Babies: Bringing out the Mary in us

Babies take up so much time, energy, and money — not to mention that they are generally very messy. A Martha would avoid this. But there is something about a baby that encourages us to be more Mary-like, and without too much effort. Just as Mary of Bethany wanted to stay at Jesus’ feet and gaze into His eyes, so mothers love just holding their babies in their arms and staring into their eyes. The housework can definitely wait for this!

Children as blessings

When the Bible tells us that children are blessings, it’s clear that God means this in several different ways. When Keith and I first became Catholic after the birth of our third child, we met an old Spanish priest who fondly told us, “Every baby comes into the world with a loaf of bread under his arms.” It sounded much better in Spanish. But the point he was making is that God blesses parents with the means to provide for their children. When we have looked back at the births of all of our children, we can see very concrete examples of how this was so. My husband has had better jobs, promotions, and even financial gifts curiously coinciding with several of our pregnancies.

Another important way that children are blessings, as I just mentioned, is that they — especially babies — cause us to be like Mary. This has certainly been true in my case. Generally, I’m a go, go, go person. I don’t stop. Even though I try to take my own lessons seriously, I still find it hard to slow down. But guess what happens to every woman when she is pregnant? She eventually has to slow down.

Some of us slow down right from the start — with morning sickness. Others slow down gradually, even those who are very fit. Sure, we often whine and complain about this, and we can take advantage of others who sympathize with us during our pregnancy. What is better, however, is when we truly embrace the opportunity to become more contemplative of the most important things in life, to become more like Mary. Being physically depleted, we can just sit (or lie down) at the feet of Christ and listen to Him. We can also sit and listen to our children. When I am pregnant, I try to use the opportunity to read more books to my kids and play more board games. Keith and I watch more movies together. We also talk more about what we want for our family. In fact, everything can slow down if we let it — and in the process, the most important things of family life naturally come to the fore.

Once the baby comes, we have recovery time, which is more “forced” Mary time. This time is graced with the presence of a new person. Now we really have time to take it slow, and to give our attention to this other, new, wonderful human being in our lives.

After we fully recover and are back in action, that baby still beckons us to slow down and pay attention to him. Babies wake us at night. They need their diapers changed. They need to be held and rocked. And one of the best opportunities to be like Mary: they need to be nursed. All of these actions call us to put our busy Martha schedule aside and simply pay attention to the baby.

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One might think that in a Smart Martha baby chapter, I would spend the majority of the chapter suggesting timesaving devices such as baby swings and pacifiers. Not that there is anything wrong with these, but I wouldn’t necessarily deem them as Smart Martha-worthy. A Smart Martha knows the delicate balance between being present to her baby and getting her other work done. A Smart Martha knows that she should use those Mary moments that babies present to get to know her baby — and God — better. She knows that sometimes a fussy baby or wakeful baby is an opportunity not only to be present with the baby, but perhaps also an opportunity to be present to Christ in prayer. When babies are received with this outlook — as opportunities to be like Mary and to look to Jesus — one can see a whole other way that babies are truly blessings.

Tami Kiser is the mother of 10 children, runs the Smart Martha ministry, teaches dance classes, and teaches NFP for her parish.

This is an excerpt from "Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms."