My husband and I have laughingly called our parenting “playing defense” since the time we had only one child. When we added children we went from “man to man” to finally “playing zone” as we now have three children. With our daughter off to college these last 2 years we have had the luxury of playing man to man but in hockey terms I’m often facing a “2 on 1 situation”. Looking at how busy life can be right now, I feel constantly exhorted by St. Paul to “pray always” but how does one find a prayerful attitude in the midst of driving, cooking, cleaning….all the minutia and demands of being a wife and mother of busy children?
Greater minds than mine have obviously contemplated this question. St. Therese, the Little Flower, spoke of a “little way of spiritual childhood,” where even small deeds were done “with great love”. I sometimes think that St. Therese is the patroness of fellow domestic engineers because she is often referred to by other mothers that I know, most famously in the last two years by Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project. Being able to offer all these little things, to frame them in a context that allows us to take the everyday, the mundane, and transform that into an Act of Love is a spiritual exercise that requires a discipline of attitude.
To say that it is easy – well no it isn’t. Knowing that if I am to pick up my youngest at school and get him to his afternoon activities on time means I must be parked in an easy to locate position and that he must be in the car no later than 3:04. He changes in the car on the way including all of his athletic gear. We get a pause while he trains and I try to get something done other than gab with parents – so tempting to sit and gossip instead of being productive! Then off to pick up his older brother from either hockey or track practice, back to pick up youngest and then back home to dinner – and that’s on a night I’m not teaching indoor rowing at our local health club. This is in addition to my daily responsibilities including being up early morning for the youngest often trains early as well, carpools, appointments, phone calls, emails, etc. Somehow, I’m supposed to do this “with great love”.
Charles R. Swindell wrote “we are in charge of our attitudes”. How we respond to a situation is in our power, yet exhaustion and all the various assaults of this world – fear, worry, stress, concern regarding time, or lack thereof – sometimes leave us feeling subject to our emotions instead of ruler. I feel this is where the choices we make can determine our prayer life even in the midst of chaos> my college roommate taught me that the drive in the car that is 15-20 minutes is a wonderful time to pray a Rosary. I change the station on the radio to beautiful instrumental music and suddenly driving to another ice rink, track, the high school, the elementary school – becomes a respite instead of a demand. My sons join me on the way home and we get a chance to include their petitions, whether it is a sick friend or teacher or simply a chance to express anxiety over an upcoming test, it is our own mobile Grotto at that moment. A chance to ask Our Lady for help and a chance to get out of the car with a refreshed spirit. Now does that mean I always get the laundry and the dishes done with a joyful spirit? Well – life IS a work in progress – but having that spiritual discipline gives us the strength to respond instead of react. More importantly the opportunity to find God in our small moments and like Mary, “treasure all this in [our] heart”.