When I was young, Mother’s Day was an exciting time. It meant the end to a long, snowy winter, the appearance of spring flowers, and a chance to give something special to our Mom. Mother’s Day was one of the rare days when she slept in. As a mother myself now, I see the other side of the coin – the work, the worries, and the difficulties in balancing the constant need to be available to my children with own my work, school, and other obligations.
Fr. Ron Rolheiser discusses just these challenges in his beautiful book, Domestic Monastery. Using the monastery as a model for family life, he shows us how both the monastery and the family are places somewhat set apart from the world. Both involve the service of vocation, whether as a nun or monk in a religious community or in raising children, often removing us from social life and our previous positions of “power”. Both offer opportunities for understanding our own powerlessness in the face of God’s plans. Both can feel like deserts at times, providing us with much-needed space for work, reflection, and growth.
Just as monasteries take slightly different forms, so do families. Nuclear families, single-parent families, extended families, and blended families - are all equal families. Whatever shape our own family takes, as children of God we remember that God is the first parent of all. In all families, the struggle to balance essential tasks with prayer is real. Our own needs can no longer come first. This is especially true of single-parent homes, where there may be no one with whom to share our daily hopes, fears, and chores. Even when we feel lost, drained, and alone, however, God is beside us, caring for our children with us. God loves our children, worries about them, and cheers for them with us. God created our children and waits for them just as the Father awaits the Prodigal Son.
Parenthood is a miraculous and weighty endeavour, but we are never alone in our efforts. As we return this spring to our routines, some of them for the first time in three years, let us remember that God, our first parent, is beside us - seeing our challenges, listening to our prayers, and gently guiding us.
[Recommended reading: Ronald Rolheiser, Domestic Monastery. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2019.]