With Labor Day here, I find myself thinking about what it represents – and it’s no longer about the labor worker and a horrible massacre that happened a very long time ago. It’s a lot of things nowadays, like furniture and new car sales with 100,000 months with no interest. It is an unofficial close to summer when the last of the summer barbecues happen before the back-to-school frenzy begins (or it used to be before kids started school two minutes after the 4th of July). So many Norman Rockwell-like images come to mind when I picture Labor Day and its all-American festivities. To sum it all up, Labor Day has become our nation’s last hurrah, our Fat Tuesday before summer has set upon the horizon for another year- if you are on Team Summer. If you are on Team Fall, like me, you can’t wait for Labor Day because fall fashions arrive in the stores and crafty people start decorating with hay, twigs, and burlap! Football anyone? It isn’t so obnoxious to post countdowns to Christmas after Labor Day, and don’t even get me started on the glorious scent and flavor that is Spiced Pumpkin!
What about the labor part? What kind of work does a Catholic woman do? I don’t mean the 9-5 occupation she may or may not have. I’m talking about the other 500 tasks we do daily for our family. Face it ladies: our to-do lists are nightmarishly long. No woman does exactly the same tasks as her Sister in Christ, so I’ll write about mine, but let’s get real; we are all tired.
Let’s pretend I didn’t PCS this summer and imagine the homeschool year has started. I am up at 5:30am and have some me time where I can take a walk or swim, say my Morning Offering, take a shower, and make (but not drink) a cup of coffee before my early-to-rise, very hyper boys are up. From there, I am making my husband’s lunch, feeding the boys, watching them take their medicine (otherwise they will fall on the floor lost forever), get myself dressed, break up a fight, keep them on task to get dressed, brush their teeth, make their beds, and tidy their rooms. How much supervision do an 11 and 12 year old need? A lot! Both have ADHD and must take medication. We have attempted to take them off a few times, but they went right back on when Thing 2 set a hedge on fire in our backyard on Post, reenacting Moses and the Burning Bush, while Thing 1 looked on in daze, hypnotized by the growing flames, but I digress. Usually, during this time of hygiene and room cleaning the pills kick in and I can safely eat my breakfast and drink the now cold cup of decaf. School starts around 8:15 and we go hard until we finish at lunchtime. Sometimes we make it to daily Mass at noon, sometimes we don’t, but I always make it to CWOC on Tuesdays! After Mass and lunch, I have a few hours to do laundry and floor cleaning (yay!), before prepping dinner and getting ready for some kind of sports practice. My boys don’t take any time off from sports because they use the free time to turn into sad, video game playing couch potatoes. They have so much energy to burn! We get home anywhere between 7pm and 9pm (depending on the sport and its location) to eat dinner, take showers, brush teeth and read in bed before their lights go out, and I can finally kiss my husband and talk about our day before I collapse into bed. This evening portion sounds relatively easy except the ADHD pills wore off at 5pm. Basically, the going to bed routine looks like the all kinds of crazy as the getting ready for the day routine. I’m sure I have it easy compared to some of you who do the same but with 8 children. It isn’t a contest. I am setting the mood to make my point.
Something essential looks to be missing from my day. Good effort as Mom. Good effort as Wife. What about as a Catholic woman??? I was so fraught with guilt at my lack of prayer, I ran off to see the priest and confess my sin of letting my relationship with Christ sit on the way back burner, not even on the stove in the kitchen, but the one attached to the BBQ in the backyard that hasn’t been used since last Labor Day! My priest gave me some wisdom and truth that I shall now remind you all of. We are wives and some of us are actively raising children, and holding down a career. Our vocation is just that. He reminded me that it is prayerful to sweep up the Cheerios and the dog hair. It pleases our Lord to make up the beds and scrub the toilets. We are living our vocation when we soothe a crying child and discipline their snotty sibling who hid their lovey. If we try to carve out a moment in time to spend time with Jesus in prayer, He will be there whether it’s the idyllic and peaceful scene we were desperately hoping for, or if it’s an ongoing conversation in the car while waiting to pick up the kids. I’ve been known to pray the rosary while swimming laps. That’s awesome, my priest told me. Try to make the time he told me, but don’t get caught up in the vicious cycle of being perfect, especially in prayer. Perfect isn’t real, it isn’t sincere, and it certainly isn’t sustainable. Jesus knows my heart and He knows yours, too. He loves your strengths and your mostly self-critical shortcomings. Martha didn’t get very far when complaining to Jesus about Mary, but that wasn’t because she was busy with housework, but because she failed to recognize Mary’s work. Mary was to supposed to sit, visit, and listen to our Lord at that moment. Martha’s was to sweep up the Cheerios. Who knows, maybe Mary prepped the meal the three consecutive visits prior. We are called to find a balance between both the virtues of Martha and her sister, Mary. One is not ultimately more holy than the other, maybe slightly more glamorous (I always imagine a disheveled Martha holding a broom with a scowl on her face and sweating while Mary is perfectly coiffed and content) and I won’t lie, definitely more relaxing! So in the tradition of Labor Day, cut yourself some slack, offer up a prayer of thanksgiving and have that much deserved lemonade, or Pumpkin Spice Latte. You got this! You were put on this earth for this very endeavor that is after all, what a vocation is.
“The Labor That Is Love” contributed by Dollia Lemus.