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How Can Catholic Parishes Make Baptism Easier to Access?

This is Part 3 of a series about the problem of some Catholic parishes/dioceses holding the sacraments hostage. Part 1 and Part 2 also discuss baptism.

In no particular order, here are some thoughts on what we can do as a church (both upper and lowercase C) to potentially fix this issue, as pertains to baptism:

End the custom about no baptism during Lent.

It has no basis in canon law. Interestingly, I was informed by another person in my diocese that her parish does in fact conduct baptism during Lent, so either it’s not a mandate from the bishop and the baptism coordinator at my parish lied to me, or that person’s parish is ignoring the mandate. I ended up e-mailing the diocese last week to get clarification. I haven’t heard back yet, but if/when I do, I will update this post.

This article from EWTN explains why some parishes have that rule:

[G]iven that Lent is traditionally orientated toward the preparation for baptism, many parishes and even a few dioceses have policies that discourage it.

I can understand that; however, Lent is approximately six weeks long. If you have a baby born shortly before or shortly after the beginning of Lent, it seems unnecessary to make the family wait that long just because others in the parish are preparing for baptism on Easter Vigil. Remember, baptism of desire does apply to people above the age of reason, but it does not necessarily apply to infants for whom baptism is desired by their parents (see paragraph 29 in this document for more on that).

The article continues: 

Another reason why several places discourage baptisms during Lent is that in some cultures they also give rise to festive social celebrations that might be inappropriate during a penitential season.

Okay, I can understand this too. However, Sundays are still considered to be “celebratory” even within the context of the Lenten season, so why not schedule baptisms only on Sundays during Lent? Or ask the parents if they’d be willing to postpone any baptism celebration until Easter Sunday (or give THEM the choice to postpone baptism until after Easter if having a party is that important to them).

We typically don’t have any celebratory baptismal parties other than going out to eat with the godparents afterwards, and I would have gladly postponed even that if my baby could have been baptized before Easter. (In fact, I can think of a lot of parents who’d love the excuse to forego the party!)

Stop forbidding siblings and infants at classes.

This is the number one problem for families and baptism classes. One person said that her parish had that policy because the priest wanted the parents to be able to focus on the material.

To which I replied, “We’re moms. We can multitask.”

Plus, do you really expect parents — especially first-time parents — to be able to focus if they’re worried about leaving their tiny newborn with a babysitter for the first time? Yes, it might get loud. Yes, siblings might cause a distraction. But that’s called life, and it’s called parenthood. Roll with it.

Let the teens in your parish help out by keeping an eye on the little ones. Gee, maybe that could be part of the Confirmation service hours so many parishes without restored order require! (More on that in a future post.) Or ask members of one of the ministries of the church to make that one of their service projects. Ask your parish Scouting troop (whether Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, AHG, or similar) to make it a service project towards earning a merit badge. Ask parishioners to bring coloring books, crayons, Brother Francis movies, Legos, and similar to help keep kids occupied.

Stop requiring the birth certificate prior to baptism.

It is a requirement in canon law that parishes make sure that the parents requesting baptism are actually the child’s parents or custodial guardians — i.e., people who have the authority to request baptism — and not rogue grandparents or kidnappers or non-custodial parents. I get that. However, canon law does not specify that a birth certificate is the only document that can prove this, so there is no reason to delay baptism until it arrives. A hospital birth record or birth record signed by a licensed midwife should be sufficient to prove that for the purposes of baptism (and the birth certificate can be dropped off later).

Records from the adoption agency should work as well in the cases of adoption. One adoptive mother told me that her parish had denied her adopted child baptism until the adoption was finalized, even though she had the child’s birth certificate and the permission of both birth parents. Why?? That’s incredibly unnecessary.

Bring it back to the hospital setting.

Why not have the priest or deacon visit the parents in the hospital after the child is born and do the baptism right then and there? Maybe a nurse or hospital volunteer or family members can stand in as proxies for the godparents if the godparents themselves aren’t able to attend. The godparents can even attend via FaceTime or Skype.

There’s no need for baptism to be an elaborate ceremony and no requirement. Pope Benedict XVI was baptized the same day he was born (DURING LENT [well, the Triduum]). And most hospitals provide white onesies for newborn children, so you already have a white garment — and there’s usually a sink in every hospital room!

Maybe not all parents would want this, but I sure would. Going home from the hospital with that chrism head smell? Yes, please!

Keep it simple.

Several priests commented on the original post and said that their requirements were simple — the parents had to request baptism, and then they had to meet with him to fill out paperwork and chat about their faith. Subsequently, they kept an eye out for those parents at Mass (and would presumably speak to them if they didn’t see them attending). Beautiful! So simple! I know this may not be possible for very large parishes with thousands of registered families, but really that’s the way it should go in smaller ones, in my humble opinion.

Let preparation take place during pregnancy.

The priests above both mentioned that they allow and even encourage parishioners to start arranging the baptism during the pregnancy, and I cannot for the life of me understand why this isn’t ALWAYS the case. Canon law even says that parents should request baptism “as soon as possible after the birth or even before it” (emphasis mine) so why do so many parishes require you to wait until the baby is born before requesting baptism? I can tell you that life doesn’t get less hectic after a baby is born — quite the opposite.

Bring food.

Another commenter suggested having parents call the parish as soon as baby was born, and once the family had returned home, a priest/deacon/catechist would arrive at the home with a freezer meal and the paperwork to schedule baptism. Lovely! That’s a great idea. Our parish has several groups that might be able to share in that ministry — the Women’s Guild, the Catholic Daughters, the Legion of Mary, etc. One group could make the freezer meal while a volunteer from another group delivers it, in company of the catechist/priest/deacon.

Online classes.

I keep beating this drum, but please, if give a class you MUST, offer online classes! I’m able to renew my Safe Environment Training online; why can’t I do baptism classes online, too? I’m told that Formed has a beautiful series on baptism that would be perfect for this purpose. And if it’s too expensive, give parents the option of a free in-person class or paying the cost of taking the online class via Formed. I can tell you what I’d choose (because paying for the class via Formed would likely be less expensive than the cost of hiring a babysitter). And the beauty of online classes for godparents is that they are much easier for parents whose godparents live elsewhere.

So those are some of my ideas. Do you have any ideas on how parishes can make this process easier for parents? Share them in the comments!

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Stop Holding the Sacraments Hostage: More About Baptism

It appears that Part 1 of this post resonated with a LOT of people! I have heard so many stories over the past few days in response regarding parishes that have instituted similar ridiculous requirements prior to baptism, and the heartbreak and frustration that has caused many, many Catholic families.

I wanted to add some clarifications based on some of the feedback I received.

One commenter brought CCC 1256 to my attention:

1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.

Notice that it says “In the case of necessity,” not “in the case of danger of death.” The Code of Canon Law states that children “in danger of death” are to be baptized “without delay,” but I’m not sure if it’s ever been defined what what “necessity” would entail.

