The Best Service Opportunity for New Moms

As Christians, we are taught to serve others in need.  Compassion is ingrained in us from the time we are young children, and by attending church or listening to Christian radio, we are provided with a multitude of examples of how the world around us needs our help.  Sometimes we are asked to give money to far off missions, donate clothing or time to a local homeless shelter, teach English to immigrants, or simply help salt the sidewalks of the church on a snowy day.  Service is one of the pillars of our faith, but when Bugaboo came along, I was struggling to find a way.

 

When Cash Donations Are Difficult

When my husband and I were DINKs (Dual Income No Kids), we were able to donate money to our favorite charities.  With the extra income, we had a lot of flexibility in who we donated to and how much.  We were able to take advantage of corporate matching programs to help our money go farther.  Our jobs kept us extremely busy to the point we couldn’t commit to much physical service.  So when the Boy Scouts asked us to buy their overpriced popcorn, we had the flexibility to get a box.

Looking back, I’m humbled by what we were able to accomplish.  I miss the days when we could give without thinking (too much).  We had to start cutting back even before Bugaboo; when we got the twins I had taken a lower paying job, and we had to readjust everything.  But when Bugaboo came and I left the workforce entirely, we sat sadly in front of our computer looking over the monthly budget.  We could still give our 10% to the church and charity – that was non-negotiable.  But we couldn’t keep donating as we had before.

In addition to not being a good option for a single income family, donating money was starting to wear me down.  Writing a check to a charity to help someone that you will never meet doesn’t feel real.  Although you can logically state that you are helping people, you never meet the people you are helping.  You are not actively involved in their lives, looking them in the eye and telling them that it’s okay.  You’re not standing with them when they relapse or display difficult temperaments.  And you don’t grow in love because of it.

Service in the Small Ways

So before Bugaboo came along, I tried a few other service opportunities, assuming they fit with my personality.  Since I was a convert and worked better with people one on one, I tried being a sponsor for a Catholic going through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults).  Although I enjoyed going through the program again, I could tell it wasn’t a fit for me – I didn’t seem to be helping.  And, of course, it didn’t feel like we did anybody much good when we became foster parents.

Shortly after Bugaboo was born, I went to church, and they were asking for volunteers to put crosses on the front lawn.  It was then I had an epiphany.  I remembered how I used to volunteer at my church in college.  I would stack chairs, play the piano, help fill the communion trays, anything.  As soon as I heard of a service opportunity, I was signing up.  Certainly I could do the same at Holy Cross!  There were no chairs to stack or communion trays to fill, but there must be ample opportunities to do little everyday things around the church.

Not My Time

Then I looked down at the little baby sleeping in her basket.  No, I couldn’t help put crosses out.  And I couldn’t decorate the church for the changing liturgical seasons.  In fact, I couldn’t really do much of anything.  I had Bugaboo in my care 24 hours a day.  My husband could watch her sometimes, but his work schedule didn’t allow for regular evenings off.  My heart sank as I pondered all the other service opportunities I would have to miss.  I couldn’t help sort cans at the food bank.  Nor could I stuff envelopes at the pregnancy crisis center.

I was so confused.  Aren’t stay at home moms as the hidden grease that keep the wheels of society running?  Didn’t their little efforts behind the scene, all their volunteerism, amount to billions of dollars worth of productivity every year.  Could caring for a baby really keep me from serving others?

The answer was, yes it could.  Some day down the road Bugaboo will be in school, and then, if I don’t return to work, I will have time to help out.  In fact, I would probably find that life was a little shallow if I didn’t give back in some way.  But it just isn’t my time to start to get involved.

Lipase

A few weeks later, Bugaboo was struggling to take a bottle that we had brought on vacation.  I smelled the milk – something seemed wrong.  When I returned home and asked a lactation consultant, she suggested I had lipase in my milk.  Lipase is an enzyme that can make milk smell or taste funny after being stored or frozen.  The milk has not gone bad, but it may taste funny, and a baby may not accept it.

I learned to give Bugaboo a mix of fresh milk and frozen milk, which she took.  This strategy saved my frozen supply from being totally lost, but it left me pumping the entire time Bugaboo was nursing: I always needed some fresh milk on hand to mix with her bottle.

The lipase also ended my dreams of donating milk.  What good is donating milk that a baby won’t take?  (I have since learned that some babies and mothers will accept high lipase milk; however, by the time I learned this, I had stopped pumping as much and so my over supply dwindled and disappeared).

A Fresh Perspective

So there I was, unable to be of service to anyone.  I couldn’t donate money, I couldn’t donate time, and I couldn’t donate milk.  How was I supposed to be a good Christian if I couldn’t help others?

Then I realized that Bugaboo was an “other.”  There’s no reason taking care of your own family and giving them the best you have shouldn’t be considered service.  It doesn’t feel like charity because it feels like something we should be doing anyway.  Unfortunately there are lots of mothers out there who don’t do right by their children.  I realized that by loving Bugaboo and making little daily sacrifices for her, I was also growing closer to God.  I was taking care of one of his precious creatures.  Even though she isn’t starving or begging on the streets, she still needs my help.

I realized that one of the sacrifices I was making for her was sacrificing my selfish desire to help others.  Yes, my selfish desire.  Who was I to determine in what capacity I should best serve God?  I had been striking out at so many service opportunities because I was trying to force myself into this service box I had constructed for myself.  I wasn’t even thinking about what God’s plans for me were.  At the moment, it appears God wants me in the capacity of a mother.  It was as if He put lipase in my milk to teach me humility.  Slow down.  He said.  Stop, cherish your daughter, and make being her mom your mission.

A Mom’s Mission

My mission.  To be the best mom I can be to Bugaboo.  Help her grow up healthy and well-loved.  Show her the world and teach her as much as I can, especially about our faith.  Be a parent to any siblings that come along.  Be interested in what she is interested in.  Be present.  Do what she wants to do.  Show her right from wrong.  And, in general, give up of myself in favor of what she needs.

Right now Bugaboo is little and innocent and really needs my help.  One of these days, she will want to get out on her own, and I can teach her the importance of Christian service.  But for now, I will cherish these good old days serving her.

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