A Midlife Mama Rediscovers Catholicism

Last night, I spent the evening in what was at first a darkened church, was soon lit up by hundreds of candles, and then was fully lit as bells chimed, an organ played, and a choir sang out Hallelujah. The smell of incense filled the air and at one point holy water was sprinkled upon the congregation. It was the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil at the Catholic Church where my son goes to school. He and my mother were with me.

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I’m what you’d call a lapsed Catholic. That means although I was baptized in the Catholic Church and went so far as to make my communion, I don’t actively practice the faith. When my parents divorced when I was eight and the Church made my mother feel like a pariah because of it, we stopped having anything to do with it.

That didn’t stop me years later from having my first three sons baptized in the Church, mostly out of the superstitious belief that if they weren’t baptized they’d be doomed to hell. Ironically, my youngest son, the only one to attend a Catholic school, was never baptized. By the time he came along when I was 38, I no longer held such beliefs.

I put my son in Catholic school this year because the public schools in our town are horrible and getting worse by the minute. The school he attends is an award-winning, Blue Ribbon school. I’m beyond happy with the high quality education he’s receiving. He’s takes pride in his academics and in his school community.

My son has decided that he wants to get baptized and make his communion. As he prepares for these sacraments, it’s my job as his mother to support him in his journey in faith. Hence, the reason we were in church last night.

Part of me remains a skeptic. The same is true for my mother. Last night, when the priest was reading the story of Moses parting the Red Sea, and recited how the water covered the Egyptians and killed them, we glanced at each other with raised eyebrows.

Then my mother did the unthinkable. She leaned over and whispered to my son, “If God is so great why did He kill all those people?”

I couldn’t believe she said it. I shot her a murderous look, and mouthed to her, “Don’t say that to him.”

My son responded, “Because those people were bad.”

Oh my goodness. Talk about complicated.

Once I took a graduate course entitled, “The Bible as Literature”, in which we read the Old Testament from a literary perspective. It was the first time I’d ever really read and dissected The Bible. God seemed so angry and mean and vindictive to me, killing people, demanding animal sacrifices. Yet, during the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil, He was made out to be a hero.

Despite my skepticism, the Easter Vigil was a beautiful, peaceful experience. The youngest of the three priests overseeing it delivered the sermon, which included a funny story about the Easter Bunny being run over and revived with hair spray (get it, “Hare” spray?”). An overall feeling of goodwill permeated.

Thanks to my eight year old son, I am rediscovering the Catholic Church after a nearly 40 year hiatus. I’m not sure what the outcome will be for me, as a person who believes in a higher power yet remains skeptical about organized religion, but I am one-hundred percent committed to supporting my son on his journey.

Happy Easter!

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Mommy Guilt: Does It Ever Go Away?

Here I go again, dissing the women’s movement. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for having choices, opportunities, and the hope of true equality; it’s just that I’m so damn tired of feeling guilty.

To be a mom and also hold down a demanding full-time job is to feel perpetually guilty. When I’m focusing too much on work, which is often the case if I want to do my job well, I feel guilty that I’m not spending more time at home. When my mind is on my family, or when I take time off to tend to them, I feel guilty that I’m dropping the ball at work. And never mind taking time off to tend to one’s self.

As I write this, I feel guilty. My students are on spring break so I’ve taken a day off. I should be at the gym right now, exercising away stress and making my body strong, or at least cleaning the house. Instead, I’m sitting on my rear-end indulging my need for creative self-expression. Interjected into this is the guilt-ridden remembrance of something I was supposed to do at work before I took the day off, but forgot.

Then there’s the lunch date I made with a friend today, which means instead of being a good mom and picking up my son after school, I’ve decided my father-in-law can pick him up as usual. I feel guilty that I have a day off and am not picking him up, something he loves for me to do. At the same time, I feel guilty that I’ve neglected my dear friend for too long and don’t want to rush our lunch.

Working moms aren’t the only women that feel guilty. I know stay-at-home moms who question whether they should be contributing to the family financially. Some hold college degrees and feel guilty they’re not utilizing them via a career. Others feel guilty because  though they’re home all day, they can’t seem to keep up with the housework or stay organized.

