Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Mother's Rule of Life

After I got over my initial unwillingness to put aside my sewing and concentrate on my faith I started thinking about St. Benedict and his Rule. That thought led me to a book on my bookshelf: A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. I pulled it off my shelf and re-read it.

I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of this book. Holly tells her own story and how she finally created her own Rule, just like every religious order does, for organizing all the parts of her day. We have things pretty well under control at our house. My boys are teenagers and have had their own chores for years. They help out with anything we ask. Mike and I share the other household needs and we live fairly simply. So setting up the kind of system Holly talks about isn't something I need.

Yet I found this book to be incredibly insightful. I wanted some help determining how to order my days so that I put my faith study and prayer at the center but didn't ignore my husband, my children or my home. 

Holly orders the married vocation into 5 P's.

  1. Prayer
  2. Person
  3. Partner
  4. Parent
  5. Provider
They are ordered by importance. At first I wasn't sure I agreed that Person should be second but then I realized that if I don't take care of me, I am unable to give to my partner and be a good parent.

I have noticed that I am an all or nothing type of gal. Once I get something in my head I focus completely on it, often to the detriment of other things. While I believe that simplifying life helps us focus on the 5 P's mentioned above, being obsessed with one area is almost never a good idea. By taking a close look at each of the P's in my life and giving time to all of them I find I am more balanced and living my vocation to the Glory of God.

Here are some of my notes:

1. Prayer: I definitely need to set aside a scheduled time during my day for prayer, scripture and faith study. If I don't it doesn't happen. The same can be said for Confession, Adoration and Daily Mass. For this month before school begins I have been led to focus on this area. I am attending daily Mass, studying the Gospel of John and reading up on the saints. In addition I am praying fervently for those who have asked and for some others. I am a morning person so I tend to do this after the kids leave for school and prior to lunch. Once school starts I plan to download the Divine Office and Daily Readings onto my ipod so I can listen during the drive. I also have a few spiritual books on my iPod. Once I start my job I'll have to rethink my schedule again. The important thing is for me to remember that I NEED a schedule so I don't get off track!

2. Person: Taking care of self is so important to our vocation as mothers! This is easier now that my boys are older and self-sufficient. I'm trying to be mindful of my eating and exercising habits and to make sure I'm getting enough sleep. Socialization and recreation are also important points in maintaining our personhood. For me that means getting together with some good friends every so often and reading and sewing. Yup, you heard me...sewing! I just have to be mindful that I am taking only a small portion of my time to these goals, not the majority of my day! Holly also talks about the importance of taking stock of our own spiritual, mental and emotional health to see if there are any underlying difficulties. 

3. Partner: Mike and I will be married for 20 years in December. We know each other pretty well. We work together really well and tend to be like minded about parenting and household decisions. In the book, Holly reminds us that love is not something you seek for yourself but something you concern yourself with giving. Love is a decision, not a feeling. Love is constantly coming up in my Bible reading, my reading about the saints and in my prayers. Without it we cannot be living a Christian life. It seems to be the thing that is so often missing when I hear Christians talking! But I'm not here to judge anyone but myself so I'm working on being loving, thinking loving, acting loving and speaking loving at all times. I'm also trying to take time in the day to be available to Mike. We planned a date night for this week but I also am trying to give him my full attention when we are talking.

4. Parent: There are two things that I'm really working on here. One is to be available to the boys when they are home. I try to put away my reading and my projects or work when they come home from school. I sometimes have a hard time spending the hours it can take to get homework finished and I have not been a loving parent much of this school year. I'm trying to remember to dedicate this time out of love of Jesus and my boys so that I do a better job. The second thing I'd like to see change is to have the boys look more to their own spiritual life. When we homeschooled it was so easy to have prayer and Bible Study. It has really gone by the wayside. I'm still pondering how to incorporate family prayer without it being a burden. My first goal is just to pray for my boys and to ask for guidence in this area. I know that often just seeing me be a good example can lead the way.

5. Provider: This includes your job if you have one but also taking care of the home. Again, this isn't something that I need a lot of help with at this time. We all do our bit to keep the house in order. I will be sitting down with the boys to talk about the extra help I will need from them over the summer. My boys have always been willing to do what is asked of them and so I'm not expecting too much trouble here. I am blessed that my husband works from home and so is able to help out much more than he was when he was working. Again, once I start my job in the fall, this area will have to be tweaked.

I've written all of this out for my own reference. I'm sure it wasn't the best reading for anyone else. One thing I'd like to comment on is something Holly focused on in the book. This idea of a rule, of getting things in order is about more than a schedule. It's about deciding to change, to use your will and your reason for the love of God in all the small things you do every day instead of acting purely because of your feelings. Remember how I said I didn't WANT to change? Well, luckily my will won out over my feelings in that case. 

"The fulfillment of our Mother's Rule in fidelity to God's designs for us as women, wives, and mothers is an act of love for God. But it must become more than an act of the will; it must develop into a movement of the heart. God is not satisfied with a mere external observance. He wants our hearts as well, and over time, we need to see the obedience of our relationship with God transform into the love necessary for intimacy with Him." (page 185)

This change from wants to will to heart doesn't happen over night. It does, however, mean that I have to start somewhere. It also means I need to be kind to myself and not expect to be perfect. Thank goodness for God's Grace!

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