I need a retreat! I work full time and am a divorced mom of two wonderful kids, ages 7 and 9. From the moment I wake up to the moment I collapse into bed at night I am going nonstop. I try really hard to incorporate some prayer time into my routine but the most we can manage most days is grace before dinner and quick prayer with my daughters before bed. I’m craving more spiritually and would love to take a retreat but my nights are filled with dinner making and cleaning. Next week school starts so I can add homework checking and after school sports to the list. My weekends are spent errand running and chauffeuring kids around. My ex-husband, their father, lives several states away and doesn’t see them much, so all the daily day-to-day things fall on me. I’m just getting frustrated and tired and would love to be more involved in my church and have an active spiritual life. Can you help me?
M. in Tulsa
I know this isn’t much help right now, but I mean it when I say things will get easier as your daughters get older and gain more independence. It wasn’t too long ago in my own life that I made the same exhausted plea for spiritual and physical rest.
Now my son is a teenager and more capable to help out with chores and dinner prep. He’s older and his homework has gotten too complicated for me. He can study on his own and I’ve been replaced by tutors on harder subjects. Soon he’ll be driving. Every day he needs me less and less to function. He still needs me there spiritually and emotionally, but for those day-to-day task he manages well enough on his own.
Those independent, self-sufficient days will come soon enough for your own daughters so try, even through the exhaustion, to find comfort in their neediness.
I got through my own trial by becoming the master of the multi-task prayer. What that basically means is that I tried to make my work my prayer, similar to the Benedictine practice of Ora et Labora. It’s a simple, practical method of prayer that seems divinely inspired specifically for busy parents.
I could offer you ways to simplify your life but they might not be practical. I personally don’t know the extent to which your schedule is stretched. If sports interferes with your ability to attend Mass then the priority is always going to be Mass but you didn’t indicate that was the case. You just want some down time with the Lord. Ask yourself if you have any close and reliable friends and family who could watch your daughters one or two nights a month. That might be an option. You can also check out Sr. Theresa’s article, 5 Steps to a Do-It-Yourself Retreat, for ideas.
But for immediate results that you can put into practice right now, right this very minute while reading this, I recommend letting your work and your life be the prayer. If you have no time for 30 minutes of contemplation then spend thirty seconds silently saying a Hail Mary while you fold laundry, sit in traffic, or fix dinner. The Jesus Prayer is my favorite prayer for getting through the day. It can be said in 5 seconds flat and is meant to be a running prayer in our mind, like breathing.
Another thing I relied heavily on to get me through those spiritually starved spells was adoration. If you have a chapel near your with perpetual adoration it will save your life. You don’t have to spend a whole hour in adoration; five minutes will do. You can do that with your daughters. Stop in for adoration on your way to the grocery store, coming home from work, or whenever you happen to drive. These quick, quiet, unscheduled visits will help you re-center your life around Christ and work wonders to spiritually recharge you.
The best part about pop-in adoration, Ora et Labora, and cultivating a habit of ejaculation prayers is that they are practical to our daily lives, help us live our faith, and set a prayerful example for our children and all those around us.
[Editor’s Note: Take the Poll – Do you find time to pray in everyday life?]