8 Things that Make a Good Day

To tell the truth, I often agonize over how to spend my time: what is the right balance of work/play/socializing, etc etc etc. But there is something that helps me. The moral philosophers from Aristotle into the present day always ask what is the good–that which promotes man’s flourishing?

So I ask myself: what is good? What is flourishing? I think monks flourish. It’s no secret that I admire the avowed religious life very much.  But I think everyday lay people in cities and countries can flourish too. So what’s that like?

But what are the actual daily activities that comprise a life well spent?

  1. Loving relationships-spouse, friends, children, parents, churches, organizations, civic life. The people we love tie us together and are worth spending time with and enjoying.
  2. Cooking and eating – food is part of life, and a good part. Cooking it, enjoying and it and sharing it combine an connection with the source of food and sustenance, enjoyment and community, a chance to share partake in those relationships mentioned in 1.
  3. Enjoying art – music, books, visual art, etc. Beautiful things, natural or man-made, invite us to appreciate life simply as it is and sometimes to contemplate the source of the beauty. Man-made art adds a layer of human reflection to contemplation.
  4. Maintaining the goods of our lives – our homes, our tools, our clothes, aspects of our communities etc. It shows care and gratitude to repair and clean the things that contribute to our lives. It keeps us grounded to provide for own physical needs and that of others.
  5. Creating – contributing our gifts to something new and meaningful, be it pottery, gardening, painting, writing, carpentry. This work also contributes to our community and engenders mutual flourishing
  6. Exercising – Care for the body that allows us to live and move is so important
  7. Being in nature, even if it’s just the yard or garden, or gazing at the sky from our city balcony. Watching and interacting with creation is both an appreciation of beauty, and it reminds us of what it real and the forces of the earth which are more powerful than we are.
  8. Spirituality – in addition to appreciating the beautiful and loving one another, to attempt to and to commune with God, the source of all, restorer of all and our own maker, is the simplest grounding there can be.  (PS there is a short-cut, the sacraments, the Bible and the Catechism)

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Christ Crucified and Racial Solidarity

I’d like to share the video of the master’s thesis presentation of a friend of mine, Nic Don Stanton-Roark at Anderson University School of Theology. He addresses “Politics and Eucharist,” explaining why the Church’s celebration of the eucharist is a political act beyond secular understandings of politics as statecraft. It establishes a distinct community with different organizing principles than the state.

Further, following Nic’s work has contributed more than anything else toward shifting my understanding of race relations in America. That and reading Ruby K. Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Gradually, I came to see how deeply entrenched racial tension is as it is lived out over the generations. It’s not that all white people consciously hate all black people. It is true, however, that being white meant our parents and grandparents benefited in certain ways whereas being black meant that that person’s parents and grandparents were harmed in certain ways. Our status and means are handed down to us from our parents. My grandparents who went to college on the GI Bill and received a home loan handed more to my own parents than the black family could who was quietly denied home loans because of their race during the Jim Crow period.  These are hard things to realize, but they are true and there is a reason the ghettos formed in inner cities.

Racism is not at all inconsequential or a relic of history, and it’s something that Christians ought to care about because we believe that all human beings are made in the Image of God and be treated as beloved children of God.

Nic’s thesis discusses the political implications of the crucifixion of Jesus as both a state execution and a mob lynching. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to say the least, and I think it’s one of the best reasons I’ve heard articulated for why Christians ought to be inherently suspicious of the state, and also why racial solidarity is a key issue for Christians. (Not to say that the state never does anything good; we are rightly grateful for roads, basic civil order, enforceable contracts, etc. We must admit though that governments can and do abuse their power and do so quite frequently.)

Watch. Consider. Thoughts?

Nic is on Twitter https://twitter.com/ExilePolitics

All four videos  are at this link and also below. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrgMXcHLEgpgO2yRp3ddX0Q/videos

Way Better Idea of Success than Money and Status

A friend of mine posted this article from On Being, called “Scrapping Outdated Definitions of Success” by Courtney Martin.

This really resonated with me as my husband and I have been navigating career moves recently trying to produce a happier household.

The cultural narrative overshadows us all, to the extent that we buy into it: you will be successful if you can go beyond your parents’ earnings and their collar.

The rub is that it’s simply not true.

Bigger earnings don’t always translate into a better life, as evidenced by the preponderance of miserable lawyers, doctors, sales managers, and investment bankers. The trusty old collar metaphor turns out to be dangerously reductive, as was so beautifully discussed in Krista Tippett’s recent interview with Mike Rose.