If a parent is truly anxious that his or her child needs baptism sooner than the bureaucracy of his or her church is willing to provide it, a baptism could in theory be performed by the parents in their home. The subsequent Church baptism would be a conditional baptism.

Please note that I am not encouraging this as a standard practice in every case, nor am I encouraging people to circumvent their church’s established protocol for requesting baptism. It’s more of an option to consider if the bureaucracy of their particular parish is such that baptism is being unreasonably delayed and/or parents have genuine fear or anxiety about the state of their baby’s soul, due to potential SIDS risk or similar concern, that doesn’t rise to the level of “immediate danger of death” — which seems to be the only criteria many parishes use for immediate baptism, given that phrase is in canon law.

Also, while reading the CCC excerpt above, I noticed this line in CCC 1261:

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

Given that line and what the Code of Canon Law says (more on that below), it’s more frustrating to me than ever that church bureaucracy and policies will allow often MONTHS to pass before children are baptized.

One thing I wanted to mention: when my fifth baby was born, he had a birth defect that required surgery at six weeks of age. Soon after his birth, I called my parish and explained that my baby would be having surgery in less than two months, and that I felt it was important for him to receive baptism before the surgery.

They agreed, and because his baptism was considered an “emergency baptism,” we had the deacon come to our home and do the required baptism class (since it had, sigh, been over three years since the last one). My son ended up being baptized within the same month that he was born!

Also for the record, we were able to arrange a private baptism for babies three and four at my parish because at the time I had a friend (godfather for babies #4 and #6, as a matter of fact) who worked in the parish office and was able to streamline things for us. They were much different experiences than the one I had with my sixth baby.

A Former DRE Weighs In

In Part 1, I mentioned that I’d provide input from a former Director of Religious Education. Jessica M. is a Catholic wife and mother who, in addition to being a former parish DRE, was also a Dominican Sister for six years. You can find her blog at https://catholiccustoms.wordpress.com.

I asked Jessica,

What do you think of parishes placing onerous requirements on parents seeking baptism for their children? As a hypothetical example, let’s say a parish required three mandatory parent classes before scheduling baptism. What would your response be?

She replied,

If a 3-session class is required, this causes undue hardship on families that may just barely be on the fence about baptism. Many families I met with during my time as a Pastoral Associate were merely doing it for the sake of tradition. They were Catholic, yes, but often times had very little catechesis; they wanted to have their baby baptized because that is what was expected of Catholic parents.

To require a 3-session class of these new parents would have caused many of them to turn away from bringing their child to the waters of baptism. I also met many families that, through one obstacle or another, never got around to baptizing their child until many, MANY years later.

It is a direct contradiction to the requirements of the current Code of Canon Law. When I worked at the church, I was alarmed by the lack of knowledge of Canon Law by those who should know it (at least know of it enough to look things up). Baptism was one such battleground, so to speak. I found that offering baptism only during certain months of the year prevented many parents from fulfilling this, even though they desired it.

Eventually I was able to offer a suggestion that if a family desired it (and was properly prepared), they could request a baptism apart from he usual time. It took a lot of effort, and the exception was rarely made, but it put the phrase from Canon Law into their minds.

Also, I changed the baptism prep program so that I had a team of catechists, who would meet one-on-one with a family (after I spoke to them on the phone either before or after baby was born), and met with them to catechize them about baptism. This was a one-time meeting…and we told them it lasted up to 2 hours. Usually it was done in 1 hour, but there were cases of such poorly catechized parents that 2 hour classes did happen.

What would you say to someone who argued that anyone who wasn’t willing to attend multiple classes shouldn’t have their child baptized Catholic anyway, because that meant they weren’t committed to raising their child in the faith?

I would say that we do not know the inner workings of the hearts of the parents and godparents. It is not up to us to discern that. Our job is to ask them if they desire to raise their child Catholic, and believe their answer! Then, give them the tools they need, especially in the years to come.

There is no canonical requirement for a 3-part series about baptism. If the parents say they will raise the child Catholic, we must trust them and accompany them on the journey. If, however, the parents make known that they only want baptism because of family custom (no ties to the faith at all… just superstition, or what have you), then there is a great need to help them understand why baptism is important, and what responsibility it places on the parents. Also, if you’re going to require three classes, let the parents do them while they are pregnant still. [Addition from JoAnna: or, at the very least, let them do it online!]

Going to Canon Law again, I would remind them that it says the following (notes in parentheses are my own):

Can. 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly:

1/ the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent; (okay, so this is taken care of by the parents coming out and asking for baptism)

2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason. (It does not say anything about totally refusing baptism, but of informing the parents as to why the baptism is to be delayed…and working through the issue).

From my experience, any time a representative of the Catholic church (be it a deacon, priest or lay person) put up a roadblock to baptism without showing a bridge, the family turned away. At times, they even left the church, and went to some protestant denomination instead. It was heartbreaking.

That is heartbreaking. And so unnecessary.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, where I’ll talk about practical suggestions I feel parishes could implement to simplify and streamline the process of baptism.

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Leila Lawler’s Post About Working Mothers

Edit 1/30/2018:

Leila Lawler has edited her post to clarify, so I will too.

I should have slept on this instead of posting it right away. I let my anger and indignation get the best of me, and that wasn’t wise. Mea culpa. I apologize to Leila Lawler for being uncharitable and unkind. I have sent this to her via e-mail as well, but I am posting it here because a public error requires a public apology (I would comment on her post, but every time I have tried my comments do not appear).

That being said, let me explain a bit why I was so upset. (Not an excuse, just a reason.)

Ever since Facebook rolled out the feature where people answer questions when they request to join a group, I’ve had that in place for the Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group. I ask if they are faithful, practicing Catholics, I ask if they are working mothers, and I ask why they want to join the group.

I would say that the majority of responses to the third question go like this: “All of my Catholic friends are SAHMs so I’m looking for fellowship, because I feel inadequate because I can’t be a SAHM and I could use support.”

It is so very frustrating when we continually encounter the attitude that if we REALLY thought hard, and if we REALLY were discerning as we should, we’d realize that we should be stay-at-home-moms. The implication is that our status as moms who work outside the home is the result of a lack of discernment at best and at the worst, greed — or, as Lawler put it, someone who “prize[s] financial security, public honors, and prosperity above a happy home.”

As I said during a Facebook discussion the other day, working moms are constantly reflecting on our motives and priorities. It’s kind of like NFP, in a way — we’re constantly reevaluating and assessing, especially after a rough day at work, or when we have sick kids and our boss is giving us grief because we’ve taken so much sick time already, or when we have to go to work sick because we’re all out of sick time due to aforesaid sick kids. CONSTANTLY.

And usually we realize, well, if we don’t work we could lose our house or we couldn’t afford groceries, so we slog through another day. In the vast majority of cases, we aren’t working because we just love getting up in the morning, getting everyone ready to go, making sure everyone gets to where they need to go, going to work, working eight more hours, and then leaving work only to go home to start our second job — cleaning, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning, etc. We’re working because we have to in order to pay our bills, or because we feel a genuine calling from God that we’re doing what we are being called to do.

