Kids don’t come with instruction manuals, but a new guide for Catholic moms might come close.
Tangibly, it examines balancing the idea of being “Catholic,” “working” and a mom. JoAnna Wahlund, a mother of six on earth ages 2 to 12 and parishioner at St. Clare of Assisi in Surprise, has spent nearly five years examining that delicate dance via a closed Facebook group dedicated to the topic. It’s an English-based — but international — community that currently has almost 6,200 members, including at least 15 that are identifiable in Arizona.
The idea of a related book emerged around 2015 alongside a proposal for it, but the Holy Spirit, a miscarriage, a new kid and, of course, work, sidelined it. By the time a book proposal was re-worked and officially accepted, Wahlund was no longer employed.
Fortunately, the group has defined “working mothers” from the onset to include both those professionally employed and those who work to raise the kids and keep order in the domestic church while freelancing or working from home. Wahlund still writes for Patheos and is open to freelancing while seeking full-time work. What’s more, that same week, her husband interviewed and received a job that essentially covered the finances Wahlund would no longer receive.
“That was kind of the answer to my prayer: ‘How am I supposed to find the time to write this book?’” Wahlund told The Catholic Sun during Holy Week. She offered a novena to St. Gianna Molla, one of the group’s patrons, before she submitted the book proposal asking to find time to write it.
Author: JoAnna Wahlund
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor
Length: 160 pages
Release Date: May 2019
“The Catholic Working Mom’s Guide to Life” is due out May 28, but available for pre-order now. The 160-page book is part academic — touching on a Catholic mom’s need for community, discernment on working, finding peace in the situation and Church teaching on the subject — and part practical advice covering home management, pregnancy in the workplace, pumping on the job, discerning childcare, single moms, time for self-care and the like.
“I’m not an expert at that by any means, … but, basically, it’s here are some tips and here is what has worked for them,” Wahlund said.
The book is compiled wisdom gleaned from the virtual Catholic Working Mothers group. It averages 100 new members per month and passed the 6,000-member mark earlier this year.
Topics run the gamut: their children’s school issues, general parenting struggles — especially newborn sleep patterns — general human resources advice and prayer requests. “Miss Eva,” as she is lovingly known, gets quite a few of the latter. She is the toddler of one of the group moderators and her mom posts almost weekly prayer requests on their way into the Adoration chapel.
Wahlund said the book is for “any Catholic mother who is either trying to discern what her path should be in terms of employment or who is working and struggling with that or trying to find peace with that.”
She hopes to leave the reader in peace about their working situation. “I want them to have more confidence that they’re doing what God is asking them to do,” Wahlund said.
For non-moms who might thumb through it, Wahlund hopes to give them a better perspective of the Catholic working mom’s struggle. There is still some thought in Catholic circles that moms shouldn’t work outside the home, especially if the kids are young, she explained.
“It’s something we really need to fight against because it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Some people have no choice. Some people it’s either ‘I work or we’re homeless. I work or we starve to death.’” Wahlund’s family was once in that boat.
Some Catholic moms have a secular vocation to fill via employment, Wahlund said, noting St. Gianna Molla. Saints like Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and John Paul II praised women who work. Readers will find such names in a chapter within “The Catholic Working Mom’s Guide to Life” highlighting saintly parents who worked.
Some parishes forget the reality of Catholic parents who work and schedule parent activities on a late weekday morning, Wahlund said. The Catholic Sun found one local parish is launching a moms group in August poised to meet at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday. There is a survey, however, asking about meeting time preference. Wahlund understands parishes can’t cater to everyone’s schedule, but trying a parent-based ministry monthly on a Saturday could help with attendance and discipleship.
Lisa Lukaszewski, a friend of Wahlund’s, a fellow Catholic working mom and member of the group, would likely see the wisdom in that. She pointed out that many teachers are Catholic working moms. That includes Lukaszewski. She teaches physical education at St. Catherine of Siena and has seven kids ages 6 to 22 years old.
She and Wahlund are godparents to at least one of each other’s children. They met after Wahlund and her husband volunteered to help with marriage preparation at St. Clare where Lukaszewski’s husband works. Despite the close connection, she is waiting with the rest of the public to get a copy of Wahlund’s book.
Lukaszewski knows readers will relate to her friend’s zealous love of the faith, collective struggles as a working mom and down-to-earth way of sharing them.
“There’s a lot of ‘these are my challenges’ that women post about sometimes and ‘these are my successes,’” Lukaszewski said. “Just being a great support to each other is a real blessing.”
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