As the tectonic plates of work shift under our feet, there’s a palpable sense of professional insecurity. On the flip side, there’s a real opportunity to tell the truth in a moment when we don’t have as much to lose. If we successfully scrap outdated definitions of success — salaries and collars, foremost among them — what’s left?

Here’s my attempt at synthesizing what I see among my friends, family, colleagues, and co-housing community. We want to be paid enough to live without the specter of an empty bank account or an empty cupboard hanging over our heads. We want to have access to childcare for our children and doctors for our aging parents. We want work that demands something of our minds and our bodies; we want to think and move. We want to feel like our gifts, whatever weird and wonderful things those might be, are put to good use (which first requires knowing what they hell they are). We want to work alongside other people who see and celebrate those gifts, people who teach us things, people who want to make cool stuff with us, people who are kind and mostly good and don’t create a lot of unnecessary drama. We want to be treated fairly. We want to be trusted, to know how and when and where we do our best work. We want to wake up in the morning and feel like there is a place to direct our energy and that place, while it may not define us, dignifies us.

Then, there was this:

In any case, women tend to walk around with an itchy, un-lived version of their own lives.

Carl Jung wrote:

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

Martin sites this quotation both in relation to moms with careers and stay at home moms, that either way, in the past there has been a sense that something must be lost: that working women may have unfulfilled lives with their children and also that stay-at-home women may wonder about their creative potential or gifts. This is certainly a pressing question that feminism has wrestled with again and again with no good outcome.

I myself addressed it earlier this year and concluded that somehow, it must be possible to use and develop our gifts and to nurture our children well–both for women and men, though both make a great many sacrifices. I penned a similar thought to Martin:

Unfortunately, our standard of “success” is usually public recognition or the number of zeros in a paycheck. The standard should be though a happy, purposeful life.

This Jung quote struck me though as a powerful reminder that wherever we struggle for fulfillment, it really does matter, both to us and to our families, whether it’s wanting to be with children more or develop our gifts more. We are actually better parents when we find balance and take care of ourselves, which looks different for different people and even for husbands and wives. But the shared truth is that by attempting to suppress any good and real part of our beings, something is lost and our children feel that too.

It is worth adding that may people live through difficult circumstances and do not always the chance to strive in both or either of these areas. Compassion and aid to these people is a must, for our happiness and success as individuals is not unrelated to the success and happiness of our neighbors. And it’s simple decency. But it is not selfish to seek sustainable, healthy development in all areas of life. As I’ve cited before. this quote from Pope John Paul II sums it up:

“It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards ‘having’ rather than ‘being,’ and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself.”
— Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus
Question then: what does success mean to you?

Two Ways I Tried Living Without Buying (for a month)

As promised, I will tell a bit about with my struggle to practice creative activities instead of consumptive ones. In my last post, I said “The problem is that in American culture today, we wrongly place consuming as at the top of the hierarchy as though consuming food, entertainment, pleasure, is what will make us the happiest.”

A lot of people might disagree with that because consuming is not overtly placed at the top. We don’t actually say “money will make you happy”; “eating this artisan cupcake will make you happy”; “having a sculpted body will make you happy”; “having an enormous house will make you happy.” Those are underlying messages, not the overt ones.

For instance, we say, “Let’s focus on valuing local artisans and farmers.” But it is carried out by purchasing their products. Noticeably, there is no encouragement to actually learn an artisanal trade or practice some actual farming. Now, there is nothing wrong with buying things we need and trying to spend ethically. But ethics do not boil down to spending habits. And celebrating time and holidays is about much more than buying festive decorations.

Consider this: “Spring is wonderful. Embrace it; plant your garden; Come to the Home Depot Garden Shop.” (I don’t mean to target Home Depot; I like their Garden Shop.) But in many ways, our “valuing” or “celebrating” is enacted only through buying.

This is a very real struggle in my own life as I struggle to live within budget (for practical reasons), but also as I struggle with my relationship with money on the whole–as a Christian, I know the warnings Jesus gives against it and I am conscious of the vast material blessings that I usually take for granted. My trust in God ought not to be defined by my outward well-being.

Ok, so two examples. 1) I finished our taxes–I always do our family taxes myself even though I hate it, so I said, husband “I would like a reward for finishing this wretched job.” The first thought that came to my mind was, “We got a nice refund; I’ll buy myself a new dress from ModCloth.” BUT WAIT! My first thought of a reward was to spend some money, buy a product, an action that flew directly in the face of the values I tried to enact in doing our taxes: frugality, thrift, self-sufficiency.

