I am so excited to share another guest post for the Catholic Marriage Series this week! I am so thankful for all of Cindy's wise words in this post about staying happy in marriage!
"How can I ever express the happiness of a marriage joined by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels, and ratified by the Father?...How wonderful the bond between two believers, now one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service! They are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit."
Quote from Tertullian in Catechism 1642
Caitlin chose the above quote as the lead in to this Catholic Marriage Series. The part that spoke to me is how, because of the Sacramental aspect of our marriage, my husband and I are one spirit. In other words, each of us can both positively and negatively affect our wedded spirit!
Therefore, I believe a happy wife makes a happy husband.
My dear young newlywed, your husband married you for many reasons but one of those reasons was because he loves seeing you happy. The advice I am going to share includes strategic approaches to staying happy by avoiding stress and frustration for both you and your husband.
I think Colleen from Martin Family Moments captured a boat load of wisdom in her Catholic Marriage Series post. So, after 10 years of marriage, in addition to what Colleen shared, I lovingly offer this advice: Don’t compete and pray for contentment.
“Dear young people, you are under threat from the bad use of advertising techniques, which plays upon the natural tendency to avoid effort and promises the immediate satisfaction of every desire, while the consumerism that goes with it suggests that man should seek self-fulfillment especially in the enjoyment of material goods.”
John Paul II, March 31, 1984
This one is tough because the pressure of consumerism is so prevalent today! We wives compete in many ways and most of the time it is a subconscious thing. If we are blessed with children, the tendency to compete can start while they are still in our womb. We strive to have the cutest nursery room, the cutest baby clothes, the best toys and the newest accessories.
My advice is to keep it simple from day one. In a good old fashioned Catholic way, keep the expectations for your family low in all areas except holiness.
The Guilt Factor
I always tell new Moms that the two gifts of motherhood are guilt and worry. The guilt can drive us to be competitive as a way of proving to ourselves and others that we are good Moms. Look how cute, smart and happy my children are! We may erroneously think that making our children happy is proof that we are good Moms. So, we try to provide them with ‘things’ that make them happy. In addition, we are tempted to say ‘yes’ as much as possible to their cute little requests.
Our family recently became close to a number of Catholic families who live out the ‘keep it simple’ philosophy. Their children are so pleasant and mature! These parents say ‘no’ to their children more than they say ‘yes’ and their houses are not over run with the ‘stuff’ of consumerism. They seem to experience very little parenting guilt and they don’t stress over if their children are happy with their leadership style and decisions.
If you have small children, my advice may seem silly. What could possibly be the big deal, right? Well, looking back, here are the things I would have done differently.
Vitamin N (No)
As parents, Gregg and I said “yes” too many times which built up a certain level of expectation. Now, after witnessing the low guilt and low stress parenting model of our friends, we are trying to dial things back. Although we are determined, it has not been easy. I wish we would have administered more Vitamin N and committed to it from day one. Children need very little to be truly happy. But the more “things” you give them and the more you say “yes”, the tougher it is for them to appreciate and be happy with what they do have. As a result, their attitude and lack of appreciation may frustrate you and make you question how good of a Mom you really are. This doubt can affect your wedded spirit.
Keep It Simple
In order to keep expectations low, I suggest you ‘keep it simple’ from day one. Here are some examples:
- Avoid large, extravagant birthday parties; limit Christmas and birthday presents and throughout-the-year gifts.
- Avoid using TV (even educational shows and cute movies) as a babysitter; instead encourage books and coloring and projects that require following directions.
- Limit your children’s collection of clothes and shoes.
- If, for some reason, your children end up with 10 beanie babies, give 9 of them away.
- Avoid becoming a glorified shuttle bus driver by limiting the number of sports and activities in which your children participate.
Scripture reminds us that “...if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25) You and your husband must always be one wedded spirit in leadership decisions. Talk about and commit to this low stress, keep it simple, parenting philosophy even while your babies are in your womb.
You Are A Good Mom
I want to encourage you to not compete and instead know that you are a good Mom! Know that all that ‘stuff’ you buy your children can distract from your awesomeness. Saying ‘yes’ too often will teach your children that they can negotiate with you when you say ‘no.’ Your children may point out to you that others have more than them but you must ignore what they say. If you follow these strategies from the beginning, your children will most likely not notice the lack of stuff and they will be used to having their requests denied. The best result is that your children will appreciate every little thing. Even better, they will appreciate you.
And you know what? Other Mom’s will begin to see that you are living simply and not indulging your children. They will begin to relax and feel more confident in saying “No” to their children. You will be very popular and so will your sweet, unspoiled children. In the end, you will be happy and so will your husband.
Pray For Contentment
“…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want….”
Gregg and I married when we were 38 years old and both for the first time. We suffered two miscarriages before conceiving our healthy now 8 year-old. We had hoped for more children but (as of today) the Lord has not made this part of our family plan. I have had to pray for contentment with respect to our family size. And, of course, the Lord delivers in His perfect time and way.
Once I accepted our family size, it freed me to ask the Lord what His will was for me with regard to Motherhood. He inspired me to be a spiritual Mother to young single women with my little chastity apostolate over at The Veil of Chastity blog. Since I only have one child, I have the time (although I do work full-time) to offer my heart in a way that Moms with big families cannot do. And, this ministry has resulted in deep contentment for me.
What is it that you want but don’t have? Start praying daily for contentment in these specific areas and the Lord will deliver you from a spirit of discontentment. This is important because when we are not content in one or more areas of our lives, our husbands feel responsible. Start praying for contentment and, although it won’t happen immediately, one day you will find that you are content.
Joined In Spirit
Keep it simple and don’t compete. This same strategic plan requires that you and your husband also say “No” to yourselves and avoid your own collection of stuff. What are the beanie babies in your life? Set the example and give away what you don’t need. Finally, pray for contentment. Your wedded spirit will be free and filled with peace.
God love and bless all you new Wives and Moms!
Cindy blogs over at The Veil of Chastity. Her heart is drawn most passionately towards ministry for single women and the purpose of her blog is to offer them wisdom and hope. If you mention Humanae Vitae, Dietrich von Hildebrand or Theology of the Body, her face will light up with joy. She is a wife, a mother and a full-time professional. After enduring many years of singleness, she and her husband have been married for 10 years. They are both reverts to their beloved Roman Catholic faith and hope to apply their time, talent and treasure more and more in evangelistic efforts.