What A Holy Woman of A Large Family Doesn’t Look Like

Highlights from the week:

  1. at some point Monday morning, the little boys steal the syrup bottle, sneak it downstairs, and proceed to take shots from it while watching He-Man in their underwear.  The empty bottle, shoved under the coffee table, is not discovered until a two inch thick trail of ants leads me to it on Wednesday afternoon.
  2. The girl takes three solid days to complete 20 math problems (again), then takes 20 minutes to flawlessly complete three days’ worth of English, vocabulary, science and history.
  3. All five children, who are usually thick as thieves, become even thicker and thievier and devise a system by which at no time during the hours of 6 a.m. through 8 p.m., is there a fraction of a moment when someone isn’t shrieking at the top of their lungs.  I find myself Googling phrases like “how do you debark children” and “what viruses cause laryngitis”.
  4. In preparation for Holy Week, theological conversations overheard in the backseat of the van reach dizzying heights of absurdity.  Topics covered include “God is a Woman, and You Can’t Prove Otherwise Because He Has Long Hair and Wears Dresses”, with the 4 year old defending this thesis against the increasingly scandalized 9 year old.  Like many of her countrymen in these politically charged times, she finds it difficult to engage in civil discourse with someone whose whole argument consists of “If you don’t agree with me, you’re stupid” and “If you don’t agree with me, I’m going to yell my opinion louder”.  For her part, she employs the “I value your viewpoint so little and my intellect so much that I’m only going to communicate with you in the most condescending of manners” tactic.

All this crescendos to a lovely display of Lenten lessons learned and preparations for Holy Week of my own, as I spend much of Thursday screaming at every living creature that has the misfortune to come into contact with me.  This includes the two telemarketers who somehow crossed the impenetrable barrier of the “National Do Not Call Registry” and called the house (one is involved in an illegal phishing scheme, and the other is a fiery lady with a thick Texas accent calling on behalf of the NRA.  I figure one deserves to be yelled at, and the other can take it).

Sprawled out on my bed at 7:15 p.m., after instituting universal early bedtime, a sudden realization comes crashing down on me:

I am not holy enough to have a large family.

This realization fills me with such panic and horror that I can’t breathe.  For all my blabbing about how children strip you of your selfishness and jumpstart your journey to holiness like nothing else, I am a heap of impatience, and self-centeredness and irritation.  And sweet Lord in Heaven, there’s another child on the way.

Women of large families are patient, and calm, and generous, and unflappable, and they never yell themselves hoarse because they have embraced the wisdom that their many children come bearing.  They are too full of love to feel hurt when someone describes their children as “ragamuffins”.  They are too full of joy to feel anger when the house isn’t as clean as they’d like.  They are too full of service to feel irritation when a child interrupts in some way.

And if these holy women of large families happen to stumble in one of these areas, they certainly don’t wallow in self-pity on their bed.  They pick themselves up, they ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts, and they say a Rosary or something while cheerfully cleaning the kitchen.

I did continue to wallow in self-pity on the bed.  I did not get up; I asked the Holy Spirit to just get it over with and fix me already.  I said a halfhearted Hail Mary and figured the kitchen could just dang wait.  Once they polished off the syrup bottle, the ants could take care of what was in the kitchen, anyway.

Pages: 1 2

Cari Donaldson


Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a weekly podcast about homesteading at ghostfawnpodcast.com

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Mrs Swanson06

    That was beautiful. I have been like you were for so long. Thank you for this confirmation.

  • Mary @ Better Than Eden

    Thank you Cari!  Beautiful.  And if you’re like me, after that baby is born you may feel like a new person and the loving part tends to be a bit easier (or at least less prone to the exhausted manic-depressive episodes…)

  • Micaela

    Wow. Talk about manic. I was laughing hysterically at your post and then crying like a baby at E. Foss’. What a special post. And please let us know about everyone’s ocular health, post-Mass. 🙂

  • Aunt Sandi

    I think you do an admirable job of mothering your children.  I also think you don’t cut yourself any slack when you have a bad day — and everyone has a bad day now and then.  AND — you are very, very pregnant which causes major mood swings. 

  • Aunt Sandi,
    I love that you always refer to yourself as “Aunt Sandi” in comments.
    And you’re right about the very pregnant/mood swing correlation.  As everyone in my family will testify.

  • I took a picture after Mass and attached it to the end of this post.  Joaquin’s pulling your leg- no one’s eyes were injured even slightly.

  • I feel the same way, Mary!  The trick is remembering that while wallowing in the throes of the last few weeks, right?

  • I’m glad it spoke to you!

  • Victoria

    Your post inspired me to go offer my very prickly teenage girl a backrub, since her back is hurting today. She’s doing homework and may take me up on it later. If you accomplish nothing else in your life, that moment of inspiration is a victory. Your post makes me wish that most of my children weren’t all grown up and moved out.

  • Oh, I’m so happy to hear it!!  And, spoken as a former very prickly teenage girl, I’m sure your offer meant a great deal to her.

  • Deacon Tom Fox

    Tell me… are you the one that I flunked while leading Marriage Prep 101? It was someone who looked a lot like you that made me question whether I wanted to be a deacon. 

  •  I, too, love how you call yourself Aunt Sandi.  I think I’ll be calling you that from now on… 🙂

  • You’re pretty much my favorite.  Yep.

  • Daria Sockey

    This leaves me strangely longing for the good old days when all seven were at home.

  • Erica

    I hopped on over here from Dwija and I’m so glad I did.  Your post pretty much summed up my week last week, except that I didn’t have the great insight.  Instead I just blindly waddled my way through the week and prayed daily for bedtime to come sooner rather than later.  We are (what feels like) hugely pregnant with #7, so the hormones are raging and so am I. Thank you for the reminder to take time to enjoy them and to spend time getting to know the little monsters instead of seeing them as another job.  Mothers of large families are truly blessed, sometimes it’s just hard to remember that 🙂

  • I’m so glad you visited!  I’m waddling right along with you, praying for the swift arrival of bedtime.

  • I have this tiny voice that keeps trying to remind me that I’m going to miss all this when it’s over.  But crazy people hear voices too, right?

  • kim

    We went to Holy Thursday Mass last night,  it was amazing!  A. MAZE. ING.  I wished for you.  And you are holy.  Just wise enough to see that you are still a work in progress.