So I thought about it some more and it took effort of think of something that didn’t include a purchase, but I succeeded eventually, “Honey, I’d like a massage.” And he obliged. 🙂 The point is how difficult it was for me to think up a non-consumptive reward. But when I did, the result was much more pleasing. We actually got to bond instead of having me complete an economic transaction over my computer screen.

Example #2. I wanted to give gardening a real shot this year with my little kids.

When I thought about how I would do this: the first thing that popped into my head was: first I need to pay someone to trim the bushes so we’ll have space; but then I need new pots, planting soil, seeds, tools, and some cute gardening boots for me and the kids wouldn’t hurt.

BUT WAIT. That would add up to hundreds of dollars–again, flying the face of the values I was trying to enact by gardening: getting in touch with the earth, appreciating creation, playing outside, growing food for our family’s health and budget, self-sufficiency. So often, I think of a new project, go out and excitedly buy tons of stuff for it–then half-heartedly or never actually follow through. Does that happen to you too?

So, in an effort to reform my habits and actually enact creative activity, not merely consumption–I looked around the house. We already had a few pots. We already had dirt and even some potting soil. I had bought gardening gloves years before that had never seen use. We had hedging sheers–I used them to trim the bushes myself–shocking, I know. Then I did something crazy, I asked others if I could borrow things. My mother-in-law was happy to give us some seeds. My friend lent a powered hedge trimmer (which is super fun by the way). My parents lent a ladder for the taller bushes. Our yard is tidy; our seeds are growing and I never spent a penny!

But this is new for me, and I am trying to practice this new mode more and more because it is strange and unfamiliar. It also relies on the super-supportive community we are blessed with; we have both families nearby, lots of friends and active Church parishes. Spending less is easy when we can tap supportive communities and are willing to do our own work.

This aspect of frugality sheds light on how consumerism (buying or selling a product for everything) has thrived in our culture as we focus on individuals and ignore or displace the wider families and communities from whence we come. Consumerism promises that products can make life easy and happy, filling the place of supportive human networks (or tribes). But with a tribe (or supportive human network), we can live a good life and be pretty happy with a lot less money.

We say we value people, but so often our culture stands ready to replace a person with a product. So I am trying to consciously live on less money (not including our mortgage, of course) because it makes more demands on me: it requires me to perform actions myself (to cook instead of purchase a ready-made meal) and it asks that I seek help from friends and family. Performing those creative actions and building those relationships through seeking help actually make me a better, happier person. I have not been given a fish, but learned to fish.

To quote someone who is usually considered “liberal” and therefore perhaps a bit startling for me to quote (though I don’t prefer to be labeled “conservative,” but rather just truth-seeking and Catholic), I would like to cite a passage from food-writer Michael Pollan’s “Cooked,” a book about the social history of cooking.

“In a world where so few of us are obliged to cook at all anymore, to choose to do so is to lodge a protest against specialization–against the total rationalization of life…[It is] to declare our independence from the corporations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption…It is to reject the debilitating notion that, at least while we’re at home, production is work best done by someone else, and the only legitimate form of leisure is consumption.”

Yes. As he puts it, we are in general over-specialized; we tend to think: “I have one skill that I get paid for–this is my job. I then exchange the money I receive for this skill for all the other goods and services I need.” That works. But it works better for humans to be more directly involved in more of their own lives; developing multiple talents, providing for themselves as best they can: gardening, cooking, building, writing, problem-solving, a whole host the various activities that life demands. We become more the more we create and perform ourselves. How much more American could one get? That’s what the pioneers did; they had things hard, but I’m sure they would say life is worth living more often than we do.