Claiming that there is this epidemic of working moms who are working only for wealth and prestige at the expense of their families — in my CWM group of 4,000+ women, I don’t see it. It’s like the alleged epidemic of Catholics using NFP for selfish reasons. Do they exist? Maybe. Is it a pervasive problem in Catholic circles? I don’t think so, so I’m baffled as to why we need reminding of this. Especially by someone who seems to think that working moms HAVE a choice in the first place.

Like the decision to avoid pregnancy using NFP, this is a discernment that can and should only be done by the couple themselves in the sight of God. And in my experience, we are constantly undergoing that discernment — which is why it is so tiring and, yes, sometimes so infuriating when we are told (even indirectly) that we aren’t good enough, that our children and husbands are suffering because we work, that we don’t measure up to the idea of Catholic womanhood because we work (something St. Gianna Beretta Molla and St. Zelie Martin, among others, would disagree with).

Now, circling back to my original post, there is still one thing I would like clarity on, and I don’t believe Lawler ever said what she meant by this particular statement (and I’m posting the entirety of her comment via screenshot so that I am not accused of taking her words out of context):

If Lawler would be so kind as to explain what she meant by saying that my husband “must fight [my] battles” for me as well as his own, both he and I would appreciate the clarity because neither of us can figure out what she means by that.

Now, I shall return to making my home a safe and peaceful place, which, yes, I strive to do to the utmost of my ability even though I am “out there” working to earn money to pay our mortgage.

Once again, I apologize for being uncharitable and unkind. The lessons I have learned from this experience are to sleep on a contentious post instead of scheduling it to publish right away, and to write a rebuttal that isn’t focused on rebutting what someone specifically said, but rather to focus on the message I want to communicate, and in doing so write for my audience instead of at another person.

Also, one more note of clarity. There is apparently a rumor going around Facebook that I am a “leftist social justice warrior” and that is why I wrote a post criticizing Lawler’s words. That is not true. I am a registered Independent who would not join the Democrat Party if you held a gun to my head. If you have any concerns or questions about my political stances, please feel free to e-mail me.

**Original Post Starts Here**There are times when I read a blog post in the Catholic blogosphere and think, “Hold my purse. I can’t let this go unremarked.”

This is one of those times. (Sorry, Part 2 of my post about Holding the Sacraments Hostage will have to wait until Wednesday.)

Leila Lawler, a Catholic blogger over at Like Mother, Like Daughter, made a number of eyebrow-raising claims in her blog post on Jan. 27, 2018.

Among these claims (some of which are made in the post itself, others are made by her in the comments):

  • A home with a working mother “does not have the wife and mother… devoted to it;”
  • A working mother cannot “love children from day to day with a love of service;”
  • A working mother always “prize[s] financial security, public honors, and prosperity above a happy home;”
  • A working mother cannot “make the home;”
  • A working mother has a “neglected family” by default;
  • A working mother only works because she desires to “[put] her individualistic goals first;”
  • A working mother is nothing more than a “wage slave;” (does that apply to working fathers, too? How about St. Gianna Beretta Molla? St. Zelie Martin?)
  • A family with a working mother means that the husband “does not have a home to return to” or “a haven to rest in;”
  • When a woman works, “the husband must fight her battles;”
  • When a woman works, “the stress of the battles she faces don’t lessen the ones at home, and then something has to give. Too often, it’s one’s own children who seem to be the problem;” and
  • A working mom cannot have a home that is a “safe and peaceful place.”

via GIPHYAnother commenter on the blog offered this gem, which Lawler has not, as of this writing, responded to (either positively or negatively):

When they are grown I hope they will look back on their mother’s labor in the home as an image of the love of Christ. When a woman drops her child off with a care provider/school and works for a wage, children can’t see what she is doing; they ache for mother but society tells them to suck it up and get used to it, so they don’t properly attach (and sadly some don’t attach at all). Without a solid attachment to the mother, the child loses not merely his sense of security but a part of his humanity because he can not really learn what love IS.

Yes. Apparently, children who go to daycare OR SCHOOL can never really learn what love is.

via GIPHYSorry, all you SAHMs who have sent your kids to Catholic school — your kids are neglected, don’t properly attach, and can never really learn what love is. Too bad you didn’t homeschool, because apparently the only way to show your children love is to make sure you are within sight of them 24/7/365.

I can only assume that this person also opposes mothers showering, grocery shopping, doing volunteer work, or doing any other action that would take her out of visual range of her children at any time. Letting children have their own bedrooms is out — they must co-sleep with you until the age of 18, presumably, lest you fail to form attachments with them.

This comment thoroughly ignores the valuable lessons children can learn from working mothers; to wit: sometimes, you need to put your own desires aside and sacrifice for the good of your family.

There are many, many of us who are working not by our free choice, but because we need to earn income so that our family members have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over our heads. That is a sacrifice. We are sacrificing time with our children for their greater good, not to mention sleep (because we spend many nights doing housework and other chores) and free time of our own (because we spend the bulk of our “free time” outside of work doing household chores, running errands, taking children to doctor appointments, etc.).

Lawler also says in her post, “I will always maintain that the family is God’s plan for life in this world of ours, and that any sacrifice we make to fulfill His plan is worth it.” WELL. What do we need the Catholic Church for, since we have Leila Lawler to tell us exactly how to fulfill God’s plan for life in this world? Apparently, that plan involves no working mothers whatsoever.

There are many mothers who work because they have discerned that it is their vocation — part of God’s plan — to do so: as doctors, as nurses, as therapists for the developmentally disabled, as educators, as counselors, as social workers, as directors of religious education at parishes, as crisis pregnancy center directors, or even as writers and speakers (ahem).

via GIPHYIs it really part of God’s plan for a mother to stay at home no matter what her family’s circumstances are — even if “home” means a homeless shelter, a car, or a cardboard box under a bridge, and even if that means her children would be be starving, cold, and homeless? That scenario is preferable to a family whose members are fed, comfortable, and protected due to a mother who earns a wage?

Leila Lawler apparently thinks so.

She is also apparently afraid of opposing viewpoints; as of this writing, she has refused to publish any of my comments. (She has, inexplicably, allowed comments from others that oppose her view, but for some reason she refuses to publish mine.)

As a result, I am publishing them here. My rebuttals are as follows:

Comment #1:

Why do you assume that women who work outside the home neglect their family? Do fathers who work outside the home neglect their family, too?

As for who will take care of the children and make the home if not the wife — well, that is something that husbands and wives do together, as equal partners in marriage, regardless of who is working outside the home, inside the home, or whatever the situation may be.

