Challenging the “Mediocrity” of Catholic Motherhood

The vocation of raising a family and especially that of a stay-at-home mother has, in our day and age, become almost a fate worse than death. There is an idea that your twenties are a time for wild (and naughty) fun, and it’s not until your thirties that you turn boring, “resigning” yourself to marriage […]

Challenging the “Mediocrity” of Catholic Motherhood

The vocation of raising a family and especially that of a stay-at-home mother has, in our day and age, become almost a fate worse than death. There is an idea that your twenties are a time for wild (and naughty) fun, and it’s not until your thirties that you turn boring, “resigning” yourself to marriage and kids. But Catholic mom Bridget Workman views her story differently, and her life proves otherwise; her story is not “boring” nor is her life confining. She sees it as expressing an arc that naturally arises from her pursuit of the Transcendentals.

Bridget graduated with a BA in liberal arts from Wyoming Catholic College in 2015. When she visited the college in high school, she experienced the horsemanship program and knew right away that it was a fit. “From the daily opportunity of Mass and Adoration to the discussions of Plato while paddling down a river on an outdoor trip, it formed my love of living fully in each aspect of my life,” Bridget says. She loved how the school integrated the curriculum with encounters with nature. Bridget reflects that WCC’s Outdoor Leadership Program gave her the perspective that “doing hard things is not only worth it, but makes me grow in ways I won’t see till years down the road.”

This time in nature and lessons learned from it aided her immediately. Bridget spent her first summer after college working as a crew member aboard a 100-foot classic wooden yacht in the Seattle area. Cruising up and down the southern portion of the Inside Passage along the coast of British Columbia, the hardworking crew would “start at 0600 and sometimes not finish till 2300.” Bridget recalls, “our days were filled with prepping meals, washing dishes, stripping beds, restocking the cooler, polishing brass, anchoring, keeping watch on the bow, and taking turns at the helm.” The days were long.

But it wasn’t all grueling. In the evenings, Bridget and the ship’s captain would play music for the owner and his family; “he on his keyboard, and I on my violin.” On afternoon breaks, the crew would kayak along the inlets, watching the sun sparkle across the ripples of the water. “I constantly marveled at the grandeur of God.” She made time to reflect on His Beauty despite the busy schedule.

Back on the mainland for the school year, Bridget worked as a nanny. She enjoyed it and learned from it, but the ocean beckoned, and she rejoined the boating crew the following summer. After the second summer ended, the owner appreciated her help so much that he requested to have her on the boat each summer! To employ Bridget throughout the rest of the year, he created a full-time position in his real estate company which included serving as the assistant manager in their new restaurant, property manager (including two properties in Maui), assistant for the owner’s personal finances, and general errand runner. “The tasks were ever new and always interesting!” Bridget comments.

In 2016, Bridget met her future husband dancing at a former classmate’s wedding. In 2017, she and Riley were married. Their first child was born in the spring of 2019, and Bridget ended her full-time job to raise their children at home.

So her adventure is over then, right?

Far from it. Rather than experiencing Beauty primarily through nature, Bridget now encounters the Transcendentals in her children, in their existence, and in their experiences of wonder.

Bridget has loved children ever since she was young. “I took care of many children as a nanny in high school and on college breaks and very much enjoyed the challenge and what I learned from helping them experience life.” She acknowledges that having to “wake up in the middle of the night to feed an infant and then take care of toddlers for the rest of the day can give one much to complain about without any sympathy from the little people you are caring for,” but she claims that it is worth it for the beauty of these small humans.

Bridget, Riley, and their three children.

Bridget is studying the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling to use with her children: “Being steeped in the understanding that the human person is made for God and that creation is made for the human person to experience God’s glory has given me such appreciation in growing in God’s love as I walk with my children towards Him.”

The young mother reflects on her past experiences frequently. Although swabbing ship decks and raising children can be hard work, she knows and feels its worth. Her training in the Liberal Arts taught her meaning in the moment and how to find the Transcendentals in those moments, whether miraculous or mundane, whether sailing the Pacific Ocean, tending properties in Hawaii, or caring for the lives of little ones.

When I asked Bridget what single thing from her time at college continues to impact her most, she replied that it was her senior thesis topic on the role of the heart in the human person. “One of the things from my thesis that I lean on daily is the Prayer of the Heart, or the ‘Jesus Prayer.’” This prayer from the Eastern Christian tradition, “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” is meant to be prayed with each breath as a means of practicing continual prayer, as St. Paul urges. It teaches the mind and soul to incorporate prayer into each moment as seamlessly as breathing, without stopping the necessary work of running a busy household. “It brings the peace of Christ into the screams of a distraught toddler,” Bridget says. “The Jesus Prayer provides a means for me to enter into prayer internally when the external is anything but peaceful. My spiritual father often reminds me, ‘Your life is a prayer. Don’t become anxious when you aren’t able to find time for contemplative prayer some days as you are praying constantly. When you hear your baby’s cries, they are the bells calling you to prayer.’”

If Bridget’s journey from studying the great books, to boating in the Pacific Northwest, to joyful motherhood proves anything, it is that the path of a Catholic mother can be anything but boring. You never know what will happen once you embark on the search for Beauty, the knowledge of Truth, and pursuit of Goodness. Fiddling beneath the stars onboard a yacht? Studying the Byzantine Jesus Prayer? Raising children to flourish in wonder? Only when you embark with intentionality, living each moment fully, will you begin to see the Beauty of the Transcendentals emerge in your own story.

Photo Credit: Bridget Workman