I can remember the moment when, while on a trip with my young family, I first had the thought, “A vacation isn’t really a vacation when you have small children.” Parents out there, I can only assume that you relate!
A trip with children can be loads of fun, but some of the key components of my ideal vacations include sleeping in, relaxing for hours at a stretch with a good book, and having the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want. These, at least in my family, are not components of our vacations any longer.
Of course, I wouldn’t trade my vocation as a mother and my precious toddlers for all the vacations in the world, and I know that the unrelenting nature of parenting small children is just a phase of life. Even still, I cannot help but wistfully long for a purely relaxing vacation from time to time, and the truth is that I feel the same way about weekends every now and then as well.
I particularly long for a Sunday that truly feels like a day of rest, instead of yet another day in which I awaken to my children’s cries, refill their sippy cups what feels like countless times throughout the day, and spend our Sunday church service on edge as I hope and pray that they stay quiet enough for me to remain in the sanctuary.
But while Sundays don’t exactly feel like an entire day of rest for me at this phase of life, they still feel absolutely holy. Because while rest often leads to the experience of the holy, holiness doesn’t solely depend on rest.
Here are a few of the ways that I honor the fourth commandment and keep the sabbath day holy, even as the work of motherhood is unceasing.
1. I Don’t Multi-task
While I’m pretty bad at multi-tasking when any of the tasks in consideration involve mental acuity (reading, having a conversation), I have no problem doubling up on various household and mothering tasks. For instance, after sitting my toddlers down at the table with their toast and frozen blueberries, I’ll fold laundry in the adjacent laundry room, or sit at the table with them and meal plan.
While they play in the family room, I’ll dust the furniture in the room, or sort through their toy baskets. While they are in the bathtub, I’ll clean the toilet or do a little decluttering in one of the bathroom cabinets.
But, I don’t do any of this multitasking on Sundays. On Sundays, I feed and watch and bathe my children, and as I engage in these efforts of motherhood, I hold still.
As I hold still, and rest in the present moment, I am more apt to catch glimpses of the little wonders always happening around me: the way my daughters share food with one another, the way the morning light catches on the kitchen table, the concentration in the eyes of my one and a half year old as she dresses her stuffed bunny. These little wonders are holy — they are God at work — and I catch them by saying no to multitasking, by resting in the moment.
2. I Steal an Hour Away For Myself
Sometime on Sunday, usually in the afternoon while at least one child is napping, my husband and I swap out on taking an hour for ourselves. We typically do this on Saturdays and other days off as well, and these little slices of time go a long way in nourishing my heart and mind.
The difference between my Sunday hour and other ones, though, is that I only use the sabbath hour for prayer, spiritual reading, reflection and journaling. (Okay, sometimes I cannot help myself and I nap; what can I say? Meditation often leads to naps for me.) The hour itself is refreshing, but it also impacts the rest of the day, and the rest of the week, even.
Often a thought that comes up in prayer during this hour will stick with me for the next few days, and I’m always grateful to have had this quiet time.
3. I Listen to Spiritual Music
For me, music has always felt like an instant portal to connection with God, and I have a whole gamut of spiritual and religious playlists on my Spotify account, from “Lenten favorites” to “Cheerful religious” to “Calming Catholic.”
I listen to these playlists all the time, not just on Sundays. But on Sundays, I make a concerted effort to only listen to music that is going to feel like prayer when I sing along with it.
4. I Pause to Contemplate
Do you ever feel like the Catholic art on your walls just becomes a part of the walls, and that it is easy to forget that it’s there? I do. On Sundays (and other days, too, but Sundays especially), I try to pay more attention.
When I pass the crucifix hanging in our hallway, I stop and look closely at the face of Jesus; I remember the enduring love that led to his being hung on the cross, and I give thanks for it.
As I set a book down on my nightstand, I take in the statue of Mary resting there; I recall her humility and her openness and I pray that I might cultivate these virtues in my life.
A total day of rest might not be a possibility with small children (or ever, for that matter; a person has to eat!), but that doesn’t mean that I can’t honor the fourth commandment at this phase of my life. These small practices have helped me to do just that: to mark the day as holy in small but impactful ways.