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By Susannah Pearce, Integrated Catholic Life, May 8, 2018
Is “good enough” good enough when you’re raising a Catholic family? Colleen Duggan thinks so. And she ought to know! Colleen is a self-professed recovering type-A perfectionist, who has struggled in her quest to become the “perfect” Catholic mom of the “perfect” Catholic family. And she has succeeded – not in achieving perfection, but in learning that God is only asking her to live faithfully with all her imperfections to lead her imperfect family to the perfect love only God can offer.
Colleen shares the wisdom and peace she has gained through her fifteen years of parenting a large catholic family in her book, Good Enough Is Good Enough: Confessions of an Imperfect Catholic Mom (Ave Maria Press). Colleen’s story of acceptance and letting go is a welcome encouragement for those of us who don’t have it all together – so, pretty much every mother. I love her observation that it’s so easy to compare the inside of our family with the outside of someone else’s. Colleen doesn’t just stop at the usual, “everyone has their cross” line of encouragement, but focuses on the fact that the cross God gives you in the form of your particular family is the one through which you, your spouse, and your children are meant to become holy. And He will give the grace to carry it.
Part of the struggle is that our expectations of family life are formed by unrealistic examples presented by the various media and even the dishonest public image of friends who are also struggling. Most of us have been fed the fantasy that the fairy tale of romance ends in a perpetuity of “happily ever after.” In reality, marriage and family is something more like the Cinderella story run back to front. The royal wedding is followed by a big ball, children enter the story and the shiny coach you drive becomes a Cheerio and mouse filled pumpkin, your clothes go from elegant to dowdy, the people you live with treat you like a servant, and then your parents die.
We moms need to hear others honestly sharing their difficulties, discouragement, and discoveries of what works for them without judgement that if we just tried hard enough, we could make this work. Colleen’s book offers us this honest encouragement and compassion. She invites us to suffer with her through being the daughter of an alcoholic father, a surprisingly difficult transition from career to stay-at-home motherhood, the scary medical diagnosis of a child, many children in rapid succession, and coming to terms with the fact that she can’t control everything.
It is good to know we’re not in control! There is simply no way to make your family be the way you thought it was going to be. If yours is, you’re incredibly lucky that it worked out that way for you—because it’s probably not simply a result of your superior parenting skills.
The reality of raising a family feels something like riding a bicycle in a tornado, a feat bound to transform any woman into a witch! If you don’t want to be crushed by your household, you’re going to need a game plan that will work now and down the road. Try to keep up an impressive façade and you will inevitably be “found out” and want to shout, “Pay no attention to the woman behind the green curtain!” But, you don’t need a wizard to help you get home. You need to use a little brain, more heart and a lot of courage to hold the hand of God and realize that you are already home.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. When my friend recommended Good Enough is Good Enough, I figured that the very fact that Colleen Duggan wrote a book disqualifies her from understanding my own imperfect and scattered parenting experiences. And, please don’t be tempted to decide from the picture on her website (and the fact that she has a website) that a woman who knows how to accessorize couldn’t possibly understand that you are really just treading water. Trust me, she has been there and she’ll be there with you, holding your hand (well, metaphorically).
The book itself is slim enough to slip into your diaper bag or purse and read while you’re in the car line. It’s not daunting. Rather than chapter headings, Colleen has designated her five “confessions” about motherhood that will resonate with many mothers. They include: “I Don’t Know How to Master Motherhood,” “I Don’t Always Take Care of Myself as I Should,” “I Don’t Know How to Keep My Kids Catholic,” “I Don’t Like Watching My Children Suffer,” and “I Sometimes Compare Myself with Other Parents.” And, with a foreword by Lisa Hendy, founder of the “Catholic Mom” book series this one is part of, you’ll find something to love – and help you on your parenting path.
If you know a Type A mother, even if she seems to have it all together, or a mom who clearly doesn’t and frets about it, buy this book for her. Pastors, this would be a good one to recommend or give to mothers. I would go so far as to say if you know a couple planning their fairy tale wedding and happily-ever-after family life, make this book your bridal shower gift. She’s going to need it! And the sooner, the better.