Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Someone asked if all these children we have make me feel smothered sometimes, and I thought it was such a good question that I ought to answer it in a post instead of the combox.

The question was in reaction to the "self portrait" I drew yesterday, and when I looked back at it, I thought all those hands surrounding me actually did look a little like they were "coming at me." Which could be good or bad, right? It made me laugh, though. Are those hands reaching out for hugs, or are they trying to strangle me? Or do they all just want something?

Let me see. Do I feel smothered? The easy, trite answer would be to say something like "Smothered with love..." Awww.... (Gag,gag,gag) OK, there is a bit of reality in the smothered-with-love sentiment, but I wouldn't want you to gag on the powdered sugar. And it would be misleading, really.

Let's just say, yes, I do feel smothered sometimes. There's lots of love going around here, but I have to admit it. I do feel overwhelmed occasionally. It comes over me in waves. On good days I hit those waves on a surfboard, on bad days I go under. I haven't drowned yet, though. I thank my dear husband and my Faith for that.

The truth is, whether you have one child or ten, if you don't occasionally feel smothered, you're not doing it right. Motherhood is an all-encompassing job. Profession. Vocation. When you're responsible for the body, soul, and disposition of other people, and for the health of the family group they're in, too... Well, your whole body and soul have to go into it. It's that important. It is and must be a 24/7/365 job. It's hard work. Never-ending. Big picture. Nitty gritty. And yes, sometimes smothering. But, it's supposed to be.

We have to answer to God for the products we turn out on this job ~ and society will be none too appreciative, either, if we raise ax murderers or professional welfare recipients. There's pressure for you. But very little sympathy in this world. Especially for moms with four or more children, I'm here to tell you. But it's worth choking down the snide responses I want to spit out at people's rude comments. It's worth the struggle for time to myself and space with my husband. It's worth every moment of boredom, of exhaustion, of anxiety. It's worth feeling smothered sometimes to know I'm doing everything I possibly can for my children. Because it's my job, yes. But, more, because I love them.

They are my heart. God gave them to my husband and me out of His Goodness and Love for us. His hand is in every one of their hands, and my hands act for Him here on earth in raising them. A Sister friend of ours told me this yesterday in an e-mail:

There is a famous statue of the Sacred Heart that has no hands. A plaque below it says, "Give me your hands." In our rule, we are supposed to "be Mary's Hands, at work in today's world." It is true about losing the hands (or the grip) of the older ones one by one. But if you have had your hands there for them firm and loving, they will come back and have their hands there for you strong and supportive in your need.

So the hope is that they'll be there for us someday, too. They already are in a lot of ways. God willing, we won't need their complete care in our dotage, but it could very well happen. I hope we've raised them to find blessing in that kind of responsibility. I hope they won't mind feeling a little smothered.

And, in the meantime, I hope I can ride the waves gracefully. The trick is knowing how to swim out from under when necessary. Through prayer, through support networks, by developing better strategies, by utilizing my own personal coping techniques. And by giving and getting lots of really good, smothery hugs.


Anonymous said...


Alexandra said...

This was beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing.

Laura said...

I would like to see this post in a newspaper- a) because I love big families and see such a special relationship among these family members when they are older b)because I would love for the people who make those snide remarks to hear your words of wisdom and passion about your vocation.
(Are you from a big family? I don't remember if you are. I am one of 7 and the joys of being part of big clan are incomparable.)

SuzyQ said...

This warmed my heart :)