The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Fruit of the Mystery: Eternal Happiness
Motherhood is Messy
by Eileen Perez
It’s rarely the pretty pinned boards or carefully curated captions on an Instagram post. No, the majority of motherhood is spent trying to keep all the balls in the air: the laundry, the dishes, meals, homework, extra curriculars, quality time, and a dash of self-care if we can. It’s also learning to prioritize and forgive ourselves when balls drop, as they inevitably will, because despite a mother’s seemingly superhuman abilities, it happens. And this is just the normal day to day life of motherhood, which quickly shifts when someone is sick, or there is a tragedy, or unexpected setback in our day.
Like most, it’s in the setbacks that I really struggle to grasp God’s plan and presence in it all.
We recently went through three weeks of sickness in our home. I am a single mom to two little ones under five. I work full-time and juggle it all alone most days. When someone is sick, I am not just missing work, but the girls are missing school and we are isolated at home.
On day three, I was still feeling strong and confident in my abilities to handle all the mess and accidents, and fifty trips to the bathroom that ended with bodily fluids everywhere but the toilet. I had resolved to practice some self-care to keep me afloat. After the last “uh-oh,” I put on a movie and while the girls sipped Gatorade listening to Ariel plead to “be where the people are”—a sentiment I’d quickly joined—I filed and buffed my nails preparing them for a fresh coat of polish. It was mommy time, doing something small to make me feel taken care of.
The last stroke of color had just gone onto the not-even-close-to-dry nails when one child screamed she was throwing up all over the couch and the other said she had an accident in her underwear. I let out a deep sigh, not one of relief, but one filled with irritation and a “Come on, Lord, can’t I just have five minutes to myself without cleaning up somebody?!” I threw the polish on the floor in a childlike tantrum, grabbed the girls, and tossed them in the bath while tears streamed down my face. It was only the third day and I had no idea it was only going to get worse from there. I felt alone, I felt exhausted, and I felt like a terrible mother for not handling things well.
Six days later, I was in the hospital with my oldest daughter, who had a tube down her nose and into her stomach with an IV in her hand. She looked so tiny and frail. She hadn’t eaten in six full days anything other than water and a couple of popsicles. I couldn’t sleep and just sat staring at her, holding her little hand while I grasped a rosary. As I sat there admiring the beauty and gift of my child, I also felt guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t a happy mom. I was a tired and overworked mom. I was barely staying afloat and I kept imagining other moms handling sickness so much better than me and having happy moments with their children.
Then my phone dinged. A friend sent me a note to remind me that it’s in the suffering, not just the happy moments, that we’re most likened to the Blessed Mother and how proud she was of me for all I was enduring with such grace. Grace? I couldn’t believe she thought I was handling it with grace.
Then she said, “When you hold your rosary it’s like holding Mary’s hand.” I read those words and looked at my hand, grasping the rosary, while holding my daughter’s hand and I began to cry. I felt Mary, our Blessed Mother, holding my hand and giving me the strength needed to do the same for my daughter.
As I recognized the gift of that moment, I began to contemplate Mary’s suffering. She probably didn’t live a seemingly happy and problem-free life, especially when Jesus began his suffering. Mary suffered with her son. Her suffering began with an invitation from the Holy Spirit at the annunciation and it is what allowed her to grow in holiness and to eventually enjoy eternal happiness. I imagine that eternal happiness is so much greater than a few good years alive.
There I was, with an invitation from the Holy Spirit to do the same. To grow in virtue through this season of suffering. Would I accept it for what it was, an opportunity to grow in holiness, not in happiness, or would I fall into the pit of despair?
I committed right then to strive even more to be like Mary. To accept and gracefully face suffering that day knowing that eternal happiness would be the greater reward. After all, the Holy Spirit isn’t called the “happy” Spirit for a reason. Worldly happiness is fleeting, but eternal happiness is a venture worth navigating through worldly suffering.
I have our Blessed Mother to thank for always pointing me to Heaven even in, perhaps especially in, the hard moments of sitting in a dark hospital room next to a sick and frail toddler having no control of the outcome. I can now easily see that God was there with me through it all too, just as He was there with Mary.
Even though those long days seemed like they would never pass, we got through it, and my heart feels lighter knowing that Mary and Jesus were pointing me to Heaven through it all.
About Eileen: Eileen Perez is a joy seeker in the everyday and mundane and lover of all things Jesus. She is a single mother to two wonderful little ones and a full-time high school Campus Minister. She spends her free time reading, brunching and praying with friends, and occasionally does stand up comedy at open mics. If you want to see a hodgepodge of posts from a modern day Catholic woman trying to balance motherhood, friendships, and work, follow her on Instagram @franciseileenperez.