Tips and Support for Catholic Mothers

Interview With Mom and Author Lisa Hendey

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By Genevieve Pollock

FRESNO, California, FEB. 24, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Modern mothers face high expectations and most have to learn as they go. Now, a new handbook is offering encouragement and tips for those striving to be good Catholic moms.  

Lisa Hendey's book, "The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul," published this month, deals with the myriad topics of a mother's life such as parenting, finances, prayer and health.

In this book she shares her experiences and insights from a decade of networking with other mothers through the CatholicMom.com Web site, which she founded in 1999. This site continues to offer columns, advice, humor and community to many people worldwide; last year alone, it drew 400,000 visitors.

In addition to writing for several publications, Hendey heads a Web design business and manages the Web page for her parish.

In this interview, she spoke with ZENIT about the importance of the mothering vocation, some of the things she has learned from her own experience and that of others, and her hope to encourage women in this role.  

ZENIT: With all the obligations moms have these days, many may feel more need for an extra set of hands than a handbook that gives them other tasks to do. How does your book help moms to be more effective in their daily duties and responsibilities? What does it aim to add to their lives?

Hendey: I definitely recognize this challenge in my own life, so I was very cognizant during the writing process of the need to offer "real world," practical solutions for moms.  

In the book, we aimed to reach every type of mom, including those who work outside the home, those who parent large families, those with children who may have special needs and even single moms who face tremendous challenges. The book is filled with stories and suggestions from families around the world who have shared what works for them in their homes.

In the "mind" section of the book, we address employment -- both within and outside of the home -- and discuss the importance of treating our mothering vocation with great care and energy.  

The book offers time management strategies, but more importantly encourages women to see motherhood as both a gift and a true vocation.  

I honestly feel that we, as Catholic moms, must pay attention to self-care in our relationships, intellectually, physically and most important spiritually in order to best care for our families.  

"The Handbook for Catholic Moms" aims to provide a comprehensive resource in each of these areas by sharing the stories, quotes, ideas and suggestions of literally hundreds of Catholic moms around the world.  

My greatest hope for the book is that it will leave Catholic moms feeling supported and encouraged in the challenges they face each and every day.

ZENIT: Your book includes a section to help moms with finances, which is of particular interest in this economic recession. What do you suggest to moms who want so much for their children, and yet are discouraged by the reality of their bank account? Do you give any suggestions about how to "spin straw into gold?"

Hendey: So many families are suffering given today's difficult economic climate, and yet I'm convicted that the greatest gifts we can give our children have nothing to do with our bank accounts.  

In our domestic churches, we have the opportunity to raise up souls who value a tangible relationship with a God who loves each of us unconditionally, without regard to our economic status or even our personal merit.  

Today's recession also offers every mom the chance to teach her children about the importance of service, about stewardship to others, and about true compassion and the great joy of giving.  

I have learned in my own life the true peace that comes with living within our means and with helping others both financially and emotionally through difficult and challenging times.

ZENIT: Your handbook focuses on different aspects of a mother's life: mind, body, heart and soul. What kinds of things do you suggest for mothers to live their spiritual life in a deeper way? Do silent prayer and reflection have a place in a mom's world, or is there a different way to pray when life is so busy?

Hendey: A busy mother's prayer life will look different than that of her fellow Catholics whose lives are not so full of day-to-day, hands-on service.  

I love the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who encouraged us to make every act a prayer, a tangible sign of our love for God.  

This philosophy certainly relates in the life of a mom, whose days are filled with mundane tasks like laundry, cooking and cleaning. Done with devotion, these simple acts become a mother's prayer.  

However, I also believe the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who said:

"God is the friend of silence. See how nature -- trees and flowers and grass -- grow in silence. See the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life."

I encourage each of us -- myself included -- to carve out moments of silence in the craziness of our days. Shut off the iPod, silence the cell phone, create a small "sacred space" in your home -- a corner chair or even a small pillow on the ground where you can retreat for a few moments each day.  