I know this comes across as a politically correct buzzword, but sometimes even buzzwords are accurate. You need to check your privilege. Not all families are able to make it work on one income alone, especially if the father is under-educated, under-paid, sick, disabled, etc. Some families have gone over and over their budget, and there is simply nothing else to cut, yet their expenses still exceed their income — especially couples with medical debt or student loan debt, and/or those who live in a high COL area. If this has never been your situation, then praise be to God. You have been very fortunate. But your situation is not everyone’s.

You are not helping women by telling them that they are failing as wives and mothers when they work to provide their family with food, clothing, shelter, and stability.

It’s not really pro-life for example, to tell single mothers that they are neglecting their home and children if they work outside the home. I’m sure the children would feel the sting of neglect much more keenly if they didn’t have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over their heads.

I would advise you to follow the advice of Jesus and examine the plank in your own eye before you go after the alleged speck in someone else’s.

Comment #2 (in response to her comment here):

Wait — so because I work, my husband does not have a home to return to? Um, I’m pretty sure our house is still standing every day when he comes home. In fact, it’s BECAUSE I work that he has a home to go to. My income pays the mortgage. His income right now is not sufficient to pay our mortgage and all of our other bills.

And we have six children on earth ranging in age from 13 to 1 (plus four in heaven), so it’s not at all that our marriage is “new.” We’ve been married over sixteen years.

“But as the decades go by, the husband is the one who has to do battle with the world. If he doesn’t have a haven to rest in, a person to be grateful to, he will be defeated.”

Why do you assume my husband’s home is not a haven, and that he must stop being grateful to me simply because I work? My husband is actually extremely grateful that I work and thus allow us to pay our mortgage so he has a home to return to.

Let me tell you this: it isn’t necessarily a sparkling clean home with freshly scrubbed, immaculate children and a home-cooked meal waiting on the table that makes a house into a home or a haven. You know what makes a house into a haven? Love. The love of spouses for each other, the love of parents for their children, the love of children for their parents. And love is a commodity that everyone has no matter where, when, or how they work.

“When the woman works, the husband must fight her battles (because that’s his nature to do so) and his own.”

Where on earth are you getting this? My husband and I fight OUR battles TOGETHER as equal partners in marriage, and that is true of any spouse no matter where, when, or how they work.

“When the woman works, the stress of the battles she faces don’t lessen the ones at home, and then something has to give. Too often, it’s one’s own children who seem to be the problem.”

What, wait? Are you saying that when a woman works outside the home, her husband needs to deal with her HR department and annoying co-workers and similar? Are you saying that a woman is incapable of dealing with work-related issues on her own? I am really asking for clarity here because I have no idea what you mean by this.

Do working women face a challenge when it comes to balancing competing priorities? Absolutely. But so do SAHMs. So do working fathers. So do priests.

“But if everyone is out there, then who is making that safe and peaceful place?”

First, I’d love to know where all the SAHMs are that are routinely and regularly welcoming the homeless. I had no idea that was a thing.

Secondly, why do you assume that we can’t make our homes a safe and peaceful place AND work outside the home? Do you think that women who work are required to be at their workplaces 24/7/365…?

One final note: the Vatican says this in their official biography of St. Gianna Beretta Molla: “With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.”

NOT “St. Gianna was a horrible example of a wife and mother because she worked outside the home and did not make her house a safe and peaceful place.”

Also, I must include two of the comments left by Missy (which were allowed to be published, unlike mine), because they provide an excellent counterpoint:

I respectfully ask that you consider your personal experience may not be reflective of others’, nor should it be the standard by which the rest of our situations are to be judged.

For instance, I AM thinking of my husband when I work. In fact, I work partially at his specific request. Not because he is materialistic and desires luxury, but because he works in a volatile field where a job can vanish in a moment, so he has told me that being the sole provider is too much stress for him. When I have been out of work, he has been depressed, irritable, and generally less emotionally available for the family, even though I was working hard to ‘make a home’ for us. When I work and share the burden, he is happy, secure, and generous with his time and energy. Every day, he expresses his appreciation for my efforts as a mother and wife, so I would say he is far from ‘defeated.’ On the contrary, he feels supported by my work, and our home is a haven for him because he knows it can’t be ripped away from us if he were to lose his job (as has happened twice before).

I have no clue what you mean by the husband ‘fighting his wife’s battles in addition to his own’ unless you mean that you subscribe to the archaic idea of ‘woman’s work,’ that some tasks should only be performed by women. This is not at all theologically supported. In our case, we split the cleaning, childcare, and cooking, although he might take the lion’s share of food prep because he enjoys it more and is a much better cook. We have also learned not to keep track of who does what, but instead do what needs to be done with a generous spirit, as an act of love.

We have chosen our children’s caregivers with extreme care and made it clear to our employers that family comes first, always. As a result, our children are thriving by every measure, and we are always available to them when needed. My children are not a ‘problem’ for me or my work, but the reason and inspiration for everything else in my life.

And finally, as for the others outside the home, you’re quite right that they are best served when my home is a place of peace. As I said above, my working is a big factor in making my home peaceful. Please stop insisting that a working mother is at odds with a peaceful and stable home.”

Comment #2 by Missy:

“Must be so nice to be able to ‘decide’ to stay home, then pat yourself on the back for your ‘sacrifice.’ Some of us find that our families are healthier when mom works outside the home, and don’t appreciate being told we’re lesser wives or mothers for it. And some don’t have a choice at all due to economic reality, but I’m sure the extra helping of guilt is exactly what they need.

This is an incredibly self-serving and narrow-minded post. I strongly recommend speaking more with faithful mothers who work outside the home, with an open heart to their perspectives. And when you offer much-needed encouragement to SAHMs as I believe you intended to do here, try to do it without belittling those who care for their families through different means. This manufactured us/them conflict helps no one.”

Agreed. I think I’ll listen to the actual teaching of the Catholic Church as opposed to someone who uses her blog to promote her own books and who earns speaking fees, but yet who claims to not have a career so she can devote every single nanosecond of her time to “making a home”).

And although it’s apparent that the Lawler family abhors Pope Francis, perhaps Lawler herself might take heed of the words of Pope John Paul II (unless, of course, she has gone full-blown sedevacantist):

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

In the meantime, I would welcome Leila Lawler’s clarification on anything she has said above in my comment box — and I’ll even publish her comments, too.

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baby baptism catholic sacraments

Dear Catholic Parishes: Stop Holding the Sacraments Hostage

This is Part 1 of what will be a two-part post.

I’m a Catholic mother of six living children, and I’m here today with a plea: stop holding the sacraments hostage.

Don’t erect arbitrary and unnecessary obstacles to the sacraments, obstacles that have no basis in canon law. In particular, stop making it harder for parents or parishioners to access baptism. By doing so, you’re denying members your flock the grace they need to live strong Catholic lives and grow in their faith, and you’re putting the souls of innocent babies in grave danger.

I’m not talking about setting basic standards. Those are needed and necessary. I’m talking about tying up burdens that you yourself aren’t willing to shoulder (cf. Matthew 23:4).

