It is difficult to be generous every day. It is a battle to arise with a smile on my face each and every morning. Even while I know that I am grateful to be where I am and living the life which I have, still, it is hard work to be joyful in the daily trials. But we know that we are growing when we are struggling against ourselves.
Generosity is a virtue which, like all virtues, requires practice in order to make it a habit.
Unfortunately, I am not naturally generous—I am a weak human being—and I do not easily truly desire to make sacrifices for others. When I contemplate what generosity looks like for me, as a stay at home mother, it helps to use the Church’s model of giving with the three T’s—Time, Talent, and Treasure. These areas may look different for each one of us in precisely how God desires that we give of ourselves.
Of course, in the eyes of God what matters most is the love that we put into each area of selfless giving. Today I am going to discuss what giving of my time looks like as a stay at home wife and mother. In my next two posts, I will examine the gifts of Talent and Treasure.
When I contemplate generosity in the area of time, I immediately think of people—other human beings—being first in importance. My mother is the most generous individual that I know, and when I think of her virtues, I recall how she always has time for others. Free time is not abundant for her as the mother of twelve children, but rather, she deliberately makes time for others.
She makes time for God, her husband, her children and grandchildren, to listen to them, and to love them. She is someone who should have the least time to spare, and yet, she is always there for those who need her. She is a constant inspiration to me when I am confused about how to embrace generosity in my specific vocation.
Some may rightly argue that a mother’s life is a constant gift of time, so why should we worry? There is no question that motherhood purges us of selfishness if we embrace it. The question is, are we striving to embrace it, live it, and seek generous self-giving each and every day? Or do we allow the demands of keeping house, homeschooling, and babysitting to create an atmosphere of bitterness in our hearts towards our vocation and those within it?
Though we are called to constant self-giving within our vocation, I think it is important for us to realize that the virtue may or may not develop properly, depending on our desire and effort in the area of self-growth. I don’t think that sanctity will fall into our laps without concentrated effort and working at mortification.
One practical step in which I can work harder to give of my time is by making a point to converse with my husband in a focused manner in the evening, instead of tuning in to my laptop or cell phone. Depending on my tiredness that day, just talking coherently could be a real act of the will, and an act of virtue.
Pulling myself away from topics of entertainment or interest in order to focus on the person with whom I am called to live the Trinitarian love of God is of deep significance for my vocation and my sanctification.
It is vitally important that I give my attention first to my husband and to my children, and all of the things which I want to read about can come later.
Speaking of my children, don’t I give, give, give my time to them every moment of the day? Sometimes I mistakenly think that I don’t need to work on focused time with them because I am always with them. But do I use my time well, to play with them and laugh with them, in order that they experience and see my love for them given expression through my actions?
Offering my time to the children placed in my care doesn’t just mean being with them all day and feeding and clothing them; more importantly, it means that I am attuned to their needs, questions, and desires, in order to be always leading them closer to Christ through my example of focused love.
Of course, we are not perfect, and we should not feel too guilty when we experience distraction and when we need to work on something while our children play. But what we can reflect on is whether or not our children know deep down of their importance to us, and that their feelings and needs are what matters most, rather than our housework or entertainment.
Free Time for Prayer
Giving of my time also may mean using free time for prayer instead of a hobby. Leisure activities are important and good, but I must first keep a prayerful order of intention throughout my day. When I give God the best of my time, then He will bless everything else which I hope to accomplish that day.
Then I can continue to use my time well by pursuing individual or family goals, such as reading, playing a game, or doing a project together which unites us as a family. We are stewards of the time given to us on earth, and one day we will have to give an account of how we used it.
This thought should not cause us to become anxious, but should help us strive to set realistic goals for ourselves and our families in the area of generous giving.
The examples don’t just stop here. We should pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten us in the areas in which we are called to become more generous, and to give us the grace not to resent the challenges asked of us.
For these opportunities to give are the paths to our growth and salvation.