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Are You Feeling Depleted Or Resentful?

Is there order or chaos in your life?

Our world was created in a perfectly ordered manner. We can read an account of this in Genesis. Any change that is introduced into the order of God’s design, then, is felt with a mirrored level of chaos. A slight lack of order produces slight chaos. An absolute abandonment of order creates utter and complete chaos. We do not need to look around our society for very long to see this play out. What about in our lives and in our own homes, though, where we strive to place God in His rightful place? Is there order or chaos?

One of the most life-changing, practical lessons I have learned to date regarding my purpose and role as a Catholic, and in particular as a mum, was in relation to the correct order of things. I had been making a mistake for decades! I had been responsible for dis-order in my home and in my family the entire time I had been married and raising children and I didn’t even know it. I had been feeling the chaotic effects of the error in my understanding, but had no idea it didn’t need to be so. So what was this lesson? It was on the order of things I was expected to care for.

It was a very dear friend, valued spiritual advisor and traditional Catholic priest who corrected me with regards to the order of things in my life:

God, me, then others.

I was dumbfounded. Why hadn’t I understood this before? It made sense, as does all of God’s design; it is Truth itself. The conversation sparked reflection and speculation on my life. I had abandoned me in God’s intended order of things. I had only considered me as a wife and as a mother. Not as me: a daughter of God, a woman, an individual and also a wife and mother. Up to that point, I had thought the denial of my needs and desires in favour of others’ was an esteemed, virtuous, entirely Catholic endeavour. It was my path to salvation! Though I had been noticing the sentiment behind my acts of denying myself and taking care of others often exuded increasing levels of resentment. Turns out, the most likely cause of feelings of resentment is unmet needs! This was beginning to make sense.

So what did this mean for my life, then? I directed my attention to the order in which I approached my day. I had already begun to rise before anybody else in my family. That feeling of chaos - being woken by my children without 2 minutes of silence before diving into the day - had made me feel sufficient levels of chaos to desire a new habit. I craved calm and quiet in my morning. My alarm was no longer my children. I had been doing this for many months. Why did chaos remain?

God, me, then others? God first. Did I have this right? A little, but perhaps not sufficiently so. I would say morning prayers, so I was offering my day… Surely, I thought, I was putting God first by denying myself and doing for others? I spent my days doing this, and had thought I was serving God well. I hadn’t considered the negating effect of my (more often than I’d like to admit) resentful sentiment being more akin to the attitude of Cain than Abel (Genesis 4:3-8)In denying my own needs and growing resentful, I had effectively rendered my giving of myself to others useless in God’s eyes.

God first. How could I better direct my attention towards God? The source of all that is good. How could I better KNOW Him so that I could better love Him and serve Him? Catechism, scripture, a book on the faith or lives of the saints, perhaps? Or some time spent in quiet meditation, turning my mind to Him? I would start with Catechism. And so I added this into my morning habit stack, before the children would wake. A deeper understanding of the Faith bled into my daily duties, as did renewed energy, and it was a very welcome improvement.

God, me, then others? Me next. So now that I knew this, it was an easy correction to make, right? Nope. The hardest area for me to implant and maintain order is in responsibility to myself. I am skilled and adept at caring for others; I have been from a very young age. It is in taking care of myself that I have needed to learn skills and gain competence. I inherited the belief and understanding that spending time or even attention on my own needs or wants is being selfish and indulgent. Now I am supposed to do this before giving care to others? I had always considered myself a very responsible person and I found it incredibly frustrating to feel so clueless when it came to taking care of - being responsible for - myself. Couldn’t somebody else do it for me? I guess God wanted me to learn for myself.

Hearing myself say “I want” felt uncomfortable. It was unfamiliar. It felt selfish. It felt indulgent. I would even say it felt wrong. I felt guilty initially, even a little ashamed; but being assured from a trusted spiritual advisor that it was a worthwhile endeavour, I persisted. I even changed how I phrased it to “I would like…”. It sounded better. It felt better. It started to feel right. It got easier. It became enjoyable! It became exciting!

It took practice, patience and persistence to make small acts of progress in caring for myself. I am not talking about self-indulgence. I am talking about simple acts of care for myself: rest, sleep, time alone (what a treat for a mum!), time with my husband without our children, time with friends, exercise I enjoyed, hobbies, passion projects, decluttering, enjoying simple pleasures, having fun again and being silly, listening to music and dancing around the house with my children, asking for and accepting help or support, getting a cleaner!

With correct order established I am much more able to be the playful, accepting, curious and empathic wife and mum I had always wanted to be. I was feeling stretched to the point of breaking and installing God’s order has removed the chaos that was causing the unrest. Instead of feeling resentful, I feel inspired. My days, though full of the same duties and obligations, are now more full of pleasure. If I sense resentment creeping back in, I know I have a need that is going unmet and I do my best to ascertain what it may be and seek to take responsibility for it. I am responsible for it. I am not waiting to be rescued; by God, by my husband, by my children or by my friends. I am responsible for my needs and God has shown me how to care for them. But He waits for us to ask.

Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

The implementation of these practices reach far beyond my own enjoyment, fulfilment and sense of purpose. It has rippled throughout my family. Taking care of myself has given me fresh energy. I am able to give to others more than I could before and this time with the right attitude. I now feel like the heart of the home, because my heart is abundantly full. I no longer feel like motherhood is draining me. 

I hope you feel encouraged to pay attention to feelings of resentment you may have. Know that you are not wrong; the order is. Rather than feel guilty; take action. Or feel guilty and take action anyway! Begin to learn what it is you need; what it is you want. Know that having needs and wants is perfectly normal. Everybody has them; we’ve just been turning our attention to those of others and ignoring our own. Know that God wants you to be taken care of too. We haven’t learned well how to do this, and we must. It is our responsibility, nobody else’s. Let God in to show you how. 

Take care of you and let Truth bloom.

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