Let’s start with an example that I am all too familiar with: baptism.

Some of the obstacles to baptism I’ve heard about from other Catholic mom friends are patently ridiculous. Some parishes require a class (or two, three, or even more!) that can only be taken after the child has been born, and only after he or she has received his or her birth certificate (which can take several weeks or sometimes several months after birth), and require both parents to attend, and don’t offer childcare for older siblings. Some even stipulate that you can’t bring your newborn child!

Tell me, how can the Church claim to support large families if they require large families to shell out money just to attend a parish baptism class? Do you think it’s easy for a Catholic family with six kids to (a) find a babysitter in the first place and/or (b) afford a babysitter? Most large Catholic families, including my own, can’t afford a babysitter for the desperately-needed occasional date night, let alone a required baptism class at a parish!

And speaking of that, why do parishes require a new baptism class for each child or make it so the classes “expire” after a set amount of time (usually three years)? Do you really think that a Catholic family who has already baptized 4-5 kids has suddenly forgotten what baptism is and why it’s important? If we’re having 4-5 kids in today’s day and age, chances are we are intimately familiar with Church teaching and doctrine. Heck, by kid #5 I think I could have TAUGHT the baptism class.

And it’s not even large families. Do you really expect a brand-new mother who is exclusively breastfeeding to leave her tiny child alone for several hours, likely for the first time? You have new parents who are constantly exhausted, stressed out, anxious about a million different things, and you tell them: “Oh, by the way, you have to attend this class at your parish [or sometimes multiple classes] before we can even set a date for the baptism. We’re going to make it at the most inconvenient time possible for the parent who is working, and you’ll need to find a babysitter to care for your tiny, vulnerable newborn. Oh, you breastfeed exclusively? Well, you’ll have to figure that out, because we can’t possibly have an infant at a class where we’re discussing infant baptism.”

No. You don’t do that to families. You don’t target them when they’re already in one of the most chaotic, tiring, stressful periods of their lives and do what you can to make it even WORSE. That isn’t going to bring people into the Church, or evangelize them in any way. That is only going to push already lukewarm Catholics out of the door and send them down the street to the local happy-clappy Protestant church where all they need to do is sign up to get their kid baptized.

We as Catholics need to meet people and parents where they are. It’s 2018 and we can do better. Online classes (with a short quiz afterwards to ensure information was received and retained). Skype classes. Sending a deacon or a catechist or even the priest to the parishoners’ home to do the class. If a class at the parish is needed, allow siblings — including the new baby! — to attend along with their parents, and don’t have the class in late evening when toddlers will be tired and cranky. Feed them so they don’t have to cook that night, or organize a potluck. And allow parents to attend this class BEFORE the baby’s birth, especially if they are first-time parents!

Don’t require a birth certificate, social security card, passport, and godparent affidavits signed in triplicate by a notary. The hospital record of birth should be good enough documentation to start with, and the rest can wait and be submitted later. And while I understand the importance of having qualified godparents, it’s sometimes hard if you have godparents who live farther away to get all the necessary documentation in a timely manner.

If you’re worried that the godparents may not be suitable, ask if you can have a five-minute phone conversation with them instead of requiring that they get a testimonial from the local bishop or other onerous paperwork. Ask them to record a five-minute video about why godparents are important and have them send you the YouTube link.

And for the love of all that is good and holy, do not refuse to baptize children during Lent. This has absolutely no basis in canon law and is frankly discriminatory towards babies born in January/February.

I had to go through this with my sixth baby, who was born January 21 of last year. By the time my postpartum fog had began to clear enough for me to realize that I should really call the parish to ask about baptism (because of course we weren’t allowed to do so BEFORE the baby was born), Lent was nearly upon us. We’d been further delayed by the fact that we wanted to ask her potential godparents to be her godparents in person, but every time we arranged to meet up, one of us had to cancel due to illness. Finally, I had to do it over the phone.

So I finally remember to call the parish to request baptism (which canon law states should be done AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after birth), and what am I told?

No, we can’t baptize the baby during Lent because Lent is a time of penitence and baptism is too celebratory, even for Sundays; it will have to wait until after Easter. Allegedly, this is a mandate from the bishop (though I have my doubts).

No, you can’t set a date until you have an in-person meeting with the deacon. We’ll need you make sure that you submit offering envelopes for at least three months so you can prove you’re a regular churchgoing member of the parish. Oh, you don’t have to put anything in them, we just need the proof for our records.

No, it doesn’t matter that we see you every Sunday and your husband is in Knights of Columbus and you’re in Catholic Daughters and you regularly bring your children to religious ed class, and have done so faithfully for years.

No, you can’t skip the required baptism class, because it’s been more than three years since your last child was baptized (gee, I’m so sorry I had TWO MISCARRIAGES in between babies five and six).

Oh, we only offer the baptism class once every three months, so may the odds be ever in your favor. And we don’t allow kids to attend, so good luck finding and affording a babysitter for all six kids, especially your breastfeeding newborn!

I hadn’t remembered this ordeal with any of my other babies, but I was steamed. I did get our parish priest to waive our requirement for the class, but not the requirement to wait until after Lent. In the end, the baby was over three months old before she was baptized, and it was the longest three months of my life. I even considered baptizing her myself, just in case (especially when she suffered a skull fracture due to a freak accident at four weeks old), but I didn’t because technically she wasn’t in danger of death (even with the skull fracture).

And it was so unnecessary! My husband and I are faithful, practicing Catholics. We have six kids, for heaven’s sake! The other five were baptized, three of them at that very parish. The father of the baby’s godfather was a deacon at our parish, but I still needed to submit paperwork proving the deacon’s son and his wife were suitable choices even though they had been godparents of our fourth child as well.

I would have been willing to bring my child for baptism the following week if I’d been allowed. All we needed was the baby, the priest/deacon, the baptismal font, and the godparents. I didn’t need time to plan a fancy party or anything. I just wanted my baby baptized, and it felt like I was being denied baptism until I jumped through ridiculous and arbitrary hoops.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll feature input from former parish religious ed directors about this issue.

[ C ] Piero di Cosimo - Madonna and Child, with John the Baptist and Saint Magdalena (1485) - Detail

Possessive Last Names Make the Baby Jesus Cry

Originally written for my old blog, but I thought it was worth putting here as well.

A Christmas card PSA from your friendly neighborhood copy editor. (Like Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.)

When signing your Christmas card/letter (or creating return address labels), do not sign them like so:

Merry Christmas from the Wahlund’s!

If your intention is to send Christmas greetings on behalf of your entire family, then you want your last name to be plural, not possessive. For example:

Merry Christmas from the Wahlunds! means there is more than one Wahlund wishing you a Merry Christmas. In fact, the entire Wahlund family wishes you a Merry Christmas!

The possessive form, on the other hand, indicates that something belonging to the Wahlund family is wishing you a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas from the Wahlund’s… what? The Wahlund’s cat? The Wahlund’s dog? The Wahlund’s thermonuclear bomb facility?