3 Modes of Life: Creating, Relating, Consuming

By no means do I pretend to have this all figured out, but it has been central to my thought process for a few years now that there are three main modes of activities in which we engage as humans: 1. Creating 2. Relating 3. Consuming I believe that we are happiest, in the truest sense, when we balance the first two (creating and relating) as is optimal according to our personality, temperament and vocation, and we when keep the third (consuming) tightly disciplined, engaging only as necessary. The problem is that in American culture today, we wrongly place consuming as at the top of the hierarchy as though consuming food, entertainment, pleasure, is what will make us the happiest. But it’s false, which is why we are so often miserable and slightly-confused. At the risk of over -simplifying, here are basic descriptions of each: 1. Creating – activities we would perform for their own sake, activities that demand work and result in growth in excellence of ability or character. This includes the traditional fine arts such as drawing, writing, dancing, etc; but also activities that create an excellence or skill such as athletics, gardening, prayer, mathematics, the trades such as woodworking, the sciences. There are many others. 2. Relating – basically socializing, but on a deeper level. It is those times when we build up the life-giving relationships that make life and the creative activities meaningful and worth doing. It includes conversations with good friends, spending time with your spouse and family, intimacy. I think parenting falls somewhere between relating and creating. 3. Consuming – things we take in such as eating or things done for entertainment: movie watching, browsing the web, buying stuff, etc. In one sense, there is a very necessary level of consuming: we must eat; additionally, relaxation and recreation are goods when balanced with our workloads and duties. But consuming is usually the activity that tempts us to overdo it, and the activity that wreaks havoc on us when we do overdo it. (Ie–We eat way to much junky stuff and gain weight; or we get addicted to reading silly internet articles (like this one) and then find that we do not have the discipline to read an actual novel. Or we buy so much stuff that we don’t know how to get by or mark time without buying stuff.) Doubtless, there are many activities that don’t fit easily into my categories–such as showering–and I’m working on that, but overall, I think they are helpful. I find it a tragedy that we are so focused on consuming–even times when we don’t realize it. It robs our joy and leaves us feeling empty without knowing why. Consider Christmas–Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, come to save us and bring us to eternal life. Presents are super and fun, but most of America celebrates Christmas by buying stuff: gifts, decorations, sweaters, chocolates, toys, lights, lawn ornaments, etc. All that stuff is well and good—until it becomes the focus and the deeper meaning is lost. No amount of miniature porcelain Christmas villages can offer us meaning. Conversely, we can have a meaningful, loving Christmas without tons of money. Often we desire the ability to consume, but then find the experience unfulfilling. What we really needed was meaningful work. We think consuming will make us happy. We think having a huge house will make us happy, but in reality, we are happier when we spend our time and energy caring for the home we have to make it a good place for our family. See my post: Happiness is not about getting what we want. In general, I think people would be happier if more friendships and socializing was organized more around creating and less around consuming. Consider how often we see movies with friends, go shopping or out to eat. Again, nothing wrong with this–until it becomes the focus and we forget how to do anything else. What if we shared poems with friends? Ones we wrote or ones we read. What if we added prayer? Or played music? And this needn’t be elitist. It costs nothing to compose oral poems or to sing. Indeed, for most of human history, that’s how we entertained and related with one another. The difference between listening to a person on TV reading a poem and reading one ourselves is the formative effect the action has on us when we actually perform it. Everything we do, everything that we see, everything that happens to us shapes us. Performing an action–actually swimming or singing–makes us to be a certain way, makes us to be a certain type of person. That’s why memorizing is more valuable that just looking something up. If we have bother to memorize, internalize and perform an action, it is so much deeper, so much more formative and valuable than if we just watch someone else do it at increasingly removed technological distances. That’s why virtue and vice, sin and holiness matter. As Bruce Wayne learns in Batman Begins, “It’s not who I am on the inside that defines me, but what I do.” Our inner dispositions matter, but being a person manifests in the types of actions we perform. We cannot tell ourselves that we are good people even if we do empty things. This is not to say that who we are on the outside matters more than who we are on the inside, but rather that the two are more connected that we tend to realize. As Aristotle and later Thomas Aquinas put it, “action follows upon being.” A thing or a person’s actions proceed from what or who they are. We will be happier when we perform actions, more of the creative and relating type, that are worth doing, which make us to be the persons we ought to be. So often, we say we value things but act a different way. For instance, we say we value people more than money, but often we judge others by their salary, job title or lack thereof. Looking at our actions reveals us for what we really are. And I am not immune. Up next I will discuss my struggle with expressing myself or fixing things by just buying something. I say I value the activity or the person and I end up with a purchase in a shopping bag. What happened? What types of activities don’t fit into my categories? What are your favorite creative activities? Do you agree that the creative activities make us happier?

The Value of Women in Society: True Humanization

This, I think, could easily become my rallying cry and a motivating goal for any authentic feminist:

A greater presence of women in society will prove most valuable, for it will help to manifest the contradictions present when society is organized solely according to the criteria of efficiency and productivity, and it will force systems to be redesigned in a way which favours the processes of humanization which mark the ‘civilization of love.’ (para 4)

This comes from John Paul II’s 1995 Letter to Women.

