This isn’t your typical dysfunctional family post (though I have plenty of those). Instead, this is a post dedicated to all of the hard-working, beautiful-but-you-don’t-see-it, self-sacrificing Catholic Moms out there. And I have just one message for you:
You are God’s gift to your children. Act like it.
I don’t mean this in a mean, scolding way. Because moms of all ages and of all family sizes need our support and encouragement over everything else.
I only mean this to help you see that no matter who you are or what your flaws are, God has decided that you are the absolute best parent possible for your children.
So no matter what you think you’re bad at or what you think you’ll regret later… it’s so, so worth it now to stop and reflect on whether or not what you’re teaching your children accurately reflects God’s plan for your life… and God’s definition of godly men and woman.
My mother is a beautiful and lively mother of four. But there’s just one thing — she grew up in a family that was cruel to her about her looks and in a city and state that is particularly superficial. As long as I can remember, she has been negative and critical about her body — even when she looked absolutely beautiful to me, my father, and my brothers.
I am 31, and this week I spent my EMDR counseling session processing a lot of the messages I received about my body through how my mom perceived her body.
Her small comments about how “Everything would look better on her if she were thinner,” and her exclamations that we delete every photo of her that she didn’t find flattering (and guess how many photos she found to be flattering?) were a few pieces of a million-part puzzle that taught me how to measure the worth and beauty of my own body.
Growing up, this quickly transitioned to a fear that her daughter might be fat, so she put a lot of emphasis on what it meant to be a lady and how ladies shouldn’t have too big an appetite (while my brothers were free to hork seconds and thirds at every meal).
And then, you know what, I got fat.
All I felt when I looked at my mom, my food, or my body was pressure. Everything I ate, said, and wore spoke to me about whether or not I was the ideal, normal woman. And as a girl child destined to be 6 foot tall, there wasn’t much I could do to avoid being bigger than most people (and being out-sized at all your normal clothes providers).
Body image aside, the real damage here (and the real power Catholic moms of the world have) is understanding what it means to be a woman. A biblical woman. A Catholic woman.
Because pant size somehow doesn’t come up in the bible. Neither does plastic surgery or height or the ability to have children. None of these things define our womanhood. You know what does (and what was a refreshing realization late last night?)? Our hearts.
Our hearts! A womanly heart. Not a womanly size 12, a womanly svelte-looking arm, or a perfectly crafted face of make-up. A woman is measured by her godliness, her desire to dress herself in good works, and her fear for the Lord.
… and so many families (including my own) didn’t pass that message along.
A woman’s husband has every right to take pleasure in her God-given good looks, but the rest of us (including her father and mother and family members) should be working hard to see what’s in her heart and cultivate a peaceable, tender nature in her soul.
And those are the very things we destroy when we exclusively focus on outward appearance, physical size, and attractiveness.
If the only message your daughter or son ever gets about womanhood is the best way to figure out if she’s hot or not, then you’re setting her up for her own bad decisions and counseling sessions 30 years from now and you’re depriving her of the peace and love that flows from our God.
There’s your message for today: before you consider yourself in the mirror (or look at your overweight or otherwise imperfect child), try to look beyond the surface to see what you see in your and your child’s heart.
PS If you want to figure out what it means to be a godly woman and how you can have an impact on how your children see their femininity in God, What Christians Want to Know has a great Top-10 post.
It’s just incredible that a month has passed since I wrote about my niece-in-law. After the initial upset and bringing it up in my own counseling sessions, it hasn’t popped up again as a significant thing outside of praying for the whole family during bible study. I guess a part of me thinks that suffering within my husband’s family should be a bigger deal for us, but it’s difficult to keep that sensitivity when you’re building boundaries within a dysfunctional family. This is a prime opportunity for, “Let go, let God,” as God works on both my husband’s family and my husband and myself.
Within counseling, there have definitely been some breakthroughs for me. I go about once per week and each session is emotional and draining. Last week we focused more on career issues I am having and some confidence and authority problems I’ve had since my bad teaching experience. After one session, a lot of my anxiety around my current business just dissolved! So, I am officially a convert of EDMR style therapy.
Without consciously doing it, I have been taking a break from the sexual side of my issues. Within few EDMR sessions I definitely saw improvement in my desire to have sex and my anxiety around sex itself, but I still have the sperm issue.
I am so, so grateful that EDMR seems to work just like glue solvent where you don’t really feel huge changes but things just seem to be less charged, less painful, and less of a big deal. It hasn’t happened yet, but I have it in mind that that’s what will happen with my main problem (ejaculation) and one day it just won’t be a big deal that my husband and I complete the sex act together.
A girl can hope.
Until then, my health is giving me more than enough to contend with, and I’ve been feeling way more peaceful about the idea of being childless. God asks us to give up our plans for our lives, and I have been really feeling peaceful about that process lately, even though I put up more of a fight last year. When I look at the blessings in my life, I can see that it is more than enough to warrant a long, happy, and fruitful existence with or without children.
And honestly, I want to poll some more women on this subject. I really don’t see myself as carrying a child or being pregnant, despite coming from a large family and large families coming from my brothers. When I look in the mirror, I just don’t see or feel that process to be aligned with my path. I guess there are always surprises, but I wonder how many other women really felt like they *knew* they would or would not be pregnant in their life, or got pregnant after feeling distinctly that it was not something they would experience. (Outside of the whole secular “I just don’t want to be a mother” sentiment, of course).
That’s all for now! I have a feeling I’ll be digging into the sexual side of things again soon and that my brain just needed a break from the intense reading I was doing at the start of the year. I also have a dear friend coming over for dinner tonight and, if the mood is right, I may share my story with her so we can grow even closer.
She was with me before, during, and after the abusive relationship occurred, so I will be very curious to hear her thoughts on it. She is also not Christian, so that spin on it will be interesting, too. And, to not be too selfish about it, I wonder if this will inspire to share some of her own wounds from that time period, because I think we were both suffering with sexual relationships and emotional abuse and not talking about it.
God bless you all, and keep me in your prayers if you have an empty spot on your list!
PS Catholic Twitter is seriously hilarious. Join us!