When the demands of mothering make me wish I were living a different life, the parable of the Prodigal Son reminds me that I am right where I belong.
by Hafsa Mason
The Prodigal Son is perhaps one of my favorite stories (definitely my favorite parable) in the Bible. Why? Because as a mother of four young children, I often feel like the prodigal son.
Too many times during moments of despair, I have indulged in the idea that my life would be much better off if only I was contracepting and I was in control of the number of kids my husband and I conceived. And this is coming from a woman who struggled to conceive for three years. After having twins and another baby thirteen months later, I was burned out. And now having four children five and under, along with an autistic daughter, I have moments of What in the world? and Get me out of here!
Don’t get me wrong, I love my children more than life itself. I enjoy homeschooling, cuddling, crafts (I am “that mom”) and cooking and cleaning. I actually really do, but there have been moments where the week has come with challenges, moments where I’ve resented my husband for being able to go off to a new environment and engage with adults. I have been tempted to check out the greener grass on the other side of the fence on these rough days. I feel you, prodigal son. I get that urge.
I’ve been tempted to check out the greener grass on the other side of the fence on these rough days. I feel you, prodigal son. I get that urge.
But then, somehow, through God’s mercy (and oftentimes confession, when needed), the graces of the Holy Spirit show me what a life without my family would be like. It would be hell. And it very well could literally put me in hell.
Without my children or my husband I would be nothing. I am a mother because of them. I have a responsibility to serve not only Christ but the children he has given me. And everyone’s purpose and vocation is different. It just so happens that motherhood and marriage are my vocations. So indulging in the fantasy of being childless and sipping margaritas on a beach in Mexico with my husband would leave me empty.
I have been called by name to change diapers, sweep floors multiple times a day, and raise a non-verbal, low-functioning autistic girl. I have been called to take up the crosses of refereeing fights, figuring out breast feeding and accepting life in my womb even when I think I’m not ready (not pregnant at this time, just saying). The days when it’s especially tough are the days God is urging me to move forward, call on him, and offer it up.
If I gave in and ran away from my vocation I would struggle to find meaning. I would destroy my soul, I would abandon God himself. I would have no happiness, no contentment, and it would lead eventually to utter chaos and destruction.
So when the prodigal son returns home to his true calling and takes up his cross and the responsibility of his vocation, he is saying “yes.”
So when the prodigal son returns home to his true calling and takes up his cross and the responsibility of his vocation, he is saying “yes.” Yes to the daily grind that may not always bring excitement, but brings unification with Christ. By resigning ourselves (and resignation in this case is a good and holy thing) to a vocation that may not always seem glamorous or enjoyable, we bring ourselves closer to full communion with our Lord.
When I’m in bed at night, I think about the day I had. The fact that I lost my temper and snapped at the baby who was whining about who knows what or the fact that I grew irritated when I was interrupted from checking Facebook because a child bumped their knee and needed a kiss or a hug. It’s fine to focus on those things and make a firm promise that I will try to practice mortification in those areas, but I need to remember the parts of the day when the kids ran around screaming and spinning in circles while my husband and I sat on the couch laughing, or me rolling a ball with A. and her giggling and truly loving the one on one attention from mama. Those are good times that do get mingled in with the challenging times.
It’s finding a balance that counts, I guess. It’s understanding that I will make mistakes as a mother, but that I will also be forgiven . . . just like the prodigal son.
Hafsa Mason lives with her family in California. She is a stay-at-home mom of four, and an aspiring homeschooler. This article originally appeared on her blog, The Peace of Christ, in a longer form.
Jerry Windley-Daoust is a writer, editor, and father of five. He writes essays and stories at Windhovering and is the show-runner for Gracewatch Media, a small Catholic publisher. You can follow his latest publishing projects at gracewatch.org.