Friday, July 1, 2011

Summertime Adjustments

The babies are on the move.  Three weeks ago Elisabeth showed off her new tricks from just rocking on hands and knees to tentatively sliding one knee forward.  And during that same evening, she sneakily managed to pull herself up to a standing position using a coffee table.  Mom and Dad beamed with pride and glowed with excitement.
That was three weeks ago.  Since then, both babies are crawling wherever there is enough room for their small bodies, reaching at everything, and Elisabeth is practically scaling up walls.  She is even so bold as to hold onto furniture one-handed.  All this in three weeks?  Yikes.  Makes me nervously wonder where we will be at in a month from now.  Is there an age minimum for a little kids’ road race? 
Coincidentally, school got out for the summer three weeks ago.  Thus I have been fortunate to witness this exponential development while being home.  Nevertheless, there have been a lot of adjustments.  Not only the obvious baby-proofing adjustments (which often is hard to foresee until a baby tries to do crazy acrobatics on a piece of furniture), but also adjusting from being a working mom to stay-at-home mom.  One might think that suddenly life has gotten so much easier for me now that I am home full-time, but it’s actually been much more complicated.  As abruptly as the school year ended, there were still loose ends that needed to be tied off after the students left.  The responsibilities are as diverse as my students: janitorial work (cleaning off my desk and bookshelf), bookkeeper (documenting the lesson plans so that the curriculum is up-to-date), and project managing (writing up a summer workout plan for next fall’s cross-country team).  All this took up most of the first week of my summer vacation, and it certainly took longer than I planned with two little ones making me aware of unsafe areas in our small condo. 
However, once I finished up the teacher duties, I still had to mentally switch to full-time-mommy-mode.   It took at least a week for me to realize that summer vacation does not mean I can just sleep in, but rather that my day starts even earlier than a school day (babies wake at 6:00 and…they’re off!).  It’s not an easier or harder job than teaching, it’s just different.  Perhaps caring for twin infants is not as intellectually challenging as say, planning a lesson about medieval French literature to a group of 18-year-olds.  But on the other hand, it does require much more quick decision-making skills (two babies are crying, who do you attend to first?) and deductive reasoning (why is she still crying?).   Both jobs require an immense amount of energy and patience, even if for different reasons.
Being at home also demands prioritization skills and discipline.  When the babies nap (although since they are discovering so much these days, it is becoming harder and harder for them to settle), I have to decide which household duty needs my attention the most AND follow through.  I would love to sip my coffee and read a good book, maybe even take a nap myself, but I should really attack that laundry monster that is starting to creep out of the hamper and spread across the floor of the bedroom.  
I’m sure there are some year-round stay-at-home-moms rolling their eyes at my lamenting household chores, and probably some year-round working moms muttering that they don’t get an “adjustment period” for the summer.  My intention is not to highlight my own struggles, but to attempt to describe how complicated a mom’s job can be.  My good friend just told me over the phone last night that she had read how moms develop their leadership skills greatly because their role demands so many decision-making and executive skills.
One strategy I am learning is to offer up my day every morning.  No matter how mundane or icky a task is during my day, it can be a prayer to God.  When I don’t feel like folding clothes, I remind myself of those families who can’t afford to clothe their children properly, or those families who don’t even have access to clean water so they can even wash clothes.  Admittedly I sometimes choose comfort over holiness (i.e. I flip through a magazine while the dirty dishes sit in the sink), but I do find purpose in the household chores when I offer them up, and a greater motivation to be disciplined. 
Offering work as a prayer is a concept I never really learned in the Evangelical Church growing up, and in retrospect, it made my everyday work feel separate from my faith life.  Ironically as an Evangelical I was warned not to keep God in a box, but by ignoring God in the simple things and building my faith life mostly out of isolated prayer times and devotionals, that is exactly where I placed Him.  Obviously prayer and spiritual reading are still as important to me now as a Catholic, but my relationship with God is intertwined in my daily activities more than ever.  I know that there are Evangelicals out there who understand the lessons I have been learning as a Catholic, who can say that their relationship with God is evident in everything they do, but since my conversion, I am finally beginning to understand that concept in a much deeper way.  In becoming a Catholic, these teachings have finally begun to click (and that adjustment has certainly taken more than three weeks). 
Always dynamic and never static: ongoing adjustment and growth is the beauty of our life in Christ.
If you don’t know the morning offering prayer, here it is:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in thanksgiving for your favors, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father.  Amen.
I also sometimes recite the “Prayer Before a Day’s Work”:
Direct, we beg you, O Lord, our actions by your holy inspirations, and grant that we may carry them out with your gracious assistance, that every prayer and work of ours may begin always with you, and through you be happily ended.  Amen.
Now back to beating that laundry monster into submission…