If your last name ends with an ‘s’ or ‘z’, then your best bet is to use a workaround such as, “Merry Christmas from the Glass family!” Or you could add an -es, which works well for families who have a last name ending in -ch (e.g., “Merry Christmas from the Marches! Love, Meg, Jo, Beth, & Amy.”)

But for the love of all that is holy and innocent, do not use an apostrophe to create a plural form of a surname. Please.

Baby Jesus will thank you.

Sincerely,

Someone who has seen this on her received Christmas cards entirely too often.

emergency fund piggy bank

Setting Up an Emergency Fund in 2018

2018 is right around the corner. That means you need to be prepared for it. You never know what next year will have in store for you, and it is important to plan ahead. With a little bit of determination, you can have a nice emergency fund saved up throughout 2018 and going forward. The below tips are designed to help you get started.

If you do not have an emergency fund, you are not alone. In fact, most people do not have an emergency fund, and many people with a fund do not have more than a couple of hundred dollars in it. If you are a part of the larger group without an emergency fund, it’s not smart to continue that way.

An emergency fund can help you when you truly need it, and it offers security for you and your family’s health. For example, think about your child knocking out his or her tooth. If you live paycheck to paycheck, then a $500 dental bill is not something you can afford. Ideally, if you saved up $1,000 in your emergency fund over time, then of course, the incident wouldn’t break your wallet.

That’s a picture perfect example, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that having emergency savings set aside is extremely helpful.

Automate Savings with Direct Deposit 

One of the hardest things to do is save money when you have bills to pay. Financial obligations often require you to devote the majority of cash to bills, then afterwards, you might be tempted to spend the remainder on something more fun. This is where many people slip up when it comes to saving for an emergency fund.

One way to overcome this is to set up automated direct deposits, so your paychecks go to your accounts directly, including your emergency fund. If you have direct deposit through your employer, choose to send a percentage of your check every pay day to the emergency fund. This way, the money is already removed from your check and you won’t miss it, so to speak.

Make an Off-Limits Account

For the above to work, you would need to have a separate account for your emergency savings. Ideally, you wouldn’t have easy access to the account either. You’ll find it harder to save money if you have a debit card linked to your emergency fund. You should consider setting up an account without a linked debit card, and you could even require multiple steps make a withdrawal. This way, it’s inconvenient to dip into your savings, and you’ll only be incentivized to do so during an actual emergency.

Once you have the account in place, you can designate the percentage from your paycheck to go to this account. In addition, you could also easily make transfers from one bank account to another. If you have a cheap week, maybe you can devote an extra $100 to the account.

Use Expense Trackers to Your Advantage 

An expense tracker is one tool that you can use to your advantage. There are plenty of tracker apps out there, and you will need to choose one that meets your needs. With an expense tracker, you should be able to see where you put your money and where you can slim down certain spending. Overall, these apps are a great tool to help you take control of your daily personal finances.

For example, if you notice that you eat out three times a week for $40, then you can make a point to shop at the grocery store and replace those three meals for $10 with wholesome foods. The expense tracker would quantify this for you in a simple way, and it can provide you with a clear objective to improve your budget. Look at your expenses for the month and find anywhere and everywhere that you are able to cut and make sure to do it.

Talk to a Financial Advisor 

A financial advisor is someone who can provide you with tips on what to do to save money. They will look at your finances as a whole and provide you with expert recommendations on how to cut back on expenses. If you pick the right help, then you could save more money with expert advice.

In addition, your financial advisor will be able to work with you to invest your money. They know what the conservative and risky options are, and they will advise you on where to place your money based on your needs. If you cannot afford a financial advisor, an alternative could be a robo-advisor. These offer some of the same benefits as a traditional advisor such as investment allocation, goal setting, and tax planning.

Final Thoughts

The hard part is saving up the money in the first place for an emergency fund. Once you have one in place, you will wonder why you waited so long – trust me.

girl, upset, layoff

Lessons Learned from a Layoff 

As those of you who follow this blog’s Facebook page are aware, I was unexpectedly laid off from my job of eight years in April. April 19, to be exact. I was absolutely blindsided by the layoff, as was the rest of my former team (one other team member was let go besides myself). From what I understand, it was purely a cost-saving measure, and my former company gave me a generous severance package, including two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice.

I had never been laid off before, so it was a new experience. Thanks for the severance package we didn’t have to panic immediately, and we were able to give our daycare two weeks of notice instead of pulling the kids out immediately.

The layoff happened mid-morning, and I spent a good chunk of the day wandering around the house in shock. I called my husband to tell him the news, and after he’d gotten over his shock, he instructed me to go out and do something just for me. Go to the library, go to a movie, browse a bookstore, go shopping, but he wanted me to do something. I took his advice and went to Chick-fil-A to eat, and then did a little bit of shopping. And it did help, at least a little.

The next few weeks were spent in a flurry of paperwork — I spent long hours applying for government aid as well as scheduling last-minute appointments before my various insurances ended (the kids were covered under my plan too, so I had to scramble to make other arrangements for us).

It wasn’t until I was no longer working that I realized how much of my identity had been bound up in being an employee. I felt lost, adrift, and oddly unsettled. To be frank, I hadn’t liked my job, but I’d stayed with it because of the benefits — flexible schedule (including the ability to work from home most days), good benefits, decent pay. And on one hand I was glad not to have to do the work anymore, but on the other I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself now that I was no longer an employee.

I did appreciate the extra time with my kids, but it was quite a shock to realize that my dreams of being a stay-at-home-mom didn’t quite match the reality. I think part of that was due to having a nursing baby, but all the extra free time I thought I’d have evaporated like steam from a kettle. It was all I could do to keep up with basic housework, and the kids made messes faster than I could clean them up — even though they all had chores to do every day. Some nights I’d crawl into bed and think, “Why on earth didn’t I get anything done today?” And it was usually because the baby wanted to eat all the time and the three-year-old went through the house like a tornado, and because I had to referee arguments between the older kids, and a dozen other small things that ended up taking up all of my “extra” time.

Job-hunting consumed a great deal of time as well. We knew that once the severance ran out, we would need income of some kind, even if it was just what I could earn doing a part-time, work-from-home job. I applied for those types of jobs as well as for full-time work, and I signed up with a local temp agency specifically geared for writers, editors, artists, etc.

I had a phone interview for a very promising job, a position as a copy editor for a local media company, in late May. The phone interview led to an in-person interview, and then a second interview with one of the company’s VPs. I also did an editorial assessment and provided my references. I was extended an offer in late June and conducted salary negotiations. Once those had been wrapped up, I ended up starting my new job on July 17.

Ironically, I was offered a part-time, work-from-home gig the same week I was offered the full-time job. Initially I accepted both, thinking that the part-time job could help supplement my income (which was a pay cut from my previous salary, even after negotiating), but I quickly realized that one full-time job was about all I could handle, and I ended up declining the offer of the part-time position.

