As a new mom, I’ve got a hankering for all the honest conversation I can get on this parenting gig. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel such immense pressure out there on moms to be a certain way, look a certain way, act a certain way, and for the love of all things holy, hold their young kids to the same impossible standards or else. The friends I value the most are the ones who just tell me like it is, and support and encourage me through the times when my life is anything but perfect.
I’ve been lucky to have one such friend for a long time now. I knew Colleen Duggan since I was a young punk squirt, probably 11 or 12. She and her husband John, fairly recently married at the time, served as our Catholic youth group leaders when I was in high school. They were people I could look up to, but were also still young enough to be considered cool. When I found myself in DC at 22 and living not too far from them, I reconnected with them for Thanksgiving. It was like home away from home. Since then, I’ve made it back their way several times to be part of their delightfully chaotic brood, eventually bringing along a guy named Nick, and then a baby named Evelyn. I always loved watching and hearing how two imperfect Catholic parents tried their best to love and nurture 6 vastly different kiddos and stay sane in the process. Seeing the action has certainly helped me shape more reasonable expectations of my own family life.
So imagine my thrill when Colleen let me know she was writing a book: Good Enough is Good Enough: Confessions of an Imperfect Catholic Mom. Uh yes please! Throughout her book as she always has in person, this friend had me laughing and crying at her honesty, and enjoying how refreshing it is to hear a Catholic mom just tell it like it is – straight up, no chaser. An imperfect life with imperfect people who are all still trying to be saints.
There is a tendency in Catholic circles to focus solely on the good at all times, of holding impossible standards, and maintaining a certain pleasing appearance. The need for the honest truth like the kind Colleen shares is desperately needed because let’s face it, veneers come off, and standards aren’t always met. So what do we do then? We moms have the toughest gig around, and we need to hear that we aren’t the only ones who have days where not killing the kids is a heroic feat worthy of praise. We need to know that someone else is struggling too and maybe hear how she was able to work through it, or might still be struggling through it. There’s such a beauty and strength that comes from that kind of solidarity, and that’s exactly what this book offers.
Time and time again Colleen makes it plain that she has persevered in motherhood and her faith with a lot of help. Whew! Thank God I’m not the only one who can’t do it alone!Her stories are vivid and relatable and the lessons she learns are simple, insightful and useful to all us girls who’ve defied physics in birthing a kid. And her secret is simple – regular frequent confession. There just might be hope for me yet!
If there is an exhortation in Good Enough it is something we all need to hear – have a little mercy on yourself and those around you. I’m a sinner, I’m imperfect, I’m weak. But so are we all. Luckily, we are exactly the kinds of instruments that God wants to use, in fact the only kind He chooses to use. Our families all look different and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. Just as there are infinite types of saints who all ended up in Heaven, there are infinite types of family life that direct us there as well.
All you moms out there – indulge a little this Easter season. Go buy this book. Let the dishes soak, leave the laundry be, send the kids out to play or go down for a nap, they’ll all be fine. Then settle down to some well-deserved time for yourself with Good Enough. You’ll thank me when you do.