Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
Parents: pulled in many directions

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the July 28, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell Feeling exhausted and stressed one afternoon, I lay down for a brief nap. The next thing I knew, my body started to tingle and I felt as if I were floating in mid-air. This pleasant state continued until I realized my arms and legs were stretched out and pulled in opposite directions. As the sensations became stronger, I began to struggle against the forces that seemed to be tearing me apart.

Like a drowning person fights to the surface for air, I fought to rise from the depths of this dream. My children had hold of my right leg and were tugging while simultaneously opening the refrigerator and asking, “What’s there to eat?” I knew it was a dream, but I couldn’t wake up.

Wrenching my left leg and urging me to exercise was a slim, sexy, well-dressed woman from a TV commercial. “You’ll feel better and look better, too.” She mouthed the words at me in slow motion through glossy red lips.

I turned to see who had hold of my left arm. My parents, brothers and sisters, were all hanging on tightly and talking at once. In real life, my mother had recently suffered a serious illness, and we are all taking turns helping my father care for her while she recovers. A yank on my right arm jerked my attention to my husband trying to tell me something about the car in the repair shop and the kids’ orthodontist bill.

I shook my head, trying free myself from the nightmare. But even as I reclaimed my body parts and opened my eyes, I knew this dream was real. Waking up would not banish my sense of being overwhelmed.

Most parents are familiar with similar feelings, beginning when caring for babies and toddlers. The sheer physical strain of sharing one’s body with a nursing baby can sometimes be overwhelming. As children grow the tensions change with their developmental stages. Parenting stress becomes less physical and more mental, for instance, when your teenagers start driving.

Though Jesus wasn’t a parent, he, too, experienced demands from many sides. Remember the story of the hemorrhaging woman? Like any parent, he felt that tug on his clothing and knew somebody needed something from him. The Gospel stories revealed how Jesus cared for people in need with great compassion. But at times, Jesus got in a boat and rowed away to escape the crowds.

Would I like to do that! Hop in a boat and row away from piles of laundry, unexpected bills, and my fear about how my family will cope if my mother does not recover. Slowly, I step away from the imaginary boat. If I leave, the laundry piles will grow larger. Somebody needs to worry about the bills, right? And mother…

We know we are supposed to take time away, time to nurture body and soul. In order to continue to meet the demands of parenting, we need ways of restoring our vigor, renewing our hope and broadening our vision. It’s just so hard to do it.

The Gospels tell us when Jesus withdrew, he spent time in prayer. He took time to enjoy a meal, wine and conversation with friends. He seems to have had a good set of boundaries, knowing when to say “no” and when to give the ultimate “yes.” Yet, maybe, he, too, struggled, learning as he went. It must have been hard for him to realize he couldn’t cure every leper, soften every hardened heart. At some point, he must have come to grips with the fact he wouldn’t be able to do everything, that whatever he could do would be enough.

Maybe when we feel we can least afford to take time away for stillness and prayer, that’s when we need it most. We need to somehow quiet the voices within that are tugging us in many directions, so we can hear the loving voice of our God telling us we are enough.

© 2005, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, will be published in September by St. Anthony Messenger Press.)

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