If you have little ones in the home, invite them to rest quietly near you, even if only for a moment or two, and explain to them how precious these silent moments of prayer are to you.

Take them for a quick visit to your parish, pray together in the car on the way to school, and model for them the importance of an ongoing prayer life.

"The Handbook for Catholic Moms" has an entire section devoted to practical solutions for embracing our Catholic spiritual treasures in the midst of our busy days as mothers.  

ZENIT: Parents realize that they only have a limited time to impart values on their children before they are launched into the world, a society that can be scary at times. How can mothers arm their children in a way that will help them keep their values and virtues? What would you suggest to moms who get discouraged or fearful for their children while watching the news or hearing about the ills of society?

Hendey: I am in the midst of this potentially fearful season in my own life, as the mother of two teens. My eldest son will depart for college in the fall, taking with him a lifetime of lessons we've tried to impart to him as he's grown into manhood.  

Honestly, I have great hope for the future of our Church when I see so many families who have diligently sought to live out the call to be "domestic church" in our homes.  

I believe one of the best ways to arm our children to embrace moral choices is to have constant, ongoing discussions in the context of day-to-day life. When you watch a movie together, discuss it afterwards. If you see them struggling in a friendship at school, talk about it in the context of building loving and serving relationships.  

As they grow into teens, we need to truly listen to our children, including the unspoken cues that every mother is trained to recognize. I hope my children will depart from my home with a fully informed sense of their Catholic faith at the core of their outlook on the world.  

Rather than being fearful or closing out the outside world, let us train the future leaders of our Church and our world -- now living in our homes -- to embrace Gospel values in their life's choices as they grow into adulthood. Knowing my own sons and their friends as I do, I am optimistic that our future is bright.

ZENIT: Essentially, parents want their children to be happy. How can they keep the spirit of joy alive in their kids, while teaching them necessary lessons, disciplining them, or letting them go through their own growing pains?

Hendey: Again, I feel that constant communication is a key to effective discipline and training.  

I am not afraid to show vulnerability and sadness when it comes to correcting my children's bad choices.  

Their world today is far more complicated than the environment in which most of us parents grew up. With this changing world comes great complexities that sometimes involve parents needing to learn quickly about things we never could have anticipated.  

Just as Jesus spoke with his disciples and taught them through parables, I often try to employ stories from my own life when disciplining my children.  

It sometimes help for them to know that we weren't always the way we are today -- that sometimes in the past we too struggled and made poor choices, and that we want to help them avoid some of the negative outcomes that no doubt come with these poor choices.

I try to follow the example of my own parents, who have raised five children into successful marriages and families of their own.  

I never had a doubt growing up that the thing my parents most wanted for me was happiness -- a life of faith, love, and joy. They shared this with each of us all the time, including during moments of disappointment when we chose the wrong path. I try to emulate this same message with my children on a daily basis.

ZENIT: In your opinion, what does the ideal mom look like? If a woman follows this handbook, what can she hope to become?

Hendey: I think every home contains its own "ideal mom" and that no two will look exactly alike.  

Despite that Proverbs 31 prescription for success, no two women have exactly the same set of life circumstances. In my own family, we have working moms, work at home moms, and stay at home moms.

In our Church, we embrace moms who are married, those who may be single and have made the valiant and often challenging decision to embrace life for their children, and mothers who parent as a part of blended families. Some moms parent gifted children and others minister to those with special needs.  

We all wake up each day hoping and praying to give our very best to those we love most, and to the world around us.

I sincerely hope that mothers who read "The Handbook for Catholic Moms" will feel encouraged and supported in their mothering vocation.

I don't look at the book as a prescription for perfection, but rather a recipe for a happy, holy and fulfilled life.

The ingredients in that recipe may vary from woman to woman, but the end goal is the same -- that we will know with great certainty that we are loved unconditionally by God, that we will share this certainty with our families, and that we will one day have salvation with him together.  

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On the Net:

Lisa Hendey's Site: http://www.lisahendey.com

To order handbook: http://www.amazon.com/

Catholic Moms: http://new.catholicmom.com