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Two books for over-busy Catholic moms put hope in faith, love
May 3rd, 2011
By Valerie Schmalz

Anxious is no way to spend Mother’s Day -- or any day, for that matter.

But Michigan pediatrician and author Dr. Meg Meeker says mothers are suffering from a low-grade angst that is specific to this generation of mothers. And she says it’s catching.

Two books by Catholic moms for Catholic mothers offer how-to lists on how to help the harried mom restore joy in her family’s life and in her own.

“One of the things I have seen happen, particularly in the past 10 years, is this increasing angst among mothers. This sense that ‘I’m not getting it right,” said Dr. Meeker, who wrote “The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity” (Random House 2011).
“We are more focused on doing mom than being mom,” she said.

The biggest challenge for mothers is “too much to do around the home, at work, in our communities and never enough time. We live in an incredibly fast paced society with technology that has created an instant-message type of expectation,” says Lisa Hendey, author of “The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul” (Ave Maria Press, 2010). Fresno-based Hendey founded and blogs at the popular site

Dr. Meeker and Hendey say sanity is reclaimed by putting faith in God and personal relationships at the heart of a mother’s life.
“It’s my firm belief that within our Catholic traditions we have many of the tools necessary to refresh and renew our souls and spirits,” writes Hendey. She sees Catholic parents as “on the front lines” of nurturing Catholic faith even as a 2008 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey found that roughly 10 percent of Americans see themselves as “former Catholics.”

“So many times we may want to wait until the setting for prayer is absolutely perfect, but the truth is most moms I know pray while driving, while doing laundry and with our little ones, rather than on their knees in a chapel,” said Hendey, who is married to an emergency room physician and has two sons.

Dr. Meeker, the mother of four children, three girls and a boy, ages 27 to 19, says a shift in “collective peer pressure” from themselves, friends, media and family is burdening mothers.

“We are more focused on kids who are high-performing rather than that they have sound character, and are happy well-adjusted human beings who have something to contribute to the world. In a sense we are living on the superficial performance level and we are creating kids who will live on this superficial performance level. We are missing life,” said Dr. Meeker, who has also written “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know,” and “Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons.”

Among Dr. Meeker’s 10 habits, first on the list is: “Understand your value as a mother.” Practice of faith is No. 3 and making time for solitude is No. 6. Her list ends with: “Hope is a decision -- so make it!”

Hendey’s list of tips on living better are organized around heart, mind, body and soul, and include chapters for single mothers and mothers of children with disabilities including autism.

Motherhood begins for married women with their husbands, Hendey emphasizes in her first chapter. “We have our husbands to thank for the helping us to earn the most important job title most of us will ever hold – mom,” writes Hendey.
Hendey and Dr. Meeker offer a message of hope.

“We moms also tend to judge ourselves a little too critically when things don't go perfectly according to our plans,” notes Hendey. “I love this quote from one of my favorite intercessors, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who said, ‘The secret to happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that he, in his goodness, sends to us day after day.’ God's plan for my days often goes differently than the plan I wrote on my morning ‘to do’ list and I'm learning to embrace what he sends as a blessing, even when it strays from what I had anticipated.”


From the May 6, 2011 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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