Today I scrubbed grape slushee off my floor and my children, washed out a pair of superhero undies in the sink of a public bathroom, removed a splinter from the foot of a one-year-old, restocked an entire dresser with clothes which had been strewn willy-nilly during the few minutes I had tried to shower, and found myself the target for more projectiles than I care to remember, the largest of which was a plastic garbage truck the size of my head.
The life of a stay-at-home mom is hardly glamorous. At times, it can be frustrating, exhausting, and thankless. But when I start thinking or, worse, saying things like, “These kids are ruining my life!”, I know it is time to take a deep breath and reevaluate. Not only is that statement dramatic in the extreme, it’s chock-full of the lies of the world.
Our culture tells us that a life without success is hardly worth living. Fame, fortune, power, and pleasure are the benchmarks of success in this world. Choosing to raise a family often means giving up on this sort of success. Parents often have to sacrifice money, popularity, freedom, and even their own dreams in order to fulfill their vocation.
Although the worth of a parent’s life would seem to diminish by these standards, it is important to remember that these standards are at great odds with Christ’s. While the things the world values aren’t always evil in and of themselves, they are little more than distractions from the truly meaningful things in this life. “For what does it profit a man if he should the gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:38)
Commitment despite all difficulties, love that gives of itself completely, openness to all life, and suffering for others are all enigmas to the culture of death. Yet, they are the building blocks of the Christian life. Marriage and family, like all vocations, require these things to be successful in the eternal sense. A life yearning for heaven looks mad to those looking only for earthly gain.
In the eyes of the world, you must “live your own life” or it is nothing. In this mindset, it is your prerogative, your right, and your purpose to find personal fulfillment: earthly happiness. From the minute their first child takes a breath, a parent’s life is no longer their own. By the world’s standards, this loss of autonomy and potential loss of success means risking a ruined life.
Raising a family does not fit in with our culture’s ideal of the easy life. Children are loud, expensive, inconvenient, occasionally obnoxious, and often embarrassing. Parenting takes work, selflessness, and sacrifice. For those following in the footsteps of Christ, such sacrifice is not only natural, it’s necessary.
The Church sees parenthood as an opportunity for growth in charity, holiness, and sacrifice. Children are not inconveniences, they are miraculous human souls, and we have the privilege of helping them to eternity. It is a chance to become more like Christ, to prepare ourselves for heaven, and to lead those we love to do the same.
With the feast of Pentecost coming up on Sunday, I have been trying to say the novena to the Holy Spirit. One line strikes me as particularly relevant: “Grant me the spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal.”
When we are too tightly enmeshed in this world, we start coveting its idols of material success, ease, and personal fulfillment. In that state of mind, following our vocation can seem like a waste of time and we can feel like failures. But when the world poisons our mind, the Holy Spirit offers us the antidote of wisdom. With His aid we can see the true meaning of success: a life devoted to the pursuit of nothing less than God Himself.