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Question:

Hello, I am a mother of seven children ages 10 and under including two 7 month old twins. I have been homeschooling about 5 years. Our family lives a very simple old fashioned lifestyle. My husband handles the money and I handle the home. I don't spend money on myself. I see something that would benefit a child more and I go on the back burner, to my pleasure. We moved away from family about 8 years ago and moved to the country in Maine about 10 hours from either family. Most days I don't travel. I stay at home with the children and give just about all I have to God and try to grow in the virtues each day. In the spring and summer I spend a lot of time out of doors in the garden. In the winters, I hunker down. The children and I have daily spiritual devotions usually starting with your devotional series or some other inspirational book and we pray the entire rosary most days of the week together during our school day. I usually let the Holy Spirit take me from there with what each child needs to work on that particular day. Some days are spent in group study, some reading skills, math, fun day, science, computer time or history. We do art and music, usually classical music is playing most of the day. I don't really know my method, but as the years go by I seem to just go with the Holy Spirit.

Recently, it has been brought to my attention by a well meaning neighbor that I should spend more time and money on myself and be a little more what I would consider to be worldly and self seeking. My husband takes the children when I ask him to so that I can go have lunch and get something small for myself or just disappear upstairs to be waited on at dinner time while he tends to the children and I can watch a movie or catch up on reading or get a bubble bath. I also try to make taking care of myself with regular exercise and a balanced diet a priority. Everyone knows if mom isn't balanced, the family won't be either. My husband and I usually have a date night anywhere from 2 to 3 times a month after the children are in bed. We just spend time together listening to music and catching up with one another. My husband works a lot and does pray with us and makes sure he makes Mass a priority most of the time. We do have our issues we work out with one another. Ones that won't go away, I am learning to place on the altar and leave it with God to work his love through in His timing.

I guess what I would like to know is are there better ways for mom to stay balanced? Before I was married, I had the time to be self centered and just pay attention to my needs. Now that I have a family, the priorities have naturally shifted. Most days I don't feel like a thing is missing and this is just my season in life, child rearing. But will I cause burnout if I continue to ask for so little for myself or should I just pay attention to when I feel out of balance and take care of it as the situation arises? There is one more thing, I do notice that I am not as playful as I used to be. I have become a bit more serious since I began child rearing. Because God has entrusted my husband and I with so much responsibility, I feel much duty and little fun. How could I be better balanced for my husband, my children and myself? Any expert advice would be greatly appreciated. May God continue to bless your ministry.

Answer:

Dear Mom,

You are a gem.  You are doing a lovely job in your vocation of being a wife, mother, and home educator.  Living a humble, traditional lifestyle; finding joy in gardening, prayer and books rather than pricey, earthly pleasures; and teaching your children through the Holy Spirit are beautiful examples for your children and other moms.  

Your neighbor meant well.  Without meeting either one of you, though, my guess is that she was wrong in her assessment.  She was concerned because, perhaps she was taught with more worldly views.  In fact, most of us were taught to look out for ourselves first.  That isn't what the church teaches.  We are to die to ourselves and not covet time and money.  

Your husband sounds like he is very helpful.  Like many homeschooling dads, he has to work many hours, but when he can give time to you and the family he does so.  You have time for exercise, a bubble bath, or a lunch out.  Those are blessings.  I am certain well meaning friends have suggested that you and your husband go away from the children, but you mentioned that you are far from family.  Any mother who has a large family knows that the idea of a paid babysitter doesn't always work.  So, the fact that you and your husband set time aside for alone time, when the children go to bed, is a great start.  You sound like a balanced mom, but try a separate supper with your husband every once in awhile, too.  Feed the children first and then put them in front of a video.  Ask your ten year old for help.  Or, go for a quick walk alone, or with your husband, and wave at the window each time you go by the older children. 

Moms with large families are in the eye of the storm.  A great, wonderful, loving, adventure storm - but a storm.  You have seven month old twins.  My husband and I have twins, with several other children, and although you didn't complain, I know how difficult baby twins can be.  Nobody knows how much divine intervention one needs with two babies, unless they have had twins.  When twin babies are crying, hungry, wet or needing to be held, they always need you at the same time.  Let's face it, they do everything at the same time.  There is a reason they are called twins.  My prayers go out to you.  Things will seem less overwhelming as the twins need less comforting.  

A thousand moms understood your clear assessment of parental responsibility when you wrote that you are more serious and less playful.  The time will come that we will be able to play a little more, and we will feel less serious.  Until then, continue exercising, getting out a few times a month, spending a few nights alone with your husband and praying.  You seem to be a very peaceful, prayerful mother.  Be sure to also thank your husband for his time.  He sounds like a good husband.

Continue what you are doing.  It's working.  God is good.

Blessings to you and yours,

Julia Johnson

   
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