When I was asked to join a small faith-sharing group over 10 years ago, I didn’t know if I really had the time. With two little kids at the time and a part time job, I felt my plate was full and I didn’t really need the fellowship. However, in hindsight it was one of the best things I could have done for my faith life. What started as seven women around a kitchen table grew into a group of over 40 women from multiple parishes who became friends as we talked about faith, life and family. I received support that I didn’t even know I was missing!
Emily was part of our group and since these friendships meant so much to us, ten years later we wrote both Divine Mercy for Moms and The Friendship Project and included videos, a study guide and tips to facilitating a group so other women could experience what we did.
Today we are delighted to share about a new book and group study for moms by our friend and fellow author Colleen Duggan; Good Enough is Good Enough: Confessions of an Imperfect Catholic Mom, the newest Catholicmom.com book.
Colleen and I have been chatting since this book was in its infancy on how it can be most helpful to moms, and she has made it a priority to include group study questions (and had them mom-tested) so you can read and study this book side by side with all your mom friends. Today as part of the official book launch and blog tour, I’m excited to share an interview I did with Colleen, who shares about what you’ll find inside this amazing new book.
Can you share with our readers a little but about yourself?
Like most women today, I wear many hats, sometimes all at once!
I’m a writer, speaker, Director of the Women’s ministry at my parish, a teacher, a wife, and an always busy mom of six.
What was your inspiration for Good Enough is Good Enough?
In an interview entitled The Moment Author Glennon Melton Doyle Realized There Was No Room For Brutal Honesty During Playdates, Glennon recalls her statement to an acquaintance who asked how Doyle felt about being a stay at home mom. She responded:
“OK, so I don’t know a lot about science but I know that there’s two different kinds of volcanoes. The first volcano is an active volcano and the second one is a dormant one. The dormant volcano looks calm on the outside, but inside, she’s bubbling with boiling hot lava that at any moment could just explode and kill everyone in the vicinity. That’s how I feel as a stay-at-home mom all day,’” Glennon says. “And, by the way, that’s perfect. That’s exactly how it feels.”
When she finished talking, the other mother looked at Doyle, wide eyed and silent. Glennon immediately realized the mother wasn’t really asking for the truth about her maternal experience but for a superficial version of it.
Never mind, Doyle said in order to try to “fix” her inaccurate assessment of the conversation, “…what I really meant is that I just love every minute of it. I hate when they sleep, I just stare at them. And I think if there’s one word that would describe how I feel as a mother, it would be fulfilled.”
Doyle’s story is one of the biggest reasons I wrote this book!
Like Doyle, there have been many times when I’ve been looking to share my heart with another mom about the challenges I’ve encountered as a Catholic parent and instead of encouragement, I’ve been met with advice and judgement.
Catholic parents always have the idea of spiritual perfection floating around in our brains so if we hear another parent admit to legitimate human struggle and sin, we tend to over spiritualize situations, tell them how to “fix” the problem, or even judge them for their “poor” Catholic identity.
Sometimes, instead of simply listening and acknowledging what the person is saying, we offer unhelpful “encouragement” and “solutions.” The consequence is we unintentionally invalidate the experiences and challenges people have, leaving them alienated, isolated and misunderstood.
Through my work in women’s ministry and through my own personal healing, however, I’ve come to recognize that everyone struggles in marriage and parenting.
Often, however, we don’t feel safe talking about those trials.
We are guarded, tightlipped and refrain from seeking the emotional and spiritual support we could really use because we’ve had bad experiences when we’ve shared or because we are afraid we will shock others with our familial dysfunction.
We paste happy smiles on our faces even though we are thirsty for authentic conversation about our challenges, hopes, and dreams for our families. We suffer silently while simultaneously longing to know how to improve our situations or seek healing.
I wanted to write an honest book that identified some of the inner turmoil many parents face but are afraid to discuss. I wanted to write a book that gave parents permission to talk about the joys and struggles of Catholic parenting. I wanted women to feel as if they weren’t alone so that they could get on with the process of healing and doing God’s will instead of staying stuck with profound wounds. I wrote this book so that parents might know, “Hey, I don’t always know the correct course of action for my family and that’s ok. I can rely on Jesus to direct me and the Church, in her wisdom, to support me. I don’t have to have all the answers because Jesus does. I can trust him to guide me.”
One of my favorite topics I read about in the book is what you describe as being a mommy martyr. I think many of us can relate to doing this in our motherhood. Can you share a little bit about what that means and what you reflected on in Good Enough is Good Enough?
Shortly after I had my sixth baby, I met my husband, John, at the door after he had come home from work.
It had been a rough day: I was homeschooling a few kids, I had a newborn, I felt my postpartum pregnancy hormones surging, my house was sacked, everyone was hungry, and I was dripping liquid from every orifice of my body, especially my tear ducts.
I had a complete emotional meltdown while John stood in the doorway.
I ranted and raved and blamed John because I hadn’t showered in three days.
(Don’t I sound like a delightful roommate?)
My husband looked at me and said, “Why is it my fault you haven’t showered?”
I was mad at myself because I had allowed my familial duties to overshadow basic self care. I served and waited on everyone else until I was way past my breaking point and then I got mad at everyone because I didn’t know my own limits.
