by Clare Hardess (Australia)

Motherhood is a full-time occupation. Actually, it’s a life time institution under the normal circumstances of married life. You think back, as you walk the floors at night with your first born, and ask yourself whether you knew you were going to live in an institution when you married him. You’re pretty sure he didn’t mention it.

You knew about the love, honour and obey bit, but that was easy compared with stumbling round in the dark, with a SCREAMING 8 lb. bundle of selfishness that you were supposed to be bonding with.

Six or seven babies later, you’re none the wiser, but the number living in the institution has increased, and what’s more, you’re the heart of the happy place. Motherhood has tamed you, softened you, deshaped you, and sent you a bit crazy; but with the joys and delights brought by so many children, you wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, not for long anyhow.

Being a mother, you learn to be smart, among a wide range of other things. You have to be on the ball (no one else wants it), up-to-date (you kid yourself), and one step ahead (on the merry-go-round). People are right when they say there must never be a dull moment. What they don’t know is there are times when you’d give your right arm to have one. Imagine, a dull moment, all to yourself! It would have to be a little foretaste of heaven that we’re all looking forward to.

For the first four babies, I was determined to stay one step ahead. I went flat out all day, fuelled on coffee (ultra-formula), until night time, where occasionally I was rewarded with a “dull moment”. The fact that I couldn’t stay awake long enough to enjoy it didn’t matter. Somehow, I’d got through the day and that meant something.

But with age and experience also comes wisdom. With seven, soon to be eight, children, I don’t try to be one step ahead, anymore. How can you catch up with a merry-go round? In fact, I wake up in the morning planning how I’m going to get back to bed for a rest later that day.

It’s not a matter of not wanting to be in the race, it’s just a matter of arranging a little sleep, here and there, while it’s on. Living in the institution of Motherhood is fine; but we’re talking about survival here, and that’s important for mothers.

I remember, a few years ago, that my dad very generously bought me a wonderful labour- saving appliance, a dishwasher. As it wasn’t Christmas, or my birthday, I was grateful, but puzzled. Mum explained that they were continuingly worried about how hard I was working and how thin I was getting…. and they wanted to make life a little easier for me. Plus, at this rate I might DIE too soon, and they couldn’t handle the thought of having to take over and rear the kids!! Being on the ball, I asked, if I lost another ten pounds, would he consider paying off the mortgage?

There are a few hints along the way in this article which some may find helpful. All methods are 100% Catholic, tried and tested, and have no use-by-date.

Start early for a good day, and pray to the Angels and Saints to help you overcome the obstacles which are designed to send mothers around the twist, making day to day survival a real challenge. Catholic mothers are an endangered species, and we can’t afford to lose any!

Some “dull moments” really have to be planned; others present themselves, but have to be quickly snatched before they disappear. Saturday morning is a great time to organise one.

When you see your beloved husband getting ready to duck off to the hardware and a few other places, snap into action. Children are like American Express Cards. He mustn’t leave home without them! Pile them all in the car and have them ready to go as he wanders out of the workshed. Surely, a guarantee of a dull morning!

Sometimes though, husbands can be one step ahead, too. He sees the family car, all neatly packed with noisy little bodies, and side-steps it to his work-van, calling out, “Going somewhere, honey?” as he leaves. Well, you can’t win them all; but nice try. Next time, hide his keys.

The trouble with taking all the children out is that, without a doubt, you’re going to run into someone. Take last week for example, you went out in a hurry, and hoped, just for once that you’d get away with it. Not a chance. You ran straight into someone you didn’t want to see.

You were already acutely aware of the finger marks on your skirt, and your lipstick being just a little to the left, after a close encounter with the baby. Some of the kids forgot their shoes, and you weren’t game to check for clean faces. You stopped to chat, but were uneasy.

The children are polite, but prone to hanging you in public. One of them remembered the previous day’s religion lesson and asked politely, “Excuse me, but are you a Catholic or a pagan?”

If it’s moments like these you need Minties, hopefully you could choke on one and die on the spot. That at least would override the embarrassment.

It’s not always left up to the children to do the embarrassing, though. There are times you do a pretty good job of it yourself.

Just recently, I was out on my own, enjoying a dull moment, when a shop assistant said, “I know you have children … ” I looked at her. She looked at the floor, and said, “You’ve just dropped your Mickey Mouse handkerchief.” Oh well, that’s motherhood, you were just pleased there was a handkerchief left in the drawer.

Coping with little things like the above is fairly simple. It’s coping with the big troubles in life that tests the mother’s endurance. Things like plagues…. I don’t mean the Old Testament type of locusts and flies. I mean the modern day ones which are so much worse. Things like BUBBLEGUM!

Bubblegum which clings to, adheres to, and leaves its mark on everything with which it makes contact. It loves to stick around the kids; it distorts their faces, and is a cause of dribbling. When inflated it tries to envelope and consume their faces, and creep into their hair. It jumps out of bins and forever onto shoes. Its devastation is incalculable. I detest it.

Other household plagues include whistles, recorders, tissues, stickers, and Poppers. Poppers are designed to leak, squirt and spill. The straw is made to get lost in the box, and it does, everytime.

