My second observation is this: everyone has a 'full plate': All have a litany of family and extended relations, duties, and activities: enough to choke a horse. The number one question discussed in the 'vortex' is where does God fit in with all these elements of daily life?
The answer: God doesn't fit on the plate - God is the plate. Or to state it more accurately: our relationship with God underlies and affects every aspects of our life. Hence, a small but consistent amount of time and attention devoted to Christian formation works wondrous results.
We moms need to hear this. We are instruments in God’s hands and channels of His Grace. However, it is still His plan. We are called to cooperate with God and give our children the religious formation that allows them to hear His call. But we do not shoulder the burden of completely shaping them. Of course you want to be the perfect mother, but it is God who perfects what you have started. So relax, it is not all up to you!
In some ways, it is easy for me to say relax. Three of my four children are now eighteen or older. The blur and fatigue of their all being so physically dependent on me has faded. Perhaps, because of this perspective, I can laugh a little at the things I stressed over in their younger years. Some of my measurements for success now seem so irrelevant. Guilt over store-bought muffins, ready-made Halloween costumes, and planting toddlers in front of a video when I really did need a few moments of peace and quiet seem absurd. On the other hand, some things that I made a priority seem worth every ounce of effort they required. Weekly Mass attendance without fail, family catechesis, not subscribing to cable television, and no video games in our house, are initiatives that bore much good fruit.
This perspective also allows me to see the wisdom of Danielle Bean’s response to Dr. Greg Popcak and his promotion of Attachment Parenting as the only moral choice for parenting. This is not a judgment on the concept of Attachment Parenting. This is a response to the presentation of Attachment Parenting as the only good idea rather than one of many good ideas. As parents we are bombarded by the information of lots of “experts” about how we should raise our children. However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. I can tell you that one of the great epiphanies of parenting was after I had my second child I realized many things I thought I had learned the first time around didn’t apply because this second child was a different, unique, individual and not just First Child version 2.0. There are lots of general principles, but very few absolutes when it comes to raising children. There are innumerable options: breast feed vs bottle feed; home school vs Catholic school vs public school; work outside the home vs stay at home. And the right choice may vary from one child to the next. It is not like we make these decisions once and they are then inscribed in stone.
Families change. Circumstances change. What was right for the family five years ago may not be right today. And believe me, the voices of experts change. Twenty-five years ago, when I first started practicing medicine, babies were put to bed on their stomachs or sides because it was “safest”. Today we have markedly reduced the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by putting babies to bed on their backs. My second son weighed nearly ten pounds at birth. At that time Nelson’s Textbook of Pediatrics said no child should be given solid food of any kind until he was at least six months old. Therefore, I was still breast-feeding and supplementing with formula this baby that was over twenty pounds when he was five months old. Rice cereal did not touch his lips until he was exactly six months old. What a relief! He was so much happier. He slept so much better. I accomplished nothing by rigidly adhering to the advice of experts when my situation clearly called for a different response. Therefore, beware of anyone who says there is only one way to parent. God gave your children to you, not to the experts. Pray. Learn. Discern. Then give it your best shot. That is all God asks of you.