This is an extreme example, but I think mothers struggle all the time with knowing how to meet our own personal needs (spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental) while serving our family. There are certain seasons where self-care is more difficult (like right after having a baby) but even once life settles a bit, some women compulsively worry about being selfish. Sometimes our fear causes us to overcompensate, focus our attention exclusively on those around us while we neglect our own care completely.
This is dangerous and counterproductive in our vocations.
Care-taking can become a form of idolatry and a backwards way of getting my needs met. If I’m not careful, I can spend my days, weeks, months, and years focusing on other people to such a degree that I completely overlook my own humanity. It is not my husband’s job to make sure I take care of myself. It is my job.
I am a human being, not a human doing.
In the book, I write:
“We live in a frantic culture with constant stimulus overload. Couple the cultural norm of frenzied living with a Christian desire to serve our families first, and in my experience, you get parents who are overburdened, and burned out. You get Catholics who desire to sacrifice everything for their families, including their very selves, but who in reality have very little to give.
In an effort to hypercorrect the anthem touted by the world that wails, “Do whatever you want and whatever feels good,” we deny ourselves in unhealthy ways and overlook our natural interests because we cannot justify the perceived self-indulgence in the face of our own parental responsibilities. We can even be lax about our own prayer lives, postponing what our souls need to survive. There is always work to be done or a familial need to be filled so we often put off what we most need—whether it is human, social, emotional, or spiritual—in order to continue our vocational work. But we can’t give what we don’t have so our work suffers and lags and becomes burdensome.
Many Catholic parents, I’m afraid, are out of gas.”
In the book, I talk about how important it is to identify hobbies or activities that personally renew us so that we can relish our humanity as well as continue to be effective in our vocational responsibilities.
Your journey is one of receiving God’s healing love and mercy. I find in working in women’s ministry, so many women carry their brokenness and are burdened by them. How can they start the healing process?
In my work at my parish, I see the same type of brokenness you mention. If we desire to fulfill God’s will for us, it is vital to address the woundedness that keeps us from living fully.
That being said, healing is not a linear process. It’s like the often-used onion metaphor: we, through the help of God’s grace, must slowly peel away the various layers of self-protection and coping mechanisms we’ve developed over time in order to discover the core—the truth—of who we are: that we are God’s beloved children.
This takes time and work and patience. It’s not something that happens overnight.
For myself, I’ve found several things helpful in peeling the layers of my own onion. Please don’t allow these suggestions to overwhelm you; this list of resources I’ve used didn’t happen for me overnight. I’ve assembled a team of supportive people over a decade, but all of them have been fundamental to healing, greater faith, and personal growth.
- Daily prayer: this looks different for everyone, but this is definitely a non-negotiable aspect of my day. For me, quiet time where I meditate with the scriptures and journal is the cornerstone of my life.
- Counseling can be inconvenient and expensive, but having a trained therapist help me identify my emotions, dysfunctional coping mechanisms, as well as suggest new behaviors has been life changing for me.
- Spiritual Direction: The job of a spiritual director is to help me sort out my relationship with God, not to give me advice or fix my problems. The director guides me in noticing the workings of the Holy Spirit in my life and to sort out the best kinds of prayer routines that best serve to enhance my relationship with God. If you desire to find a good spiritual director, Father Larry Richards suggests thinking about a priest who loves the Eucharist. If they are reverent and devoted to Jesus through the Sacrament, they will probably be a good help to you. This tip has proven true for me: good spiritual directors truly love Christ in the Eucharist. Over the years, I have prayed for a spiritual director and while sometimes God answered my prayer slower than I would have liked, I eventually have found solid directors who have truly helped me in my spiritual life.
- Unbound prayer: You can learn more about this type of prayer service from Neal Lozano’s book Unbound and from is website, Heart of the Father. Unbound is a prayer ministry dedicated to healing and deliverance and has been vital to me in identifying and rooting out certain character defects like self-sufficiency and anger. If you struggle with certain habitual sins and patterns of negative thinking, I highly recommend checking out this ministry to aid in seeking greater freedom from in the chains that tie us down.
- Al-Anon: A twelve step program designed to help people who have lived with alcoholism in their lives. The program has given me practical tools to apply in my interpersonal relationships.
What do you hope women will learn from this book?
In John 3 verse says, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
I hope women will use this book as an opportunity to bring their own ugly to the light, to examine it with God’s help, and then give the ugly to Him to do with as He wants. I hope women will learn to be gentle with themselves and with their family members while never never failing to look to Jesus, His Church, and the Sacraments for healing and help.
Good Enough is Good Enough offers reflection questions at the end of each chapter for personal or group study. How do you see book being used?
So glad you asked!
I wrote a small faith sharing group companion study, which makes Good Enough Is Good Enough an excellent group or individual resource. In fact, we implemented a pilot program of the book at my parish and it was so successful, the ladies didn’t want it to end! The women who participated felt comfortable sharing their hearts, challenges, and insecurities and we all learned from our encounter.
I highly recommend this book for a group setting, especially if you want to talk about the hard things you face in life but never feel like there is a safe place to do it! To download the free guide, visit my website!
Order Good Enough is Good Enough through Ave Maria Press get a 20% off discount with coupon code COLLEEN through May 1, 2018