By Sarah Damm
Sometimes it feels like I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. At least the weight of my corner of the world.
As a wife and mother of six children, 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 an unspoken, unwritten expectation that I put on myself that is so high, that I very rarely meet it. If ever.
This expectation begins with the basic duties of feeding, clothing and sheltering my family.
What should I feed my family? Organic? Sugar free? Paleo?
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 about all those pesky toxic ingredients?
The expectations extend to other areas of life, too, such as organizing closets, scheduling doctor appointments, and volunteering at church.
All of this should be done well, 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 shared my struggles with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed in my vocation with a priest on my 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 more of yourself 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 more of yourself 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.
God loves us so much! He desires us to grow in holiness and virtue through our specific vocation. He also knows that we are not perfect … yet! And He is happy with us anyway!