There are stay-at-home moms who love their lives, but feel guilty for being happy when so many of their mom friends are miserable and stressed out from jobs. There are moms who love their jobs and feel guilty that they prefer working over staying home. Some moms with full-time jobs would love to quit and stay home, but feel guilty for wanting this after being told all their lives that they should pursue a career.

Does the cycle of mommy guilt ever end?

Men don’t seem to agonize over such things, at least not the ones I know. Guilt seems to be primarily a woman’s burden. When the feminist movement propelled more mothers into the workforce, an unintended side effect was guilt. This is serious because guilt can eat away at one’s psyche and soul, draining vital energy.

Now, back to the lunch with my friend, which started off great, but ended with guilt.

We had a lovely afternoon that began with her practice teaching me a yoga class in her basement. Following this we enjoyed a delicious lunch at an organic vegan restaurant. The best part is that I was home in time to be there when my son was dropped off. I’d told him to have his grandfather swing by the house after school to see if I was home yet.

I was feeling pretty good until I opened the refrigerator to put in my leftovers. Sitting lonely on a shelf was the lunch bag I’d packed for my son that morning that I forgot to put in his backpack! My stomach suddenly felt like dead weight. The soundtrack to the murder scenes in the movie Psycho played through my mind as guilt sliced through me.

What did he eat for lunch? What did his teacher think when he told her he was lunchless? Would he ever forgive me?

I texted my friend to tell her what I’d done. My final words to her were, I suck! She was quick to reply, No you don’t shit happens. It’s how you take it that matters. Please Kim be kind to your self.

Could it really be that simple? Do we guilt-ridden moms simply need to be kinder to ourselves, and to each other?  Regardless of your job status, if you’re a mom, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. If you’re a dad reading this, I welcome your perspective.

You Know You’re Getting Older When…

This past week was a whirlwind. Last Sunday, after spending an entire day and night Saturday volunteering for a school fundraiser, I awoke at the crack of dawn and flew to Washington, D.C. for a work-related trip. I volunteer on the executive board of a state education organization and our mission in D.C. was to advocate for additional funding for educational opportunity programs for low-income students. This required several days of intensive training in governmental relations to prepare us for meeting with our state legislators’ education aides. This was my second time attending this event, but there’s always more to learn.

After spending each day in trainings, all I wanted to do was have a nice, but quick, dinner and head back to the hotel room to veg out. My young colleagues had other ideas. They wanted to explore our nation’s Capitol City at night, see the monuments, dine out and drink lots and lots of Sangria.

Apparently La Tasca has great Sangria, but I wouldn't know first-hand.

Apparently La Tasca has great Sangria, but I wouldn’t know first-hand. I can, however, attest that they serve great Tapas.

Once upon a time I would have gladly joined them.  Though they were kind and courteous enough to ask some of us older folks if we wanted to join in, none of us did. We were tired, and so we sent them on their way.

I for one was relieved to have the hotel room to myself while my 23 year old roommate hit the town. After training all day, I couldn’t have stayed awake to walk the streets of D.C. if you’d paid me to.  Having a 23 year old roommate worked out well for both of us. I got the room to myself at night. In the mornings, I awoke early, showered and dressed while she slept, and slipped out for coffee, which allowed her to have the room to herself for a while. She’s already tapped me to share a room at our next event.

Then came the day of the legislative visits. This is where those of us who’ve been around the block a few times perked up and took the lead. There is much to be said for professional and life experience when dealing with the folks on Capitol Hill. We knew what to say, how to say it, and how and when to follow up. I think our younger colleagues developed a new appreciation for us.

The bottom line is, young or old, we each have something to teach and offer the other. Youthful energy and enthusiasm merged with professional experience and polishing to create an amazing 10 person team that day.

Now I’m back home, dealing with a husband who is just getting over the flu and a son who is showing symptoms of it. I’m praying I don’t get it and am bleaching the house like crazy in an attempt to kill any germs. I returned to a messy house, an empty refrigerator, and bills that needed paying. Not to mention I dove right back into my job, even as my young colleague took off  a half day to recoup from D.C.

Is it any wonder we older folks tire more easily?