Today, We Bake Bread

Very impressed with our loaves of bread.  Happy snow day!

Very impressed with our loaves of bread. Happy snow day!

I love being a momma. I love my job. At times when being a momma seems overwhelming, I really do not like my job very much. It is in the overwhelming times of being a mother that I want to run away from my job to take care of what is going on at home. Knowing that at the present time I cannot just walk away with a resignation letter, I must use other strategies as a working Catholic momma.

I like to think of all of my kids as perfect little angels, who are completely respectful, always choose correctly, and quiet down around 8 p.m. in order to get the needed rest to start the next day.

Yea, right.

I must admit, that right now my 7 year old is struggling. She is sometimes out of control, has quite a little temper, does not always use her manners, and bosses her older sisters around.

This drives me NUTS and when it happens, I tend to blame my work schedule and the demands of the job. In reality, part of the problem is my own prioritizing. Sometimes when I get home from a long day at work, I have the attitude that I DESERVE down time…quiet time…time to myself. In my attitude and subsequent behaviors, I sin. I make incorrect decisions – choosing my own desires rather than what the 7 year old needs.

I am reminded at these times that parenthood is sacrificial love. As a working Catholic momma, this means putting aside my desire at 5 p.m. to take care of myself, and to turn instead to my 7 year old who is struggling right now.

I’ve analyzed the times when Elie Bellie is struggling. Without fail, it is during times when I “check out.”

Momma fail.

This last week, even living in South Louisiana, we had 2 snow days. I made a decision on the eve of the first snow day that Elie and I would bake bread. I wanted to find an activity that we could complete all phases together.

Elie was ecstatic to complete this activity. The morning of said activity, she asked me no less than 7 times that morning when the bread baking would commence. I knew I wanted to start it in the afternoon. So, that morning I kept her busy with reading books together, watching a short video together, and just being around one another.

The afternoon was spent with Elie wholeheartedly pouring herself into baking the bread – from getting the ingredients together to kneading the dough, to punching it after rising, to the formation of the loaves, all the way to buttering pieces of the loaf for her sisters.

Elie kneads the dough, knowing she has to keep it up for 10 minutes.  OK, I helped.

Elie kneads the dough, knowing she has to keep it up for 10 minutes. OK, I helped.

Elie butters the top of the loaf.  She was excited to have her own loaf.

Elie butters the top of the loaf. She was excited to have her own loaf.

Elie approved!  She loved eating the bread.  Mostly, she loved buttering pieces for her sisters.

Elie approved! She loved eating the bread. Mostly, she loved buttering pieces for her sisters.

All that bread making - Elie needed a nap.  She created a safe comfy space for herself under her desk.  This was very clever, and mother approved!

All that bread making – Elie needed a nap. She created a safe comfy space for herself under her desk. This was very clever, and mother approved!

It was wonderfully catechetical. I was able to explain the rising of the bread because of the yeast, and why the Communion wafers are different. I was able to explain to her that Jesus is the Bread of Life, and I was able to understand from her the feelings she was experiencing about her First Communion. It was during this time of baking bread that she and I made the decision for her to wear my First Communion dress. What a blessing.

This exercise of baking bread also gave us a chance to practice the virtue of PATIENCE. Both Elie and I can use reminders to slow down, and to be patient. As the dough rises, patience is imperative. Removing the rag over the bread and “punching it” too early could cause errors in the loaf. We were able to have more conversation during this time, AND clean the kitchen together.

So, today, we bake bread. I needed that lesson. I didn’t want a complicated drawn out analysis of Elie’s behavior. I just wanted us to enjoy baking bread together. The act alone taught us so much, and developed virtue and love in our relationship, and in Elie’s behavior.

I know that being a working Catholic momma is a double-edged sword: on the one side, you are providing for your family, but on the other side, you may miss a few things along the way. Part of our vocation as working momma is to figure out those detours, and to provide pathways to the highway again.

