Persecution Complex


Photo by thefost, via Flickr

I have this persecution complex. It dates back to the days when I was engaged to an atheist and I knew I had no business being so. But despite the nudges from my conscience, I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) break it off.

Ever since then, any time I’ve been involved with something I love, I get this niggling feeling of guilt. As if the simple fact that it’s something I want to do means it’s automatically something I shouldn’t.

Mothers in general are highly susceptible to feelings of inadequacy. We never do enough. We never keep our tempers under stress the way we think we should; we never juggle the responsibilities properly–we always, always measure up as less than in our own minds. And judging other mothers–an activity in which we all participate, whether or not we admit it–adds to our own sense of being Not Good Enough.

Imagine me, then, admitting at last that I am no longer a stay-at-home mom, but a work-at-home mom. Guilt steps up and starts poking me with pinprick pincers. If I didn’t write, my house would be cleaner, and I’d spend more time doing “mom” things with my kids, so that when my three-year-old went for a DIAL screening he didn’t get marked down for not being able to use a scissors. Surely I’d do better with faith formation, and Julianna would be farther along the path to speech, so they wouldn’t think she has to spend two-thirds of her time in a self-contained classroom. I wouldn’t get mad when they fight and break things, because I’d be there to arbitrate and redirect. Right?

Obviously, then, I must not be doing what God has in mind for me. I’m being selfish by pursuing a writing career, however humble. My vocation as a mother should stand pristine, undiluted, in the center of my life, and anything that distracts me is Not. God’s. Will, even and perhaps especially if I enjoy it.

Like I said: persecution complex.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, with an Old Testament reading from Isaiah:

The Lord God has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.

It seemed a beautiful affirmation. And then it seemed sacrilegious to hear any word meant for me in a passage referring to Jesus.

I am beginning to realize that I may never know for sure that what I think is God’s will for me, actually is. I just have to muddle along as best I can, and accept that rock-solid certainty is not a commodity I’ll ever have in abundance. And in the end, maybe that’s okay. Because as long as I don’t know for certain, I keep seeking. And as long as I am seeking, I don’t become complacent.


11 thoughts on “Persecution Complex

  1. I remember going on a tour of a Catholic school when my eldest was nearly 5yrs old. Madeleine stayed with the secretary while the principal and I chatted (since MJ missed the cutoff by 10 days). When we were done, the secretary pointed out the myself and the principal that Madeleine didn’t know how to spell her last name…. ooops, never had a reason for her to have to now how to spell it. she didn’t go to preschool …. major parent fail 🙂 and this same child is now a junior excelling in her college honor’s program… just came back from a regional conference…. so don’t be discouraged; working had nothing to do with your child’s inability to use scissors. Mommy brain did 🙂

    • I know all this in my brain, but convincing the guilt complex is another thing. My sister says it’s laying myself open like this that makes other mothers feel better about themselves. I guess that’s worth it, right? 🙂

  2. Your post reminds me of “The Merton Prayer”:

    “MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

    Thomas Merton
    Thoughts in Solitude

    Once again, Kate, you find your self in the company of greatness. 🙂

  3. I have a friend with a daughter who is three months older than my son. When we took the kids for their 12 mo check-ups, both kids were behind in speech. We had two different doctors. Her doctor asked if her daughter was in daycare. When told that the grandmothers took turns keeping her, the advice was to put her in some program where she wouldn’t be catered to as much. When told my son was in daycare, my doctor suggested that I try to stay home and give him more individual attention.

    My friend put her daughter in a mother’s day out program but my guess is the speech development had little to do with it; and my son turned out to be autistic–and looking back on it, that was only one of the signs he was displaying already. My staying home wouldn’t have helped his speech that much and would have had a real negative effect on our ability to afford the therapy he needed.

  4. Another thing to realize is that SAHM is a new job description. A little over 100 years ago most people lived on farm and/or ran small family businesses. If I recall correctly, you grew up on a farm. I’ll bet your mom didn’t “work”, but I’ll also bet she didn’t spend her days focused on nothing but the kids either.

    • Also something I tell myself regularly. 🙂 Yes, she was (and is) a farm wife, running tractors, loading hogs, putting up the garden. She had chickens, too. And prolife work. Still, our house growing up was cleaner than mine…my kids are closer together and of course, Julianna’s delays make for chaos out of the ordinary–I can’t ask her to help out the way I could ask an ordinary 5 year old.

  5. I went on a really great retreat, dreading the vocation talk that was inevitably going to come. It wound up being one of the best parts of the entire retreat. Sister Faustine of Jesus told us that God’s will for us is to be happy. If we make the decision to be married and he perhaps intended for us not to, he isn’t going to punish us for it. Ultimately he wants us to be happy, otherwise we wouldn’t have free will. Ok, so she said it far more eloquently than I have, but it was really moving and powerful. To me, it lightened the load on my heart to realize that making a choice that was within God’s overall desire for my happiness was better than failing to make a choice because I was petrified or feeling guilty that I didn’t adhere to God’s will.

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