a balance of faith and a sense of humor, isn't it? I think some folks imagine our home to be very rigid, and it's quite the opposite. We are in love with our faith, and it's such a joy to share the teachings, and discover the blessings together.

  8. Rabbit- I hear you! You came to the right place. :)

    I teach college English 10 hours a week (doesn't sound like much, but full-time is teaching 17 hours plus meetings and office hours). I have always worked (usually up to the day I give birth-very dramatic)but I have never needed more than 3 hours a babysitting a week because we make sure one of us is with the kids. Anyway- if you pay for child care, it's not worth working- and I don't like the idea of a lot of child care.

    My mom is far away and my mother-in-law is in the old country, so it is hard to be without an older Catholic mentor- so I hear you.

    You might start 'forcing' yourself on potential friends- invite random people over for drinks and dessert (dinner is too complicated and too long if it isn't a good fit)- If you have time, you might tutor for the local homeschooling group- even if you don't plan on homeschooling, you might find like-minded Catholic women.

    It is hard to be part of a small faith community- that's us too! You might try to make connections with the closest big church and invite the younger women over for prayer and dessert and drinks (theme: offer food and people will come)

    Just some ideas....I actually am very introverted and taking my own advice is diffcult

  9. Linda Pinda- Most people would think we are way too strict as well- even though I would like to get closer to the "perfect Catholic mom." The no cable thing is crazy to most people, except my homeschooling friends.

    I want to be strong enough to raise my kids right and loving enough so that my kids believe in a loving Father and they want to be a part of the Church when they are independent.

  10. I want to come to Linda Pinda's house for "sundae dinner" sometime! lol

    Thanks, priest's wife, for your comments. And I didn't realize you work out of the home! That's great that you have something that is "flexible" vs. a 9-5 office job. You and your DH must do some amazing juggling with his job, his pastoral responsibilities, your job, and your family!

    Those are my exact thoughts on child care. As I have a health condition that needs to be stable before I can get pregnant, I’m using this “waiting time” to look for a more family-friendly job.

    It is EXTREMELY challenging being in a small faith community, especially when we live about 30 mins from the church and there isn't much activity besides Sunday Liturgy. Most of the parishioners are 50+ and don't live close to the church either. We've been going there for over a year and still don't know anyone. Well, we do know the priest, who is a doll, and he really enjoys us coming.

    I am also an introvert and I am also great with giving advice but not so much with taking it! DH has friends who are old enough to be his grandfather, and has hobbies/outlets where he can meet and talk with other men. I am not opposed to befriending older women, but in my experience, it's difficult to find common ground, whereas DH can talk fishing or hunting with ANYONE :) We have a Roman church less than 5 mins from our house that we've attended in a pinch, but we didn't get a friendly vibe there. And there were no younger people, besides the kids. I’ve noticed this at any Roman parish we’ve visited. Not that any potential friends MUST be Catholic, or must be as Catholic as we are, but it would be nice! It’s hard to meet people in general! The area of the country in which we live is known for people being a bit standoffish, even though we've lived in this state our entire lives. Both of us don’t have many close friends of our own age group who live nearby, and NO couple friends (but the more I talk to people, the more I find it’s very rare to have a group like that).

    Speaking of our priest & parish: DH has been contemplating whether or not he's being called to the deaconate. I’ve also had thoughts/feelings about him being called. This is the first time I've discussed this with ANYONE. The priest actually stopped him after Liturgy one day and asked if he'd be interested in being an altar server. We got to talking and then he asked DH if he'd ever thought about the deaconate. During the entire Liturgy, I felt as if there was something whispering to me about this, and that the priest was going to talk to DH, and sure enough. I told DH afterward and he was in disbelief but amazed. He can’t enroll in any deaconate studies since we haven’t been married 8 years, but he can serve on the altar. I just mended the sticharion that he'll be wearing once he's completed his training. We’ll see what happens with this next little adventure…

    Thanks again for your words—I do feel a bit hoggy for writing so much in reply though.

  11. Rabbit- If my husband had his way- every worthy man would be a deacon or priest! We usually have 4 men at the altar plus two altar boys. Gotta give those men jobs!

    I'll pray for a local friend or two for you. I get where you are coming from!

  12. Rabbit- If your medical condition is lupus or some such, email me ( I've had issues, too

  13. Popadya, who is this perfect mother and how can I avoid her?

    She sounds horrible!!! Reading between the lines, she sounds bourgoise, smug, self-righteous and a tyrant to her children (how else would they know their catechism perfectly and keep them quiet at Mass/Liturgy?).

    For a good Catholic mother, one could always look at Elizabeth Anscombe, the late Chair of Philosophy at Oxford University and one of the most eminent English speaking Philosophers of all time. She was nothing like the "Perfect Catholic Mother (TM)".

    I would like to discuss some of the assumptions about this "perfect" mother further.

    * Why is home schooling such a good thing? Is is actually better than parents being involved in their children's education?

    * The Chesterton thing. Surely we know better the ill effects of tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption. And we also know the influence parental behaviour has on children - do we really want to give them habits which are hard to break?

    * Voting?? Politics?? This I really do not understand. Why are mothers prohibited from being interested in politics? Was Isabella of Spain a bad mother for being active in politics?

    * Calamari, lobster, prawns, mussels and all acceptable during the Great Fast. (Okay, the cat likes the Great Fast because of this.)

    * Difficulty conceiving and fertility problems indicate that one is obviously not a good Catholic. Apologies for the sarcasm in this one - but several close friends are childless, and although they do good work for society and the Church there is always the tinge of suspicion among certain more intense Catholics.

    But I must go to pick up my popadya to drive her and some of the small ones to Mass.

  14. Bear- This woman doesn't exist! :)

    About fertility issues- yup, yup, and yup- My friend was married 10 years before they successfully adopted an infant and had a bio kid. She was accused of contracepting- very painful to her...

  15. Oh my gosh, the fertility assumptions are ANNOYING. At the parish I attended growing up, the choir director/organist is married to the parish secretary and they do not have kids. I would hope that no one ever accused THEM of purposefully avoiding pregnancy, especially with their stations in the parish.

    I cannot believe you have 4 men/2 boys on the altar. Amazing. Our poor priest, he could have used some assistance today, but first he needs to train DH. Don't know when that will be though...

    Thanks for the email address too.

  16. Hahahaha - "smiles serenely" - what is that? ;) I love this list and your balanced, cheerful approach. Thanks for visiting my blog - I had to run over here to see yours. Fascinating! God bless you and your family.

  17. Most days I feel like I can only aspire to be mom #2, good enough.

    I used to teach college English until I was pregnant with baby #1. Then I got overwhelmed. I am so impressed that you could even do 3 hours much less 10. The one time I've tried to do even part tie in home work it was a complete disaster. I got so very sick and stressed we decided the little extra money was not worth it at all. But I do miss it a bit. Maybe when the kids are older...

  18. This is a great list and reality check! Thank you from a newly Catholic mother. :-)


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