Bring the baby!

Thriving, life-loving women can perform something vital for our culture: help move us away from systems and definitions that value only production.

A society worth living in–a society God wants us to live in–is a society that loves human life and celebrates a life of flourishing for all.

All people, all women and especially stay-at-home moms (who are all too often overlooked by well-meaning folks) can participate in this. Two huge strategies I see for moving our culture closer to a more human dynamic are these: (and they don’t even require a revolution)

1. Education. Education itself in most schools is set up like a factory: desks in rows, students grouped by age like expiration dates on products, lots of sitting, bells to announce shifts, huge group lunches, standardized tests and standardized curriculum. Unsurprisingly, the forms of public schools were developed during industrialization. They produce factory workers. Let’s change that.

Let’s make education more human, more child-friendly. This is the job of all parents and especially stay-at-home moms who dedicate their lives to their children because they know that caregivers are not interchangeable robots who wipe bottoms and spoon mush into baby mouths.

Homeschooling, unschooling, Montessori, new schooling–and hey it can include public schools if they are open to it. Parents forming groups of like-minded fellows to get together and teach or rather…to present, to incorporate the child, to let the child grow. One thing is for sure: segregating kids by age is out. Misleading benchmarks are out. Attentive, loving connection is in. Authentic discipline, guidance, virtue. These are what we want.

2. Bring kids everywhere. As a stay-at-home mom, I really want to break the taboo that forbids children from a lot of public places. Congressional Hall, for instance; libraries; nice restaurants; universities; art galleries; Target (they can come here, but they had better not touch anything); courtrooms; office buildings.

All the important places where adults get together and do important things are unofficial no-kid zones. Why is that? Surely many of the people participating must have children. Surely these people might be interested in sharing important things with their children.

I think it has a lot to do with that mindset of favoring only production. This production mindset says: “We can’t have kids here because kids have needs like eating and going to the bathroom, and we important adults can’t get distracted with that stuff because what we are doing is just so very important for all of us important adults.”

And that seems to make sense because our culture is very concerned with important adults and the things (and money) that they make. For this reason, we have compartmentalized society: the adults are on one side making, doing and saying important things. The kids are on the other side not interfering with the adults and simultaneously being trained to do important things, or so goes the narrative.

But perhaps this compartmentalization ought to be challenged. If we are indeed a unified society and children grow up to take over the reins, why exclude them? Why balk at the diaper changing mat?

So here is my one-woman revolution: there are lectures and conferences I would like to attend. I will attend them, and I will bring my baby. If she needs to be excused, I will take her out because I sincerely want all participants to benefit from the meeting. But as long as she is non-disruptive, why should she not come?

I saw this work very successfully at the Diocese of Arlington’s Risk Jesus event, which I attended with my baby. As did many mothers. All day long. It went just fine.

What if our society began to incorporate children? What if mothers and fathers could bring their kids to work? What if work places became learning places too? And corporate centers had playgrounds? What if CEOs taught leadership skills from 1:00-2:00pm to ten year olds right there in the building? What if engineers taught math? What if literature professors taught reading? What if people of all ages were seen as the rightful center of value, as different but beloved parts of a whole?

Well, for one thing, it would eliminate the stay-at-home vs. working-mom dilemma.

And it can start without policy changes or massive overhauls. A civilization of love can start with you bringing your baby to a lecture; you creating a curriculum of ideas you deeply value and sharing it with your children and your friends’ children. It starts with congresswomen bringing their children.

Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli is already doing it. She’s pictured above.

It starts with any of us. And the results could be staggering.


Reader Questions: Am I crazy? Where else is off-limits to children? What is the true purpose of society? And is it defensible to segregate the children and the elderly?

Growth vs. Stagnation: The Primary Challenge of Adulthood

It’s easy–painfully easy–to resort to established ways of doing things: patterns we’ve learned, methods we know. We already know how to do it–and it works. In everything from how we communicate, the style of clothes we wear, the movies and music we consume, the technology we utilize and especially in our thought heuristics, we tend to opt for what we know.

As an adult, the fatal temptation is to resort to only these established methods and become confined by them instead of helped.

It’s been seven years now since I completed my undergraduate degree. College makes it easy to learn: it’s a new environment which demands us to adapt. It’s full of stimulating and challenging courses, people and events. We are encouraged to try new things, travel, consider and reconsider. It feels exhilarating and mind-stretching to piece together one’s own worldview from fresh and exciting ideas and experiences.

