This week is Jane’s turn to be “Star of the Week” in her first grade class. As Star of the Week, Jane got to fill in a poster about herself and bring in photos to be hung in the classroom. The other perks of being Star of the Week include: getting to invite your parents to join you for lunch, being the line leader, being a special helper, and inviting in a parent to talk about their career. I assumed Jane would invite Doctor Dad Philip to speak to her class. You can imagine my surprise when she said, “Mom, can you come in for Star of the Week? There have been a lot of doctors, so I think my class knows what they do.” I told her I’d be happy to come in and asked her what I should talk about. She said, “I want you to come in and tell them about what you do. You do a lot! I’ll start making a list of all the things you do for us.”
Today was the big day for my visit to her classroom. (Side note: Is there anything more adorable than a first grade classroom?)
The kids filed in from their trip to the school library. Jane spotted me immediately, let out a, “MOMMY!” gave me an unabashed huge hug, and joined me on a bench while her classmates sat in front of us criss cross applesauce.
Rather than try to format this with a, “Then I said this, and then I said that,” I’ll write this like a transcript of how the visit went.
Me: Hello! I’m Jane’s mom, Mrs. Boucher. Jane invited me in today to tell all of you about my job as a stay-at-home mom. Before I get into that, I thought it’d be good for me to tell you a bit about my vocation story before I became a mom. When I was in high school, I thought that God might be calling me to be a religious sister. That was always in the back of my mind as I went to college and went on a retreat during my sophomore year. Toward the end of the retreat, I asked one of the sisters for her advice. I was crying and told her that I thought that God was calling me to be a sister but that I really wanted to be a wife and mother. She told me, ‘Honey, God wants you to be happy, and He’s not going to call you to do something that makes you miserable.’ I was so relieved! After that, I began to discern that maybe God was calling me to marriage. And guess who I met a few weeks after that retreat?
Jane’s class: Dr. Boucher!
Me: Yup! We dated for two years, and…
Jane: And you played Scrabble on your first date! And that’s how Daddy asked you to marry him.
Me: Yes, that’s right! Then we got married, and I became a high school Spanish teacher.
Jane: Then I came!
Me: Yes, Jane was born a few years later in, well, Jane, when’s your birthday?
Jane: February 11, 2010.
Me: Yes, so, Jane was born in February, and she went to daycare for the rest of that school year. Then I started staying at home with her that summer, and I’ve stayed home ever since. I went to Catholic school growing up, but I never had much of a prayer life until I started staying at home. When it was just me and Jane (at this point, Jane wrapped her arms around my waist and squeezed until the end of my visit), I had pockets of silence in the house, and that was the first time in my life that I started to really hear God’s voice. Now, I bet a lot of you have an idea of what I do everyday as a stay-at-home mom. What kinds of things do you think I do everyday?
(Hands shot up in the air.)
Me: Jane, why don’t you call on a couple of your classmates.
Classmate: Make dinner!
Me: Yes, I make a lot of meals. And meals are a lot of work, aren’t they? You make the food, and then what do you do?
Jane’s class: Eat the food!
Me: Well, yes, and then what do you do?
Jane’s class: Clean up.
Me: Yes, so I clean up the dishes and the kitchen. What other kinds of things do you think I do?
Classmate: Help with homework!
Classmate: Change diapers!
(Several more assorted answers and conversations about the various tasks.)
Me: So, you get the idea. There are a lot of different things that go into my day, aren’t there? And you know what? Sometimes, I can be really selfish or even lazy about these things that I’m supposed to do. Have your parents ever asked you to do something and you’ve groaned? Well, I feel that way sometimes, too. ‘Is it already time for dinner?! Another diaper?’ I think God first called me to be a stay-at-home mom to learn how to choose love instead of what I want. And God blessed us with more children after Jane. I bet a lot of you know Jane’s brother Walt who’s in kindergarten, right? Well, he was born just 15 months after Jane, and I learned how to become less selfish when he was born. Then, God blessed us with another baby named Thérèse. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage, and that means that Thérèse died in my tummy.
(At this point, half a dozen hands shot up, and several of Jane’s classmates shared stories of their families being affected by miscarriage, some multiple times.)
Me: When Thérèse died, it was very sad and hard, but our family believes that Thérèse is in heaven and that she’s our family’s little saint that we can pray to. Ever since then, it became our family’s goal to get our whole family to heaven so that we could be together with our baby Thérèse. Do you have any guesses who we named Thérèse after?
(Several hands shot up.)
Classmate: St.Thérèse of Lisieux!
Me: That’s right! St.Thérèse became extra important to me after our baby Thérèse went to heaven. I learned a lot about her life, and I tried to follow her advice. She wrote a lot about something called ‘The Little Way.’ St. Thérèse believed that the way to become a saint was to do a lot of little things with great love. And you know what? I have a lot of opportunities everyday as a stay-at-home mom to do little things. Some days, I do a lot of small things with great love, but other days I do them with a bad attitude or am lazy about it. Do you ever do that?