I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about going back to full-time work after three months as a SAHM, as well as commuting to an office every day after nearly a year and a half of working at home full-time. To complicate matters, we had to find a new daycare as our old daycare was unable to take our two youngest kids back.

However, I’m happy to report that things are going very well, even better than I’d anticipated. We found a great new daycare that is actually less expensive than our previous one, and the kids are thriving. The commute is only 30 minutes one-way; while not as convenient as working from home, it definitely beats the 90-minute commute (one way) that I drove for almost seven years. My new commute is the perfect length of time to say a rosary, as it turns out, so I’ve been successful incorporating more prayer time into my day. As an added bonus, my house is actually cleaner now that the three-year-old is at daycare all day.

Most importantly, I LOVE my new job; it really does make a difference to love what you do. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a job like that. I don’t dread going to work every day anymore. While I wish I could get more sleep at night (my six-month-old still wakes up to nurse once or twice), I greet the day with enthusiasm and look forward to working. My new supervisor is wonderful and my coworkers are lovely people. The culture is wonderful and the office (a brand-new building!) is terrific.

The layoff also helped me realize that my long-cherished dream of being a stay-at-home-mom was grounded in fantasy instead of reality. Being a SAHM didn’t mean I magically had a clean home and plenty of time to do chores. It was more convenient when it came to things like scheduling doctor’s appointments, but otherwise I found that it wasn’t the utopia I had imagined it to be — and I think I romanticized the situation in my head because I was so miserable at my old job. And while I did enjoy being a SAHM, I’ve found that I can also thrive while working full-time outside of the home, now that I’m in a job I love and that I can really succeed in.

In hindsight, my layoff was a blessing in disguise, and I can honestly say I’m glad it happened.

instant pot

The Instant Pot: A Working Mom’s Best Friend

“Oh no,” you’re probably thinking, “not another lunatic raving about the wonders of that Instant Pot contraption.”

I too was initially skeptical of the Instant Pot, but I’ve come around.

What Is The Instant Pot, Anyway?

In a nutshell, it’s a pressure cooker, which is a device that cooks food by heating liquid to boiling, which forms steam within a sealed pot. The steam cooks the food rapidly and also forces liquid into it, which increases moisture and helps quickly tenderize cuts of meat. Once it’s done cooking, you vent the steam out of the pot through a valve on the top.

I knew nothing at all about pressure cookers prior to getting my IP, but from what I understand, they’ve never been considered a reliable cooking device. I read horror stories about spaghetti sauce and beef stew spattered all over kitchen ceilings because the steam built up and caused the lid of the pot to blow off. The IP, however, has multiple safety settings designed to prevent that sort of thing from happening.

It is intimidating and even a little scary to use at first, but once you learn the ropes it’s like a whole new world of cooking possibilities opens up before you.

What Else Can It Do?

In addition to being a pressure cooker, the Instant Pot is also a slow cooker, a vegetable steamer, a porridge maker, a yogurt maker, a soup/stew pot, a rice cooker, and more. Here are some of the things you can make (some of which I’ve tried, others I haven’t).

  • Steamed vegetables (fresh or frozen)
  • Steamed seafood, such as shrimp or scallops (fresh or frozen)
  • Hardboiled eggs – I usually screw up hardboiled eggs on the stove, but they turned out perfectly in the IP (which worked well when I made Scotch Eggs, a great recipe from my Hobbit cookbook)
  • Roasted garlic
  • Cheesecake (I haven’t done this yet as you need a 7-inch springform pan, and I only have a 10-inch one at the moment, but I’ve heard it’s incredible — once I can acquire a 7-inch pan, I want to try it)
  • Oatmeal
  • Cook a whole chicken, and then use the carcass to make bone broth
  • Soup or stew
  • Homemade yogurt (sadly, I only have the 6-in-1 instant pot, so I do not have the yogurt setting – you need to buy the 7-in-1 version, linked below, for that particular setting)
  • Rice (I’ve made both white rice and brown rice, and pretty soon I’m going to try mango sticky rice
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Macaroni and cheese (pasta and all!)

There are so many possibilities that I almost wish I had two Instant Pots! The one I have was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law (who also had no idea what it was but bought it for me anyway), and I’m seriously considering investing in another one someday. I’d like to be able to make both a main dish and a side dish using the IP (for example, honey chicken teriyaki in one pot and brown rice in the other).

Why Is This So Great for Working Mothers?

Two words: it’s fast. You can cook an entire pot roast in 90 minutes, start to finish. Something simple like macaroni and cheese takes around 10 minutes. A few nights ago I made the honey teriyaki chicken I mentioned above, and it was done cooking in the IP before my rice cooker had finished cooking the rice!

My biggest epiphany came when I realized what this magical device can do for the busy working mother.

It can cook a meal in less than an hour even if your meat is frozen.

Did you catch that?

Even if your meat is frozen.

So if you, like me, constantly forget to take your meat out of the freezer in time for it to thaw in the refrigerator, only to suddenly remember you needed to do so the day you’d intended to stick the meal in the crockpot, this machine is a miracle.

Now, there ARE some exceptions to that rule — it’s best not to pressure cook a frozen pot roast, for example, since a roast is a really thick chunk of meat and it will definitely take over an hour, even in the Instant Pot, and may not cook evenly. (This article is a good guide to cooking frozen meat in the Instant Pot.) But for other types of meat — beef stew meet, pork chops, chicken, turkey, even ground beef — it’s amazing.

Most slow cooker recipes can be converted for use in the IP (there’s a good tutorial on that here), so it’s a lifesaver if you plan a crockpot meal and then realize around 3pm that you forgot to put it in (like I do… all the time…).

What’s Your Favorite Instant Pot Recipe?

I’m so glad you asked! My favorite so far is the recipe for Fall-Apart Pressure Cooker Pot Roast. It only has five ingredients, it’s very easy to make, and it tastes fabulous. The five ingredients are a 3-4lb pot roast, an onion, 2 cups of broth or water, sea salt, and oil (I use olive oil). Ninety minutes later (allowing 20 minutes to come to pressure, and 70 minutes actual cooking time) it’s as tender and delicious as if it’d been cooking all day in the slow cooker. (This isn’t one of the recipes that allows to cook from frozen, but it’s still my favorite.)

Where Can I Get One?!

You can usually find them on sale at Amazon. See the affiliate links* below!

7-in-1 pot

6-in-1 Pot

*If you choose to buy the IP via this link, I receive a small percentage of the sale. Your support is appreciated!

Okay, I Have One… Now What?

The first thing you want to do is read the manual cover to cover. After that, there’s no shortage of resources available online!

The Instant Pot Community on Facebook is a great resource, although it can be a little overwhelming what with 400,000+ members. I highly recommend checking out the documents in the files section first, as they contain a lot of helpful links to various YouTube videos and such to help you get started.

