Don’t Ask More Than God Does

8

For awhile now, it has felt like I have been carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. At least the weight of my corner of the world.

As a wife, as a mother of six children, as a homemaker, I have realized that I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to do it all. And to do it all really, really well.

Do you do this, too?

There is this unspoken, unwritten expectation that I put upon myself that is so high, thatI very rarely meet it. If ever.

Don't Ask More Than God Does - CatholicMom

This expectation includes the basic duties of feeding, clothing and sheltering my family.

Yes, even the basics can be brimming with expectations and unrealistic pressures:

What should I feed my family? Organic? Dye free? Sugar free? Paleo?

Where should I shop? Should I use coupons, and if so, how much time should I spend finding the best deal?

What should we wear? Should I shop thrift stores, or is it better to buy fewer items but of a better quality?

How should I clean? What should I use to clean? What about all those pesky toxic ingredients? And is it better to do a little cleaning everyday, or save it for one big cleaning day per week?

The expectations that I place on myself as a mother can extend to other areas of life, too, such as organizing everything from recipes and receipts to our medicine cabinet and what goes under the kitchen sink. I don’t know about you, but I always want birthdays and celebrations to be nice, but what happens when a certain child’s birthday was in April and she has yet to have some type of party with friends? Then there’s the feast days I want to honor but miss every year. The doctor and dentist appointments that never seem to get scheduled. And I certainly can’t forget the sorting of seasonal clothing that is still being sorted when the next season begins.

All of this should be done well and on time, says the expectations in my head.

Does this sound familiar to you, at all?

I want what’s best for my family, and I’m sure you do, too. But at what cost? Is doing what’s best worth being anxious, overwhelmed and discouraged? The expectations that I have, that no one has put on me except for myself, end up making me feel like a failure of a mom. I focus so much on all the things I’m not doing, how long it takes me to do the things I’m trying to do, and how quickly my hard work comes undone, that I end up feeling completely hopeless that I’ll never get it right.

Why am I doing this to myself? Why are you?

Moreover, how does this affect the relationships we have with our families and with God?

I recently shared my struggles with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed in my vocation with Fr. John on my Miles Christi Spiritual Exercises retreat. I told him that life felt too heavy, that it was not what I desire my vocation to be like. I told him about being a mom to six children, the challenges, the uncertainties, the joys, the sorrows. I told him that I didn’t know what type of mom God wanted me to be, because I didn’t feel like I was really good at one thing or another.

I dumped all of my motherly woes on this good and holy priest, and do you know what he said to me? He said something so simple yet so profound. He said something that has helped me begin to ignore some of the high and unrealistic expectations that I put on myself and shed some of the burdensome weight off of my shoulders. He said,

“Don’t ask of yourself more than God does.”

And in those eight little words, the pressure began to lift.

He went on to say, and I truly believe God used him as His messenger to speak to me, that my house is not meant to look like a museum; I have six children, after all! And when the mess feels overwhelming, I should simply offer it to God. I should offer my anxiety about the mess to God—out loud.

“My house is a mess, Lord, and I offer it to you.”

Isn’t that refreshing?!

Now, of course, Fr. John was not telling me not to work hard and not to teach my children how to clean up their bedrooms. But he was telling me not to be so hard on myself.

“Don’t ask of yourself more than God does.”

“But really, Father, can it be that simple?” I asked.

“It must be simple, Sarah,” he responded. He went on to say that God is calling me to be a saint as a wife and mother. If I try to be a saint in any other way, God won’t give me the grace to do it. But He will give me the grace to do what He is asking of me.

Again, more pressure began to lift.

So what am I doing with this breath of fresh air? With Fr. John’s guidance, here are three  practical things I am working on to make “Don’t ask of yourself more than God does” my new and permanent mantra:

1. I am slowly letting go of the high expectations and working on not getting overwhelmed by ALL that has to be done. Rather, I am striving to be in the moment and focusing on doing one thing at a time. I asked Father, “How do I know what is a pleasing amount of work to God?” And he encouraged me to make a list of priorities, and do them in priority order, until I can’t do them any more. So, whatever I don’t get done, I leave for another day. This isn’t easy,  and I fail many times. It takes a great amount of surrender and trust, but working on this has been so worthwhile!

2. I am renewing my prayer/spiritual life. I am working on re-establishing a daily prayer time. But I am starting small with five minutes a day. Many days, it goes beyond that, but if I get interrupted or I simply don’t have extra time, at least I know that I have spent a few minutes with the Lord.

3. I am practicing the presence of God. Father really encouraged me to imagine Jesus throughout my day. So, when I am playing with Joseph, I try to picture the child Jesus playing along side us. When I am cooking dinner, I imagine that I am cooking for the Holy Family. When I am folding laundry, I remember that Jesus (and Mary) is keeping me company. (Currently, I also am reading The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence as well as trying out different phone apps that can remind me to pause on each hour to remember the Lord, in order to make this a real habit in my life.)

“Don’t ask of yourself more than God does.”

God loves us so much! He desires us to grow in holiness and virtue through our specific vocation as wives and mothers. He also knows that we are not perfect … yet! And He is happy with us anyway!

Copyright 2014, Sarah Damm

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About Author

Sarah Damm is a Catholic wife and mother of six children, ages 4 to 12, living in Minnesota. She spends her days like many moms do—driving kids around, running errands, cooking meals and helping with homework. And in the thick of it, she and her husband strive to weave the Catholic faith, in all its rich beauty and tradition, into their daily lives as well as into how they celebrate holidays and holy days. In her “free” time, Sarah enjoys knitting, reading, and a good cup of coffee with a friend. She blogs at morethanenough7.blogspot.com.

8 Comments

  1. Wow what great timing for me to read! We just added baby #7 to our family and I keep on reminding myself to take it one day at a time. The older I get the more I see how many little things don’t truly matter, you know?

  2. Thank You, Sarah, for this beautiful reminder that we can be much too hard on ourselves. God loves us so much and wants us to live in each moment with what he has for us. We are not meant to be stressed out about what we think “should” be getting done. He will help us to be gentle with ourselves if we keep that prayer time with him. Even that 5 minutes allows us to feel his great love for us and his acceptance of what we are giving. Peace to you and every mom who reads your words.

  3. I left a comment on your blog, but I wanted to say here, as an “older” mom who has gone through periods of asking myself so many questions about how I should do things, just make a decision, what you think is best, and make it “your way.” Then don’t think about it again. Just do it. The children will all get used to it, your husband will appreciate it and you won’t have to worry and wonder anymore. Don’t look at what other women do and wonder if your way is best. It’s best if it works for your family. Change your ways according to your own little world and that should be the only reason. Have confidence that God is telling you what He wants of you. Imagine your mother Mary standing next to you and giving you advice as an older friend. Do not despair! And remember, simple is always better.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. A mother of four little ones, I often have similar feelings and can completely relate. Now I’m inspired by your suggestions.

  5. One of my readers emailed me this article, and I am SO GRATEFUL. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I read the words “Don’t ask of yourself more than God does”. I, for one, have often had to lay my messy house before God. Thank you so much.

  6. Pingback: Spiritual Exercises Offer Real Resolutions for 2015 | CatholicMom.com

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