“Finding Joy in Motherhood” | A Reflection from Janet Quinlan
As we celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States, we are pleased to share a reflection from Janet Quinlan, public speaker and marriage/parenting coach.
Janet Quinlan and her husband Michael have been married for 37 years. She’s the mother of 7, mother-in-law to 3, and “Grandma Jan” to 15. She holds a BA in Elementary Education from St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame with lifetime certification. She is a deep lover of the classical curriculum, The Great British Baking Show, and chocolate!
When I was a young wife and mother, expecting our fourth child, I found myself on a silent retreat learning about sanctifying my ordinary life. I had always thought that holy people – saints – were those called to the religious or priestly life. The idea that God called me right where I was with this husband and these children and the constant dirty dishes, dirty diapers, and dirty bathrooms was literally life altering. It gave meaning to who I was and what I was doing day in and day out.
I have always been a practicing Catholic, but the idea that I could become a saint as I lived my ordinary life challenged me to live a more fulfilling and active relationship with God and seek to be a better wife to my husband Michael and mother to our children.
I began with offering up my day to Him. The crying babies, loneliness because of my husband’s long work hours, and the isolation that often accompanies motherhood became my prayer offered back to God. When it became my prayer, it wasn’t so difficult to endure. At the same time as I gave meaning to the suffering aspects of motherhood, I also found myself noticing the joys more. I truly became the mother that God wanted me to be – not the mother that the world so often depicts.
I increased my attendance at mass to include some days of the week. It wasn’t easy to bring small children to mass during the week, but we always ended with a donut so that made the ones who behaved especially happy (and taught the ones who didn’t behave how important quiet was at mass).
My husband and I began family prayers as I began my own prayer life. I started small – 10 minutes a day usually when the children went down for naps. At nighttime, we all met as a family and prayed for our intentions and thanked God for all our blessings.
I also realized pretty quickly that if I’m not taking care of myself in all areas – physically, mentally, and spiritually – I have nothing to offer to my husband and children. So, I embraced the idea of a plan of life – the routine I would implement to make sure I took care of myself in those three areas.
The first area was my relationship with God. I participated in evenings of recollection and retreats where I learned how to sanctify my daily life. I put in my routine my prayer times and spiritual reading times. They were planned first in my day. I took seriously that my motherhood was my profession and so I had to give priority to ‘professional development’, if you will, which was my prayer and study of my faith.
I also understood that my role in creating our home was more than merely laundress, cook, and housekeeper. To create a home there needed to be love and joy infused into all those tasks. It wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies every day, but more often than not, with the help of my understanding of ‘vocation’ I showed up differently as the heart of our home.
The world wants mothers to think that motherhood is hard, unfulfilling, and something to endure rather than enjoy. I find it sad that so many women long to have a baby and then immediately go into “hot-mess mom” mode. They’re overwhelmed and lack practical skills and the right mindset to see that their motherhood has the potential to change society.
When our children were young, we were careful to keep Christ at the center of our family – He was another member as sure as the seven children were. We wanted our children to fall in love with Jesus – not fear Him or be left with a sterile experience of facts and truths. We brought Him alive in our home through the natural rhythm of the liturgical year. We often discussed the lives of the saints and the kind of faith and courage it took to live a life of faith.
As my own children became adults, I began to realize how many women struggled with not having the practical skills, the empowering mindset, and the foundation of an understanding of motherhood as a higher calling, I realized that God was calling me to reach out to those women and share the message that changed my life. We all need mentors – coaches – to help us through unchartered territories. As an older woman now, who has been through the thick of motherhood, I believe God has given me the learned wisdom to inspire, educate, and help other women in their journey and to give them the tool that will change their motherhood – to see their motherhood as a calling from God.
On my blog and in my podcast, Finding Joy in Motherhood, I give practical tools to creating a home that is orderly, joyful, and full of faith. I teach them how to love their husbands better and discipline their children with love and respect. I also help moms with their mindset – life coaching, if you will – as so much of our actions depend on what we’re thinking about our circumstances. In this world where negative thoughts are easy to hear, my work helps moms work through their thoughts to find what serves them and brings them joy. You may know how to clean your home, but if your mind is telling you, “What’s the use? It will just get dirty again”, you’ll procrastinate and live in a cluttered, dirty home. I want to help moms choose thoughts that serve them, encourage them, and give them positive results.
As Pope St. John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.” My hope and prayer is that my work will change the lives of women and help them see the tremendous impact they have in the world – beginning with responding to the call from God to embrace our motherhood with joy and confidence.