Sometimes I Feel Catholic

I wasn’t raised by Catholic parents (although one of them has since converted…but that’s a topic for another post) and I’ve never been to a Catholic mass. What makes me feel Catholic is my sense of guilt, and I don’t think I’m over-generalizing here, since every Catholic I’ve ever met, practicing or not, wears guilt like a burka.

I feel guilty for the things I do, especially things I do for myself, like going to the gym, or spending a morning on the computer instead of tending house, running errands or planning my son’s birthday. I feel guilty for the things I don’t do, especially when they involve my children, like not signing them up for music lessons, not stopping by the playground more, not practicing greater patience or not planning my son’s birthday.

Catholic or not, guilt is just one of motherhood’s many veils.

Lately, I’ve been waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning. I can’t conclude whether it’s hormonal, seasonal, circadian or guilt-induced. Since I’m awake, I usually make a trip to the bathroom. Then, convincing myself it’s an ungodly hour, I climb back into bed and fail to fall back asleep at which point my mind kicks in and whispers unsavory things like this to me:

Mind: Everyone in the house is asleep; this would be the perfect time to go for a jog with those fancy running shoes you bought…

Me: but it’s dark and icy out.

Mind: there’s always the gym, it’s just a short drive away. You could be there and back again before anyone wakes up.

Me: I haven’t laid out my workout clothes. By the time I got ready, I’d have to turn around and get the morning routine started.

It goes on like this for an hour or more until I finally fall asleep only to be awoken, groggy and bleary-eyed, 15 minutes later by my lively 5-year-old.

This morning I argued with myself about making better use of my insomnia. I could be doing all manners of productive things like reading, writing, responding to e-mail, planning my children’s schedules better, figuring out summer plans, going to the gym, or planning my son’s birthday. Instead, I stayed in bed.

I’m wracked with guilt about it.

I think I’m a good mom…but I yell too much. I think I do fun things with my kids…but I’m an inefficient planner. I love being a mother…but I relish the time my kids are at school or with a sitter or out with their dad. I think I provide a balanced variety of activities for my kids…but am often paralyzed by the decision process (if I choose this art class on Mondays at 4 o’clock, and that swim class on Wednesdays at 3:30 will my child be too wiped for a playdate after school on Fridays?).

Having two kids only compounds matters. And since DH wants three, does that make me a bad wife?

So here’s the guilt-cake-topper of the week: our son turns three on Sunday and I’ve totally failed to plan his birthday.

Though he’s been mildly obsessed with rocket ships, space shuttles and all manner of extraterrestrial modes of transport for the better part of his twos, we will not be having a space-themed 3rd-birthday party.

I spent sleepless hours trying to come up with craft ideas, decorations, activities and food for this simple, clearly defined theme. You’d think I was aiming for the stars or Martha Stewart’s backyard, judging by the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about his birthday but nothing stuck.

I didn’t make clever rocket-adorned invites, I didn’t find cute rocket-related goodies, I didn’t come up with fun rocket-inspired activities. When I went out shopping for inspiration, I found very few rocket-y items. Evidently, not everyone thinks rockets are as out-of-this-world as my son does.

At 3, all it takes to make a good party is a few friends, pizza and cake. When I turned 3, I’m not even sure I had a party and if I did, clearly I don’t remember it. For our first child—who is more social and mature and aware of such things—we had her third birthday party at our house complete with friends, activities and food. But then she has a late-April birthday and it’s easy to entertain kids outside.

February birthdays are a different beast…they require much attention and grooming. And this year, I failed at both.

So, I’ve decided to do what many a mom in a birthday-planning-pinch has done—and if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll understand why, when I say:

It is with great remorse that this year we will be celebrating our son’s 3rd birthday with Chuck.

Hail Mary, full of Grace.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. runningforautism
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 08:44:48

    Although I am not a Catholic myself, I went to a girls-only Catholic school run by nuns. Guilt was a major part of the curriculum. You are so right when you equate Catholic guilt with Mommy guilt. We are programmed to be totally focused on other people, and that makes it kind of hard for us to buy into the idea of doing things for ourselves. But the truth is that when we are happier, so are our families. Try not to stress too much about the birthday party. About six weeks ago I threw a Cars themed birthday party for my six-year-old. It’s the first party he’s ever had. I’ve had that birthday party angst in years gone by, but now I can rationalize it all by saying that at least the party he finally got is one that he will remember.
    Last thing I want to say: you’re a great mom and don’t you forget it!


    • growingmuses
      Feb 01, 2012 @ 09:22:19

      And you’re a really good friend! Thanks for saying so Runningforautism. Sometimes I loose myself and get caught up in the zeitgeist of people overdoing everything about childhood. I don’t want to be that parent, I just want to be a good parent! I bet your 6yo loved his party. As DH mentioned above, we tried a special themed party for our 5yo last year. On paper, having a woodland tea party looked laid back and easy but in execution, many things were against us: mainly the fact that it was rainy and about 45 degrees that day, despite it being the end of April…oh well, the best laid plans, right?