Then comes graduation, a job, parenthood and adult life.

All those methods we learned, we stick to because they work and they helped us to learn and understand and do things quickly. Parents especially –I am one– have priorities (babies) that demand so much of our attention that expending extra time on finding new bands or reading a new book of philosophy or even driving a new route doesn’t always happen. Welcoming a baby is so demanding that we resort to those time-tested ways of knowing and doing that we’ve learned.

The temptation is to stick with what we know because it’s safe and it works. But this temptation is deadly: deadly to our souls, our intelligences, our Faith and our bodies.

In the book Dune, author Frank Herbert elaborates the prescient abilities of the hero Paul Muad’Dib:

Muad’Dib could indeed, see the Future, but you must understand the limits of this power. Think of sight. You have eyes, yet cannot see without light. If you are on the floor of a valley, you cannot see beyond your valley. Just so, Muad’Dib could not always choose to look across the mysterious terrain….And always, he fought the temptation to choose a clear, safe course, warning “That path leads ever down into stagnation.”

The clear, safe, easy path leads ever downward into stagnation, like the business man who keeps pursuing more money, more security, more promotions and wakes up at 45 years old to find his wife and children strangers.

Life is always changing. Attempting to force things to stay the same or expecting them to stay the same is a recipe for a shrinking consciousness. Even in faith. Karl Barth wanted to break Christians out of the old ruts of reading the Bible and have the Faithful see the vibrant, fresh living God-man who is Our Lord, Jesus Christ. From personal experience, we know that if we aren’t growing in the Faith through devotion, prayer, holy reading and otherwise, it’s easy to forget things. It’s easy to think that Jesus is the man we think He is. But Jesus is God; God is infinite and ultimately incomprehensible to man–that is we can never understand or know Him completely. But we can get closer the more we read, pray and act. God is always surprising us, as Pope Francis put it: “A God of surprises.” God is always calling us to go deeper, love more, give up more and follow Him more purely.

Earthly reality, as created by God, is like that too. We can never know or understand it all, but the more do learn, the more developed we become. The more open we will be to admitting that we don’t know it all and that we can learn A LOT from other people and other ways of thinking and doing.

I believe it is essential, imperative for all humans to always be developing and growing. Even for adults and parents. Even for those of us who have demanding priorities such as small children. I don’t mean that we have to go snowboarding then river rafting then coffee-tasting every weekend (those that’s a fine thing to do). I just mean that we should never give up our drive to learn and continue and set new goals.

If we don’t set new goals and grow, life becomes an empty sort of waiting for the end. That’s not a life any of us want or are called to. Even if we are bound to a bed, we can grow.

Further, we know that skills and expertise atrophy if they aren’t used. That’s why I reject the well-meaning sentiments of a lot of mom-sites that say, “don’t worry about this or that. It’s not the ‘season of life’ for that. You’ll have time later.” This is true when it comes to keeping an immaculate house. Parents of young children have a real struggle there. But when it comes to skills and development, that advise isn’t helpful. We can’t abandon a skill or knowledge set (such as drawing or politics) and expect it to be there fifteen years later when we have time again. There’s never time. Skills diminish in time. Do it now.

That being said, for the mom in me and for other moms, parenting is a hugely demanding and developmental moment if we let it be. It can teach us and stretch us further than we ever thought possible. It demands that we love selflessly and nurture a new life that we will one day have to relinquish to live on its own and make its own decisions. It’s a huge undertaking.

Yet in the midst of parenting, the parents can and will flourish by continuing their own development. It will make us better parents and caretakers and better spouses, (provided of course that we can order it properly to our vocation to Faith and family life).

As I thought about all this, it reminded me of Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development, which I learned in high school. For adults 40-65, he identifies the primary challenge as “generativity vs. stagnation.” He understands stagnation as “a dissatisfaction with the relative lack of productivity.” His his concept of generativity is a little different from mine of growth. For him, generativity specifically involves contributing to the next generations. That’s very important. I think it’s also important to note the importance of growth for our own individual well-being too. Creating, growing and developing turns us into the people we were meant to be as spouses, parents, children of God, artists, or whatever.

So we must grow boldly where we have never grown before. In order to be happy and in order to be the people God created us to be. It’s hard once the schooling ends, but it is all the more essential.

Up Next: three types of activities in life: creating, consuming, relating