(Lot of heads nodding and ‘Mmmm hmmm’s.)
Me: Me too! But you know what? There’s great news! Look at that picture that you have in the front of your classroom.
(Pointing to an image of Divine Mercy like this one.)
Me: We just learned about that picture on Divine Mercy Sunday, and we learned something important about God’s mercy last Sunday in the Gospel. What happened when Jesus appeared to Thomas? Was His body back to normal? (I pointed to my wrists.)
Classmate: No! He still had the holes in his hands and feet and side.
Me: Yes! That’s right! Jesus came back to His friends with His wounds. And we have wounds, too. We have wounds when we make bad choices. And Jesus meets us in our wounds. And next year, when all of you are in second grade, what sacrament will you receive before your First Communion where Jesus can heal those wounds?
Jane’s class: Confession!
Me: That’s right! Confession is all about that picture (pointing to the Divine Mercy image) and the words at the bottom. Jesus wants to heal our wounds, and He wants to hear us say, ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ So, I think God asked me to become a stay-at-home mom because He knew I needed a lot of daily opportunities to overcome my selfishness and choose love. Do I always do it perfectly? No! But at the end of the day, I’m able to say, ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ I know that He will forgive me if I am sorry, and He’s there to help me do better the next day. After Thérèse went to heaven, God blessed our family with more children. We have Harry, who’s in preschool, and Dorothy, who just turned a year old. While a lot of my days are full of serving our family, one of my favorite parts about being a stay-at-home mom is my ability to help others since I’m available in ways that I wouldn’t be if I were still teaching during the day. I can bring meals to families that have a new baby or had a family member pass away. I can help families with giving kids rides. I can help with watching other children or being available if there’s an emergency. In our neighborhood, we have a lot of kids around, and they know that our house is a safe place to come and play because I’m around. And, hey, do you guys know how hard your teachers work? Do you think Mrs. ____’s day is over when she goes home?
Jane’s class: Noooooooo
Me: Right! She goes home, and she takes care of her own family, and she’s still doing a bunch of things to get ready for the next school day.
Jane’s classmate to his teacher: Thank you!
Jane’s teacher: Wow, you’re welcome.
Me: Yes, always thank your teachers. They work so hard!
Jane’s classmate: I have a question. Why did you choose to be a stay-at-home mom?
Me: That’s a great question! I always knew that I wanted to be a mom, but once Jane was born, I knew I wanted to be with her as much as I could. A lot of people didn’t understand my decision and said things like, ‘I could never do that!’ I think they thought it would be boring or that I would get sick of doing the same things over and over again. I think that’s exactly why God wanted me to be a stay-at-home mom, though. He knew I needed the extra practice doing the same things over and over again and learning to do them out of love!
(Answering a few more questions and hearing more stories about children whose families were touched by miscarriage. One student shared about the movie Heaven is For Real and the main character meeting a sister who died in miscarriage in heaven.)
Me: I brought something for all of you that Jane can hand out. These are holy cards with a picture and prayer from St.Thérèse of Lisieux. I wanted all of you to have these so that you can remember what we talked about today. Before I leave, I want to give all of you a challenge with three parts, okay? Here it is:
- Try to do at least 5 things every day with great love. I bet after awhile you’ll start doing more.
- At the end of the day, think about the times when maybe you were selfish or didn’t do something with love. Tell Jesus, ‘Jesus, I trust in You,’ and tell Him how sorry you are. Once you’ve told Him how sorry you are for the times that you’ve failed, you can trust that He forgives you.
- Do better tomorrow.
So, what are the 3 things you’re going to do? One?
Jane’s class: Do 5 things
Me: With what? What great…?
Jane’s class: Love!
Me: Very good. And then, what about step 2? What are you going to do when you fail? Tell Jesus, ‘Jesus, I…?’
Jane’s class: Trust in You!
Me: That’s right! And most importantly, what are you going to do tomorrow?
Jane’s class: Do better!
Me: You’ve got it! That’s it. Do small things with great love, tell Jesus you trust in Him when you fail, and do better tomorrow. Some of you might grow up to be stay-at-home moms or dads or doctors or nurses or teachers or something else. No matter what God asks you to do, you can do this challenge. We all have a lot of chances to do small things with great love. Thanks for having me today!
* * *
The best part of my visit was being forced to sit down and pray about what this stay-at-home mom gig is all about. Sometimes, I catch myself just going through the motions of my days without really stopping and taking stock of it all. More than I’d care to admit, I let the mountains of laundry and dishes in the sink feel like a burden instead of the work of a family brimming with life. It’s enough to bring me to my knees. Life is darn good. Sure, a lot of days it’s a beautiful mess, but I wouldn’t trade my mess for anyone else’s.
Most days are full of a lot of little things. Jesus, help me to do them with love. I trust in You when I fail. Help me to do better tomorrow. Amen.