It’s been such a pleasure watching the website, catholicmom.com, grow and mature and become a dependable resting spot for Catholic moms to catch their breath, be inspired, and find companionship with other women of faith. Now Lisa Hendey, founder of the site, has a book capturing some of the insight and wisdom shared as part of her website. I wanted to talk to Lisa about her new book, “The Handbook for Catholic Moms,” and ask her some nosy questions. Lisa wirtes and speaks on faith, family and Catholic New Media topics and is the host of the weekly interview show “Catholic Moments.” She resides in the Diocese of Fresno, California with her husband and two teenage sons.
Question: Lisa, your book captures so well everything you bring to your site, Catholicmom.com, and why it has become such a huge success: heart, mind, body, and soul. You call them the first four steps toward caring for ourselves. Can you give each of them some specific steps?
Lisa: Thanks Therese for the opportunity to share about The Handbook for Catholic Moms. As I shared in the book, I am convinced that we moms need to truly care for ourselves in our relationships, intellectually, physically and spiritually in order to better serve our families and loved ones, our communities and our Church. When we neglect ourselves in any of these areas, we run the risk of becoming frustrated, burned out or even bitter in our vocations. Honestly, while the book is aimed at mothers, as you so wonderfully share on your blog, these topics are of vital interest and concern to anyone looking for emotional and spiritual well being.
To briefly summarize the “Heart, Mind, Body and Soul” components of the book, they encompass the following areas:
• Heart – developing nurturing relationships with our family, our friends, our spiritual communities and ourselves
• Mind – becoming life-long learners, seeking creative outlets, exploring career and work issues and employing time management and personal productivity tactics
• Body – examining nutrition, fitness, sleep and preventative care topics
• Soul – coming to know and love the many resources, devotions, and concepts in our faith traditions that will aid us in caring for ourselves as moms and, in turn, for the most important people in our lives
In my own life, while I’m still working on becoming “whole” in many of these areas, I have found that neglecting any single component of these four areas leads to imbalance and disarray.
Question: As you say, so many of us moms are living our days in a kind of quiet desperation. I know that you can’t sum up 250 pages of wonderful insight into five bullet points, but if you had only two minutes to help a mom exhausted in every way, what would you say to her?
Lisa: First of all, I would encourage her with the news that although she may feel isolated, exhausted and alone, there is great hope to be had in fulfilling life’s most important job – that of being a mother. Although the work we carry out in serving our families may often feel mundane and routine, we are truly educating and inspiring the future leaders of our Church and our world, and nothing could be more important. Now that my own boys are teenagers, I often have an insight into how things we’ve stressed with them for years – the values, philosophies and morals we’ve tried to model for them – have formed them into the wonderful young men they are today. When you’re entrenched in changing diapers, folding mounds of laundry, and haven’t had a decent night’s sleep or five minutes to yourself in ages, it can be hard to see that long-term perspective.
Secondly, I would encourage her to give herself the permission to do a few things that can make a big difference in her life and energy level. We moms tend to neglect our own self-care far too often because we’re so busy taking care of everyone else. We make sure five other sets of teeth are brushed twice a day, but forget to schedule our own dental appointments. We tote kids to soccer, basketball and baseball practice, but can’t find ten minutes to take a walk in the fresh air or to exercise on a regular basis. We support our children’s faith formation and yet neglect our own spiritual journeys. I’m not pointing fingers here – I’ve “been there, done that” in my own life.
And yet if we can take the steps necessary to live a well balanced, nurturing existence – even though this may take a bit of time and prioritization – in the end we will be happier and healthier as moms and as women. I would urge each of us, myself included, to communicate regularly with our spouses and children about our needs, and to model for them a happy, healthy and holy lifestyle. If you’re home with little ones, play “tag” for five minutes to get your heart pumping. Read bible stories with your toddlers and then say a quiet prayer together. Have a “date night” with your husband in your own home. Look at the baby steps that can lead you from a sense of desperation to a certainty of the beauty and grace and the many little, simple gifts each day can hold. And know that you are never alone in your mothering journey!