After that, if you want to join an Instant Pot group on Facebook that’s much smaller and a little more intimate, I highly recommend Instant Pot Recipes with Kara, which is run by a friend of mine. We’re all learning to use our IPs together.

There are thousands of Pinterest boards containing Instant Pot recipes, tips, tricks, etc. My Instant Pot recipe board contains all of the recipes linked in this post as well as others that I’ve tried or am planning to try.

If you have an Instant Pot of your own, feel free to leave a comment with your favorite tips, tricks, and recipes!

The Dinner Daily

And The Dinner Daily Winner Is….

The winner of the six month subscription to The Dinner Daily is…

SaraLynn G.!

Congratulations, SaraLynn, and I hope you enjoy your subscription!

For those of you who didn’t win, I have exciting news for you. The great folks at The Dinner Daily have created a special 10% off coupon good until May 14th. The Coupon Code is TCWM10 and you can use it on the signup page to receive the discount. As always, the first two weeks are free to try – there is no charge until day 15 and you can cancel anytime before that, without charge, on the account settings page.

As I said in my review, I think this service is great, and I can see it being a fantastic resource for busy families. Thanks to everyone who entered, and thanks to The Dinner Daily for providing the subscription!

The Dinner Daily

My Review of “The Dinner Daily”

Note: I wasn’t paid or otherwise compensated for this post; all opinions are my own.

Ask any working mom which regular chore is the bane of her existence, and the answer is often, “Making dinner!” It’s so hard to work a full day, drag yourself home, and then jump right into dinner preparation — especially if you have several little ones and/or are pregnant. Sometimes the husband will help, but let’s face it, most men aren’t able to prepare anything other than basic meals for their family. Meal planning helps, but that’s just one more chore to add on to all the rest, and it can be a daunting one.

I’m always on the lookout for goods and services that will make meal prep and planning easier, which is why I was intrigued when I came across The Dinner Daily. This company was founded by a working mom and promises to take the hassle and stress out of meal planning. I signed up for a two-week trial to check it out.

How The Dinner Daily Works

When you register for a membership, you’re given a selection of local grocery stores in your area. Based on the store you choose, The Dinner Daily will send you a recipe plan and shopping list based on what’s on sale in your chosen store on the day that the store’s sales are published. You can opt out of choosing a specific store; or, if they don’t have the store that you prefer to use, they’ll send you an “Any Store” plan that isn’t based on sale items (but still has a menu plan and a shopping list).

Shopping and Sales

The only store given to me as an option was my local Fry’s Food Store (a.k.a. Kroger). I was happy with this choice, because my local Fry’s also has a grocery pickup service (ClickList) that allows me to shop for groceries online and pick them up at the store. (I intend to do a post singing the praises of grocery pickup services sometime soon, because it has been a game changer for me!) If you can sign up for a store that also has grocery pickup or grocery delivery, that’s a win-win in my opinion.

I can also earn gas reward points from shopping at Fry’s, which helps keep our fuel costs down. So even though there was only one option, it was the one that was most convenient for me. The “Any Store” option would have worked as well, though, because I also have a Safeway and a WinCo nearby, as well as a Wal-Mart. (The Wal-Mart nearest my house does not have a grocery pick-up service, but the one that is approximately five miles away does.)

Menus

The Dinner Daily has a wide variety of menus, including Everything (no exempted ingredients), No Seafood, No Red Meat or Pork, Poultry and Vegetarian, Vegetarian with Seafood, and Vegetarian. In addition, each menu plan, no matter which one you choose, has options for reduced carb and gluten-free. I chose No Seafood because I don’t like seafood (my husband and kids do, but since they don’t do the cooking they didn’t get a vote).

The site has sample menus for each option, so you can take a look before you sign up to get an idea of what recipes are used.

What I loved about this service is your ability to switch out a meal. If I came across a meal that I didn’t think I’d like or that I thought my family wouldn’t like, I just clicked an icon in the menu and was presented with several alternative choices. I picked a different one and my menu plan and shopping list were automatically updated to reflect my new choices. So easy!

I was satisfied with the menus I used for the two weeks I was a member. All of the meals were fairly quick and mostly easy. I didn’t end up making all of them, but I tried Greek Burgers (basically hamburgers made with feta cheese) which is a meal a little out of my comfort zone, and they were delicious.

Each meal plan menu item comes with a suggested side dish, which is included in the shopping list. However, these are fairly easy to ignore if you have something else in mind, or if you want to go super simple with a bag of steamed veggies.

The menus themselves were arranged logically, and the ingredients are color-coded as well as numbered so you can easily identify which shopping list item goes with its respective menu item. I could save the menus as PDFs and keep them in my Google Drive folder for easy access, or access them on the site via my iPhone – perfect for me because I never remember to take a physical list to the store, but I always have my phone. I could also keep the menu in one tab and have the online grocery ordering system open in another, and easily switch between the two. I could also make the grocery list on my phone while looking at the shopping list on the computer, or vice versa.

I was pleased with the variety of dishes, and according to their FAQ, they won’t repeat recipes for two months to ensure variety.

Cost

Dinner Daily memberships are just $1.50/week or less, depending on the plan you choose ($18 for three months, $30 for six months, or $48 for a full year). I think that less than $50/year for a meal planning service is very reasonable, and it would likely pay for itself over time given the savings incurred with eating out less and not having to run to the store for last-minute ingredients or last-minute supper items.

What I Didn’t Like

My quibbles are minor. I wish there was a menu option for larger families. Your choices are for a family of 2-4 or a family of 4-6. I have eight in my family; however, one of them is still exclusively breastfed and the younger ones eat smaller portions, so I was able to make do with the 4-6 people option. I’m not sure how feasible that will be as my kids get older. It seemed to me that most of the recipes would adapt well to doubling, so that could be an option.

I also wish that there was an option to include meals made with the Instant Pot, as I absolutely adore mine. (I’m currently writing a post about how awesome it is for working moms.) However, it’s fairly easy to convert most slow cooker recipes for use in an Instant Pot, so that could work.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was happy with the service. I was actually intending at the outset to purchase a full membership, but my circumstances have since changed (I was laid off from my full-time job) and I need to reevaluate my budget before incurring any extra expenses. Also I’m hoping that meal planning will be a bit easier now that I’m not working full-time. But I can definitely see this service being very useful to those who detest meal planning or who just want to take something off of their plate.

I reached out to the folks who run The Dinner Daily, and they graciously and generously agreed to provide a six-month membership (value: $30) as a raffle prize for one of my readers! (Happy Feast of St. Gianna! As a busy physician with several small children, I bet she would have loved a meal planning service!)

Please sign up at The Catholic Working Mother Facebook page (you don’t need a FB account to enter) if you’d like the chance to win six months of free meal planning. The raffle will run until 11:59pm (AZ time) on May 5, 2017. I’ll announce the winner on May 6, 2017, and put them in contact with the folks at The Dinner Daily to claim their prize. Good luck!