The common good has been invoked in discussions surrounding our charge to stay at home, to physically distance ourselves from others, and to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Each one of us has been called to pick up our particular crosses: working on the front lines, isolating at home with no one else around, or living on top of one another—kids and parents vying for space. We see grandparents and grandkids through glass walls, unable to give or receive hugs, we spend time with friends via FaceTime and Zoom, and we pray at home instead of joining with our faith community in prayer and sacrifice at the church in celebrating the most holy sacrament of the Mass.
Our current crisis has strengthened some relationships and put a strain on others. Many of us who traditionally rely on daycare, babysitters, and school to aid in forming and caring for our children while we work are called to stay at home full time. We have been asked to care for our kids while we also continue with our career responsibilities. This is incredibly difficult.
At some point early in our marriage my husband and I discussed our careers and kids and how we thought we would manage both. I told him that I didn’t think God had created me to be a stay-at-home mom. I needed at least some time out of the house every week to flex my brain and contribute to society through a career. This is not shared to minimize those parents that have been called to stay at home full time with kids or sick family members. I have always been impressed with their resilience in such a challenging calling. Year by year, I have prayed and agonized over my decision to work and whether or not I was doing what God was calling me to do and thus what was best for my family.
But now, in light of the current crisis, I, along with so many others, am being challenged to care for my children around the clock along with holding down a full-time position. Our first week of self-quarantine at home found all five of us sitting down to family dinner almost every night. It was glorious. But then the realities of juggling work, preschool kids, distance learning, and housework took over. I’ve had day after day of constantly telling the kids, “Later, Mommy needs to work,” only to be interrupted by the youngest crying for a bottle or someone hollering from the bathroom. It seems like every moment I sit down to work, something or someone else is vying for my attention. I’m overwhelmed, frustrated, and struggling to be productive with work or compassionately attend to my kids.
Recently, I decided I needed a different approach, or at least a different perspective. Instead of relentlessly focusing on trying to get done what I think is most important and usually failing, I need to view my day and my decisions through the lens of the common good of my family. Sometimes, this may mean that I need to read a book to the youngest, or help the toddler make her lunch, and sometimes this means that everyone gets a screen while Mommy attends a meeting or finishes a task on her work list. Sometimes, we can make a concerted effort to gather for some extended prayer time, and other nights it will be an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be as we fall asleep on the couch. Yet, the most important task in all of this is keeping things in perspective and keeping our family at the center. We are not failing as parents and employees. We need to be patient with ourselves and keep trying to balance what we can for the common good of our family.
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Featured image by Charles Deluvio via Unsplash