Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Lent is a time of penitential sacrifice. As Catholics, we choose something to "give up" during Lent, to sacrifice some treat that we enjoy as a way of uniting ourselves in some small way with Christ's suffering on the cross. We are to embrace our suffering in this life. This does not mean we "love" to suffer or that we actively seek out suffering constantly; rather, it means that when we do encounter difficulties in our lives, we can offer these up. We can remind ourselves of how Jesus suffered for us, and we see that suffering has redemptive value. We can also see the positives in light of our suffering - when we choose to embrace our trials and tribulations with a joyful heart, we are remembering to rejoice in all the good in our lives and that Jesus loves us! Of course, embracing our difficulties with a cheerful spirit is easier said than done. It takes persistence and prayer.

I have been thinking lately about how motherhood is also made up of much sacrifice. It can be a difficult journey at times, and there can be suffering along this journey. Any time we are involved in close personal relationships, there is the potential for suffering. But there is also the potential for much joy. During this Lenten season, one of my goals is to embrace the difficult, take pause in the menial tasks, and to cherish the good that can be found in every sacrificial moment.

Some of the difficulties with a baby or young child can include illness, lack of sleep, teething pain, clingy babies/toddlers, tantrums, whining, crying, not to mention their ever-presence and constant need for your time. As far as baby animals go, human children take the longest to reach self-sufficiency and independence. It can certainly be draining at times, especially for mothers who have little to no help. When I am faced with a difficulty, I can think of these mothers whose husbands work super-long hours, and those with no husbands at all to help and give support... and I can be grateful for my helpful and present husband and for the other support I receive from friends and extended family members, and I can offer up my difficulties for those who have it worse.

I invest a great deal of time in helping Cecilia to meet her essential needs - to eat and to sleep, namely. She spends time nursing daily, getting some nutritional as well as emotional needs met. Sometimes it is time-consuming if she wants to nurse longer than usual, or at an inconvenient time, but these moments will soon be gone, even if it doesn't seem like it now. I have the hindsight of Caroline's baby/toddlerhood to remind me of this fact. Never will my child be so completely dependent on me for her basic needs. Never again will there be a better time to teach her about relationships, about trust, about love. If I feel myself becoming irritated that she is so clingy, I have to stop myself and remember how really very little she is and how this time I spend nurturing her now is an investment in her security in her future.

If I find myself summoned back to the bedroom to help her get back to sleep (yes, many evenings she still awakens after being put to sleep initially), even numerous times... it can begin to be taxing, not being able to have any time to myself or to pursue my personal desires. But I remind myself of the choice I am making to put this investment into her babyhood. I remind myself about my desire to teach her about trust and love. I offer up my personal suffering for the good of my child. I can look down at her sleepy face as she nurses back to dreamland and cherish the warmth of her body against mine, even if I have to sit there with her for an hour. She will sleep on her own eventually. She will one day have more mature body systems and the ability to reason and think and to be able to be more independent regarding her basic needs of eating, sleeping, and hygiene. Struggle as she may to stay awake, or to resist a diaper change, or to keep throwing food on the floor, I can remain calm and gentle, helping her to learn about this world, about expectations, and about relationships. Maintaining my own sense of peace is what I strive for, and I fail at it, probably daily. But as I choose to focus on it and make it a priority, I am able to better embrace the sacrifices of mothering small children. I look to Mary, Mother of Jesus, as a model. How she must have cherished the hours spent holding, rocking, comforting, nursing her child, knowing that a "sword would pierce her heart." Sacrificing for my little ones will help me to have fewer regrets later in life. As Jesus died on the cross, how painful it must have been for his mother to witness! I am so thankful for this Lenten season, in which I can reflect on the Virgin Mother's experience, and during which I can identify with her as another mother, one who comforted her child, worried about his well-being, and worked daily for him - from preparing his meals to comforting his hurts.

This is the current season of my life. There is much giving and little taking with young children. Now is not my time for receiving, but for giving. I need to pour into these young souls so that they in turn will be able to pour out to others later in life. Sacrifice doesn't have to be a bad word - while it can be unpleasant at times, it is for much good. It is not in vain. It is done for the good of these precious little children who are on loan to me from their heavenly Father. And this time, it is certain, will pass. When I look back, it will have passed all too quickly, difficulties and all.

1 comment:

sandra said...

erin, you summed up motherhood so well. i have found it interesting that i never stop being a mother and wanting to help meet the needs of my children and grand children. our lives are a continuum where life is in flux; we strive to meet needs wherever and whenever they occur. each part of childhood brings new and different needs met by the mother(and father). a mother's life need never be humdrum when we see and experience changes, small and large, throughout life.