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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A mother's prioritites

By Melanie Jean Juneau

File:Mary Cassatt - 'The Child's Caress', oil on canvas, c. 1890, Honolulu Academy of Arts.jpg
The Child's Caress by Mary Cassatt (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).

One afternoon before a special occasion, I was ironing cotton dresses and shirts for church the next day. Six-year-old Mara watched for a while and then pointed to the iron and asked,“What is that mummy?”I froze in shock and then laughed because I realized that this little girl had never seen me iron; I usually used the clothes dryer as my pwrinkle smoother when I wasn't looking for perfection but rather efficiency. Actually it was not just the iron that seldom received attention as I mothered a large family, something that I considered essential was eliminated from my life with the birth of every child. Painting portraits went with Matthew. Other births gave the boot to crafts, dusting, bread making, interesting meals and laundry folding ( each child dressed out of their own personal laundry basket).

As every mother knows, a newborn takes at least eight hours a day to nurse, burp, rock and comfort, bathe, change clothes and diapers (at least ten times a day), and to wash diapers, clothes, receiving blankets, sheets and baby blankets as well as your clothes which tend to get covered in vomit, and other nasty surprises.

Guess what? The lack of sleep leads to a rather narrow existence where the best days are when you can sneak in a nap or shower and dress before noon.

Oh, those were the days when life was reduced to the basics. This basic truth was actually miraculous when I relaxed and allowed myself to live in the moment, enjoying my newborn rather than bemoaning all the important activities that I couldn't seem to even start. The very fact that everything that my little one required to grow and thrive was inexpensive and near at hand was amazing. My baby didn't need a lot of money spent on him, he simply needed arms to hold him, mother’s milk to drink and warm clothes and blankets.  A friend who had five children, couldn't quite grasp my peaceful demeanour as I sat nursing a newborn with family life whirling about me. She finally surmised that I was content to enjoy the present experience of mothering a tiny, dependent newborn.Really though, the basic truth I learned was that my first priority as a mother was to love and cherish my children as gifts from, God. They were not inconvenient, or simply extensions of my ego but unique wonderful people, albeit little people.

Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2222 Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons.
I think that I was given the gift of understanding that although I strove to run the household well, little people's needs come first.   

 Melanie Jean Juneau blogs at  Joy of nine9.


  1. This is the first time I can recall hearing a story that I've re-told, myself, since my then-5-year old "Frankie" got up from a nap, pointed to my iron and ironing board, and asked "What's that?” He had never seen me iron. Not only was such activity rather low on my personal list of priorities, one simply did not do things involving hot items and cords with an energetic and curious child like Frankie awake. Little people's needs come first!!

  2. and I have never heard of someone telling an iron story either..we must be sisters in the Lord

  3. Melanie, as always, reading your stories of motherhood always gently remind me that I am not alone when this journey takes its unexpected twists and turns. Nancy, I can relate to the iron story. The same thing happened to me. My toddler daughters were shocked by the steam. They looked as puzzled as Dorothy and her comrades when they first saw the great and wonderful wizard of Oz. I had to laugh as I realized that there were actually some times when I had my priorities in almost proper order. Jesus and Mary help me so much!
    Thank you Melanie for this beautiful loving nurturing post!


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