It’s Holy Week and I can think of plenty of adjectives that aptly describe how I’m feeling and not one of them comes anywhere close to holy. Actually, the first word that comes to mind is exhausted. Aside from being a third trimester preggo and waking up at least two times each night to pay homage to the commode, 2-year-old Madeline has been having terrible nightmares. On Sunday night, she woke up screaming for me and was choking on her sobs by the time I made it to her side.
Madeline informed me she was dreaming about a terrible bee. Considering she’s never been stung, I was a little surprised. Based on her histrionics, I imagined she woke up trying to escape the clutch of some hideous, kidnapping monster or perhaps was lost in a land where story time, chocolate milk and Elmo didn’t exist.
But a bumblebee?
Still, I tried assure her that no bee – no matter how tenacious – could buzz its way to her now. She was having a hard time settling down and clung to me like a little barnacle, so I told her she could sleep with Mommy and Daddy. Once she was nestled in our too-small-Queen-sized bed (a 6’3” husband, pregnant mama and 37-inch wiggle worm warrant a California King), she relaxed and drifted off to sleep. Too bad I was anything but asleep. Madeline ended up with her head by my thighs and her feet kicking into my back. (Perhaps she was now playing soccer in a happy dream.) Meanwhile, my little butterbean started doing her nightly kickboxing session in utero. As I was taking hits from all sides, I sighed, thinking, “Nothing like the sacrificial love of motherhood.”
The next morning was rough and today’s been even rougher (she had another nightmare last night). I’m trying to carve out more time to pray, but honestly, I’m stumbling around in a sleepless stupor and even when I do have some quiet time, I have the attention span of a housefly.
Somehow I dragged myself out of bed this morning and said a quick morning prayer. I was headed downstairs to do my morning Lenten reflections when I heard a cheerful voice, beckoning me, “Mommy!” So, no time to read Scripture, let alone meditate. My entire Lent has felt this way. I squeeze in extra prayer time, an occasional daily Mass and 15 minutes with the Blessed Sacrament here and there, but it only leaves me wanting more. And now it’s almost Easter. I haven’t really spent any time at the foot of the cross with Mary reflecting on the Passion and death of her son. Instead, my days have been consumed by sleepless nights, grocery shopping, cleaning dishes with the help of a very helpful but not really helpful at all toddler (moms of little ones, you know what I mean), folding laundry, spreading PB on bread, singing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” reading Curious George books, worrying about all the things we have to do to get ready for baby number two, practicing my Kegels, schlepping around to see friends and family, and cleaning handprint smudges from walls and mirrors.
All the while, I am supposed to be growing closer to Christ by praying more and by giving up things that keep me from having a more intimate relationship with Him. I admit: I haven’t kept all of my Lenten resolutions, but does giving up sleep count at all?
Here’s what really scares me: My life is only going to get busier and shut-eye is something I’ll spend more time dreaming about than actually doing. I want to be open to life and to God’s vocation for me – that means, in all likelihood, having more children (which I certainly want!). My husband and I also hope to homeschool, at least during the grade school years. So I can’t help but wonder: If I’m having trouble staying on track in my spiritual life now, what’s going to become of me when I have a whole house full of kids pining for my love and attention? Then I look at other Catholic moms I know and I feel even worse. Many of them homeschool herds of kids – five or more. Some of them manage to whip together home-cooked meals every night and serve others through various volunteer efforts, and the Internet is full of blogging, homeschooling Catholic moms who seem to do it all, including having rich prayer lives. I’m only 28 (young and spry, right?) with one toddler, one baby on its way and a wonderful, supportive husband and I feel like time is such a premium that praying – even during this beautiful, important season of Lent – often takes the backburner.
What’s a tired Mom to do?
Just keep trying. That’s all I can do. I’m hoping fidelity – not hours logged – in prayer gets me a few brownie points. Maybe I don’t have time to for an hour of meditation every day, but I can start and each day asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and mumble a few prayers of thanks. I may not have the kind of life that lends itself to lengthy periods of silence, but I can tank up on Christ in the midst of my daily living. Madeline and I have been taking lots of walks soaking up the springtime and I often find myself in awe of God’s blossoming canvas. In my mind, I thank Him for the spring and sometimes I even vocalize my gratitude to my daughter. “Let’s thank God for the beautiful day, Madeline!” This counts. Not that God is keeping score, but I can’t forget about all the small, pithy prayers I utter throughout my day (like “God, please help me to not have to pee all night.”). Plus, I have to give myself a little credit: I haven’t eaten any chocolate, albeit one slice of chocolate chip cookie cake on my birthday. (C’mon, it was my birthday!)
So maybe I’m not holier than thou (I think I might take the title of “sleepier than thou,” however), but as I begin my journey to the cross during this Holy Week, I hope that I can steal as many moments as possible just to thank Jesus for what He did for us all.
As for the profound prayer life I crave, someday when the kids are all grown, it will be mine for the taking. For now, me being their mom – even if it means losing sleep to ward off pretend killer bees and cutting my morning prayer time short – is a living kind of prayer, a taking up of a lighter cross than Christ’s, but a cross of selfless love, all the same.