Recorders, whistles, and children should never mix, except in a large paddock; or when on a picnic and you need someone else’s table. This is the only time when bubblegum would come in handy; a bit in your ears for the few minutes it would take to clear the entire picnic ground. (Hint- once achieved, break the recorder and start the barbecue, and put the gum from your ears up the whistle).

Stickers would be okay if they would self-destruct like tissues do. But they don’t. They have a life expectancy longer than the average human-being and resist annihilation. They hold fast to every surface, and will tear paint from walls rather than give in. Even if you do succeed in removing them, their retaliation is frightening. They’ll leave an impenetrable glue in memory of the battle. Stickers are a real plague!

Tissues are on a par with bubblegum. They are just not controllable in a household full of children. No sooner is the box opened than a massive take-over of bathroom, bedroom, and living room begins. They turn up everywhere a nose has been, or is likely to go. It’s okay while you can see them, but when they hide, the real problem starts. You do a thorough search of pockets and sleeves, and have them all, you think. But one Houdini escapes and as always, makes the same getaway into a load of “darks”.

There, it suicides in the suds, and goes on to plague every item of clothing unfortunate enough to be in that wash. The Egyptians don’t know how lucky they were not to get a plague of tissues. What one on its own can do is enough.

Most of day to day family life is composed of that common substance called “trivia”. Trivia is the link between dull moments, interesting happenings, and major catastrophes. The institution of motherhood is packed with it. It’s what makes the merry-go-round keep going. In our household trivia prevails, but it’s amazing how it tends to develop when let loose.

The most ordinary situation becomes an event, and with so many spectators evolves quickly into a major affair. Comments fly from all directions, opinions are put forth, and the trivial pursuit is on. You would think that killing an insect would rate as a trivial thing. It probably does for the average family. But we’re four times the size of the average family, so killing an insect is four times the event.

Everyone gets in on the act while my husband, Peter, goes karate style with the swatter. The cockroach is chased, beaten unconscious, scrutinised, and finally given swimming lessons, before being waved good-bye down that great waterslide in the bathroom. Few dead bodies could wish for a more celebrated send off.

I was never much good with a swatter, save for Peter’s amusement, so I took to a spray can instead, and had a bit more success and fewer breakages. Once to my annoyance, only the feeblest spray emitted from the new can.

The cocky showed no signs of insecticiding; in fact he seemed to be relishing the attention. Peter was quite amused though, and reckoned it was the best job I’d ever done of waxing anything. After four coats of furniture polish, the cockroach was positively shining. Funnily enough, the next shot I had was at Peter, and for once, I hit target with the swatter. Motherhood teaches you to be fast when necessary.

It reminds me of that saying when we grew up – “the quick and the dead.” There are times when mothers would be quicker, if they didn’t feel so dead. That’s usually a sign that a rest is needed, so you go about organising a little holiday.

Your husband gets the time off work, and as the kids are home-schooled, they’re ready for a break any day. He’s never as excited about the time away as you are, but nevertheless your bags are packed and any day now you’ll be off …… off to hospital, via labour ward, for your annual leave!! Yippee!!

Everyone knows you; you’re their most regular and reliable client. They pre-book your bed the day you leave, knowing you’ll be back the next year. In fact, if you don’t ring them, they’ll call you.

After a week of “dull moments” in hospital, except for the pleasant interruptions of .a· precious new-born, ·you start to miss the institution and all its members. The merry-go-round of motherhood is calling gently, and you feel inclined to step back on and head homeward. Besides, your poor husband is so dizzied by everything, he even walks in circles when he visits. The baby has started calling him “Mum”, and it just doesn’t suit. Much as he adores his family, he’s had enough holiday.

Oh, the delights of motherhood! How they all love you, and need you. There’s a certain amount of glory that goes with being indispensable! I often look at my own parent’s empty nest and realize that the merry-go-round does grind to a halt, and everyone, eventually, does get off, just as we six children did.

And just when you think that your work is done, you become a grandmother. My parents have scored 21 grandchildren in the last 11 years, and had to build a new house just to cope with the visitors. I can wait for that.

The dull moments, the trivia, and the merry-go-round of the institution, are all a part of motherhood.

The wonderful, beautiful Catholic faith puts meaning into your vocation, that nothing else can. God provides for all your needs, even if a test or two is thrown in with all His graces. God knows what family life is like. It was all His idea in the first place.

He loved mothers so much, that he even chose one for Himself, and was so impressed that He gave Our Lady to us, also.

Who, then, could deny the prestigious VOCATION of motherhood? That’s worth thinking about each day as you go about your duties. In fact, that is the biggest delight of Motherhood.

The Christmas season is a season of good will. If we really have in our hearts good-will to men, we shall not only wish every one well, but we shall seek every opportunity to do good to every one, beginning with those at home. It will make us good wives, good mothers, good neighbors, kind, obliging, ready always to lend a hand, to do another a good turn. -Finer Femininity

A sermon for you today….

Homily on Our Lady of Guadalupe that occured in 1531. What was the state of Mexico like during this? The story of St Juan Diego. Some incredible fun facts about the image & apparition. Why did the locals embrace her?


Happy Feast Day!

“Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. Do not fear this sickness of your uncle or any other sickness, nor anything that is sharp or hurtful. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.” ~Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12th

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