What do you do when something seems out of control for one or more of your kids? As a working momma, what are your unique strategies that help in times such as these?

Here are a few strategies I have implemented over the last week:

1. No technology at the dinner table. OK, this was in effect already. However, our family really focused on true discussion this week at the dinner table. With kids in college all the way to the 2nd grade, discussions can sometimes seem random and even CRAZY. I would NEVER trade these discussions for all the coffee in the world. People who know me, well, they know that’s a big deal.

2. Bed time is now 8:30 p.m. We had really detoured from that standard a couple of years ago. I recognized that some of Elie’s issue stem from her need for sleep.

3. Special time with each kid. This does not have to be big planned time with each kid. It just needs to be special. Our pediatrician several years ago told us this when we moved from 1 kid to 2 kids. He said, “Mary, even if it is just bringing Elizabeth with you to the store to get a gallon of milk, it is important that you take that time with each one.” I reinstated this concept this week. This time looks different for the teenagers (i.e. traveling with them in the car, I engage in deeper conversations) than for the younger ones (i.e. BAKING BREAD).

4. Lower the tones in the evening. Lower the volume of the TV. Do not allow headphones. Talk in hushed tones. Set the tone that evening is for settling down as a family.

Some of you are reading this, and saying, “DUH.” I admit, I let it get out of control. I’m very human in these manners. This is the real experience of the working Catholic momma.

I would love to hear your strategies to dealing with chaos.

Mary

Comments

  1. Great post – I can definitely relate to how you feel on so many levels. And you are so right, once you have more than one child doing something small/boring, like going to the grocery store or even mixing up a batch of pancakes, can become special “mommy and me” time if it is just the two of you. Since I am normally busy lately nursing or holding my 7 week old, I’m really trying to take some time every day with just me and my toddler to show him that even though he’s not the baby, he still deserves (and will get!) one on one time with mama.

  2. Nikki Draher says:

    Great post! As another working Catholic Mom, I have been struggling with some of the same things. I long for that downtime, but know when I check out so do my kids. It is a struggle to find that balance. I have been working hard to reduce my electronic time when at home as well. And we too have strayed from our schedule. It is nice to read I am not the only one and I appreciate the tips you gave they may seem simple but they work!

    Nikki

    • Nikki…It can be so confusing, but we have to maintain our priorities. I know when mine are out of whack…usually after the chaos ensues. I’m working on trying to catch it before then!

      A request for prayers, please :) I will pray for you, too.

  3. I’m also a working Catholic mother. I have two primary strategies for dealing with chaos:
    1. Take a deep breath and don’t make the issue of the chaos bigger than it is. Don’t yell, don’t flip out on the husband or the kids. Take a breath and get through that moment.

    2. Later, and preferably with the husband, trace it back. What was the cause of that moment of chaos? In our house, it’s often plans that got deterred, hunger, or the natural let-down feeling of after school. Is there a way that we can prevent it from happening again? Sometimes we can’t and I chalk it up to a teachable moment – teaching the kids how to deal with chaos so that they are equipped to handle it on their own one day.

    As a broader generalization, we have a set evening routine that we stick to regardless of which parent is out of town, if there is a babysitter, or whatever. We very rarely detour from that routine in our house. Even with “only” two children who are 6 and 8, it is critical. Last week, in a moment of insanity, I let the girls stay at the Rec Center after gymnastics to do a climb on the rock climbing wall. By the time we got home, I had to rush to get dinner (which was late) which meant that they saw me rushing and a bit anxious, and they were hungrier than usual. Also meant that they didn’t have their transition time between dinner and the start of the bedtime routine. As much as I wanted to be spontaneous and fun and let them climb the rock wall, the result was DISASTROUS and ended with the 3 of us all yelling (husband was out of town).

    Also, from a broader point of view, I let the girls get enough sleep so that they wake up easily when the alarm goes off and will generally wake up around the same time on the weekends. For them, that’s about 10.5 hours of sleep.

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