One of the biggest challenges as a stay at home parent during lent is that I still have to make sure my kids are eating and that they have food even when it’s things I’m not eating. In order to have someone who understands this is the reason why God gave some spouses telework days and why I was grateful my husband chose to work from home this Ash Wednesday. It is also the reason why God created Sundays: so that parents could commiserate with each other before and after mass. That’s not really true. I’m pretty sure Sundays have something to do with rest. And this past Sunday, the first one of lent? Rest I did. I rested from all of my abstaining. I scrolled, unashamed, through social media. I had two (count ’em! two!) cups of coffee in the morning. And it was lovely and blessed.
On Saturday, I had, in all earnestness, thought to myself, “I don’t think I’m going to go on social media or drink coffee on Sunday.” I thought this even though Sunday is supposed to be a feasting day, not a fasting day. My fasting and abstaining had already fruited so much creativity, so much more involved parenting, so many gifts that surely (part of my thinking went) if I just keep at the fasting and abstaining, I would be able to harvest even more of all of the above. Turns out: that’s not the way this works. It isn’t about deprivation. And by partaking in that from which I had been abstaining, I was able to see these things with new eyes and with gratitude.
A good portion of my instagram feed is comprised of other people’s yarn and knitting projects and quilts and sewing projects. On Sunday, each of the images on my food felt more vibrant than they had even a few days before. When I look at these types of images, I experience something, similar to ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). Part of my brain tingles. This Sunday, having spent a few days away from them, I had a new appreciation that behind each of those images was a human being (or several!). A real person who had created these objects with their own human hands. And appreciation led to inspiration. I understood that I too can (and do!) create beautiful things that might inspire others and also keep people warm. I even got to have a brief insta-conversation with someone, another “maker” or better yet another human being, located in another state. I also scrolled through tiktok videos of people doing and creating things that I can’t do (beatboxing! singing! comedic videos! there are so many amazing things that people are doing and creating!) and I was content to be able to just appreciate these things that people do and create. These were all realizations and experiences that I would not have been able to have had I been defaulting to a continuous, automatic scrolling. It was only because I was not numbed by over-consumption of these images that I was able to see them and appreciate them with a certain clarity.
On Saturday, Ms10yo said, “I ate some sweets last night at the dance, so I’m just going to not eat any sweets on Sunday.” This is the classic lenten maneuver of trading out days of abstention. “You know,” I said, looking her in the eye (remember this was still Saturday when I was not yet feasting on social media feeds), “You’re still only ten. You don’t have to give anything up.”
“OK!” she replied. Happy, apparently, to be excused from this particular devotion.
She was confirmed last year when she was 9, which is about as young as one can be confirmed in the church. Confirmation is the final sacrament of initiation and is sometimes, confusingly, considered when one is a full adult in the eyes of the church. As much as our 10yo relishes her role as an “adult” in the eyes of the church (primarily by helping out in a Religious Education classroom with younger children and by thinking about how she could if she wanted to, join other ministries), she’s still very much a child and her dad and I want to ensure that she gets to be a child as long as possible. And so I pointed out to her that abstention is not a requirement for children. (Nor is it really a requirement for anyone. It’s a personal devotion and therefore a personal choice.)
As a stay at home parent and particularly, perhaps, as one who also homeschools her kids, the workweek and weekend often blend fluidly, one into the other. This weekend, I realized that, for me, it has not been that the relaxed, unscheduled feeling of the weekend spills over into the weekdays. It has been the opposite. In the past, I have often spent my weekend with the feeling that I still have unfinished projects and unobtained goals from weekdays haunting the weekend. I have often felt, and perhaps others whose days are filled with unpaid work (but work nonetheless) feel the same way, that because I’m not technically working a paying job during the workweek, I don’t really deserve a weekend. I know: it’s a ridiculous way of thinking, but it’s hard to cleave apart the connection between work and paycheck. But this Sunday, perhaps because of the lenten abstentions and perhaps because I had been feeling particularly creative the first week of lent, I really started to feel like I was entitled to a day off. And Sunday felt like a day of rest. I didn’t sleep in (which doesn’t necessarily define a day of rest to me), but I took the two older kids to Religious Education class where another trusted adult looked after them while I chatted with other mother’s upstairs about lent and meat-less Fridays and other trials of parenthood. Our family went to mass together, where my kids got to sing and read and pray and participate in something that I didn’t have to prepare or set up in any way, shape, or form. And then we spent the rest of the day truly resting. And it was good.