You can do it, even with a whirlwind of kids tearing through your house.
For the last few years, my very favorite prayers — and truth be told, the only ones that I manage to pray some days — are spontaneous ejaculatory prayers: “Lord, don’t let me be late!” “Dear Jesus, let him sleep as long as possible!” “Thank you, Lord, for my hot coffee and shower!”
An outside observer would probably think I’m crazy as I make my way through the day, juggling children and household chores, and seeming to talk to myself every few minutes. I’m not talking to myself, though; I know that, somewhere up there, Someone is listening and cheering me on, and what looks like chaos and disorder is, in reality, whole, beautiful, and full of sense. It’s like a kaleidoscope; if we only look at one sliver of the image, it’s disordered and random, but seen as a whole, it’s as glorious as a stained glass rose window.
Waking up to reality
My life used to have a different, less kaleidoscopic kind of beauty. I like to remember my college years, because it was like living in a fairy tale of spiritual tranquility. I had time for the daily ritual of morning reflection, and several different routes to the college campus along which I could find a time and place for prayer, adoration, confession, or a simple moment of peace on the way to classes.
In my purse, there was always room for a pocket Bible, unstained by a baby’s applesauce or by sand from the sandbox. My time was very much my own; I organized it as I wanted, according to my needs, interests, and energy level. Like I said: a fairy tale!
I had little idea what it would be like to have a family. I didn’t realize it would be like getting onto a spaceship, in which my neatly ordered world would be thrown into the disorder of weightlessness, and time would become relative due to how much my life would speed up. I hadn’t foreseen how hard I’d have to work to be there for myself, my husband, my children, and God.
Litany to Mommy
With the birth of my children, hurricane “Motherhood” blew into my spiritual world. Nowadays, I don’t open my eyes in the morning with a psalm on my lips, because my first thought of my day is about my children: Are they all right? Did they wake up already? If they did, where are they, what do I make them for breakfast, and why are they crying?
When — after a cup of hot coffee — I regain full consciousness, I enter the mode of being attentive to my children’s noises (or alarming lack thereof — if it’s quiet, they’re up to something!), their joys and complaints, etc. Those who have children know that it’s a state of mind which has no “off” mode. All day long, I hear “Mommy, I have to pee! Mommy, I’m hungry! Mommy play with me! Mommy no! Mommy yes! Please, Mommy! Mommy, give it to me! Mommy come here!” That’s when I think with special empathy about Mary, to whom we pray so many litanies … and I begin to understand why sometimes we have to wait for an answer to our prayers!
However, in the midst of all this madness, I did find a prayer method. If you are a mother, your home life is probably not that different from mine, so maybe you will benefit from these few ideas too!
Ways to pray
Pray with your life. This is a method advocated by many saints. I especially appreciate it now, when silence and longer moments of solitude are a rare luxury. I offer my daily duties for a particular intention — not just all my duties together at the start of the day, because then it is difficult for me to experience them individually as spiritual. I offer each one individually as I do it: putting a child to bed, making breakfast, walking, playtime, dealing with meltdowns — everything that in some way takes effort and self-denial from me, is offered for a specific intention.
A decade of the Rosary. The Rosary is not an easy prayer for me, but I can offer a decade during the day, between washing dishes and making cereal. I wear a rosary ring on my finger to remember, and that really helps.
YouTube. I found a beautiful rendition of the Divine Mercy Chaplet on YouTube. Fortunately, my toddlers fully accept it and do not try to drown it out. I have speakers in the kitchen that I can connect to my smartphone, so right after listening to children’s programs and “classical music for geniuses” (seriously, it’s on Spotify!) I turn on the Chaplet. That allows me to listen, sing, or often just live surrounded by its sounds while reading books with the kids.
Re-learning to pray from my children. My three-year-old can make the sign of the cross, say a prayer to her guardian angel, and finish by saying, “Jesus, I trust in you.” I benefit from this. Often, it is my only explicit prayer during the day; one which warms my heart. When I look at my daughter and her enthusiasm, her joy, and her total focus on the spoken words, I wish I could be like her.
I may have had to give up my pre-children fairytale lifestyle, but my prayer life hasn’t ended; it’s been changed — and I would not trade my hectic, marvelous family life for anything.