  2. Suzu
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 09:05:34

    As a catholic who went o catholic school for 13 years, I hear you about the guilt… but the very best thing you can do for your kids — and yourself – -is to roll over and go back tgo sleeep at 4 am. You need the sleep. And, although I grew up in the dark ages, I had exactly 1 birthday party when I was a kid — and I got to share it with my “irish twin” sister — and look at how I turned out :). Parker just wants chocolate cake and the people who love him to eat it with him. Chill, lady. XO.


    • growingmuses
      Feb 01, 2012 @ 09:17:09

      Inotherwords, are you and Mr. J available to come over Sunday night for some choco cake? Oh, wait a minute, it’s the Superbowl and our team’s in it…never mind, we’ll think of something else. Thanks for helping me out with the guilt issues. I’m feeling so much better. See, writing IS cathartic!


  3. DH
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 09:12:37

    There will be plenty of future kids birthdays to overplan, stress out about, and wipe ourselves out on (either physically, mentally, or financially). What’s most important is that our son has a fun time, has his friends around, and knows that he is loved and treasured.

    Given all the efforts of our daughter’s 5th birthday – relative to the outcome – we’ve hedged to not “overdo it” on our son’s upcoming birthday. Since the window is only ~2 hrs of party-time, and it’s February in New England, and it’s only for 3-4 kids, and there weren’t many rocket-y party items to choose from…there’s no reason to feel guilty.

    The mere fact that thinking about his birthday in the middle of nights + having gone to stores to look for party-themed items + having his birthday present 3 months in advance = NO GUILT.

    So next time you find yourself up in the early morning hours, don’t stress about his 3rd birthday. Lace up your sneakers, go for a jog….

    He will have a blast at Chuck’s, and he’ll come home tired (or wired)…and you’ll come home to a serene house where you can put your feet up [instead of cleaning up after a birthday party – if we were to host it at our house].


    • growingmuses
      Feb 01, 2012 @ 09:14:43

      There are many reasons why I married you, your unyielding support, unfaltering wisdom and shear good sense are among them. Thank you for making me feel better about the decision, and for being fully on board with the plans. Maybe what I need to do in those early morning hours is not take a jog but practice yoga instead…hmmm.


  4. Caitlin
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 09:42:22

    Good decision! Do your best and let it go….


  5. slightlywonky
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 12:05:08

    You are being WAAAAYYYY mean to yourself. Seriously! Someone used to say to me that, “You’re should-ing all over yourself”! When you hear that little voice saying mean things to you…tell it to take a hike. Those mean things are not real, valid, or worth listening to.


    • growingmuses
      Feb 01, 2012 @ 09:28:54

      Wow, really? And here I thought I was being satirical…guess I should stick to the kind of writing I do best, narrative journalism, and leave witty writing for people who do it well (like Irma Bombeck or 4amfeeding). You may not remember who said the quote you’re leaving me with here but, henceforth, I shall always attribute this to you. Thanks for splashing cold water in my face (and I mean as a good friend SHOULD do!). I hope it’s all because it’s February…I need SUN!!


  6. Heather Kelly
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 07:49:42

    I think that being a good mom is simply being there, and spending time with your kids, knowing them and listening.

    That being said, I feel guilty that I haven’t gotten the school to give S OT, that it’s been months since C has done horseback riding (her ONE sport), and that D and I haven’t gone running together in a long while. Because when we run together, he tells me everything. Yup, a twelve-year-old boy spilling his guts to his mom. Unbelievable that I haven’t made sure that happens. And it hasn’t even been cold out.

    I’m glad that we are focused on our kids, because it means that we are plugged in, caring parents. And, we all feel the guilt.

    But seriously, what are the important things about a birthday party? That you make a fuss over your child. That there are candles to be blown out. That you are together, as a family. And maybe that a few friends can make a fuss too.

    I think that’s it.

    Plus, P will love a Chuck birthday.


    PS: You can text me when you’re awake at 4–if I happen to be up and quilt checking myself, we can run together. 🙂 (Or go to the gym if it’s super cold–when does the Y open?)

    PSS: I probably *should* feel some guilt about writing this comment while I *should* be getting kids ready for school. 🙂 I loved the comment above about shoulding all over ourselves. Awesome.

    PSSS: You are an awesome mom.


    • growingmuses
      Feb 08, 2012 @ 22:28:35

      PPPPS, you’re an awesome mom too (and it infuriates me when your kids are should-ing all over you!) I miss you something fierce. I need a regular time with you. I miss our swimming 😦 a true guilty pleasure ;o)


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