Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cry Rooms: Lifesaver or Cross to bear?

Yesterday, I read Kendra's post on cry rooms over at Catholic All Year and it really got me to thinking. So, you know, I figured I'd subject you all to my musings. :)

Kendra was writing about how she took her small children to daily Mass, and was asked by the priest to take them to the cry room. She hates cry rooms, and doesn't feel she should have to use them if she feels more comfortable out in the main sanctuary. She asked for the opinions of others. Here is mine:

Pre-child opinion: I certainly don't think anybody should be forced into the cry room, but I see cry rooms as a wonderful option for harried mothers. So much less stress! No worries about your baby crying and disturbing other worshippers! You can be in the cry room and rest easy. I will definitely take advantage of cry rooms once I have children.

Post-child opinion: I loathe cry rooms with the fire of a thousand suns. And here is why.

After I had Henry I brought him to Mass with me every week. Mike doesn't come to Mass with us every week, so I'm often on my own for child wrangling during this time. Therefore I thought a cry room was an integral consideration in the parish that I chose once we moved to our new house. There are 2 very close to our house, and so I chose the one that had a cry room.

Every week I stuffed Henry and I into that tiny room in the back of the church. Here are the phenomena that we encountered that seem to be present in every cry room I've ever visited:

(1) People without children will sit in there too. Why, you ask? I have absolutely no idea, but the fact of the matter is that it will happen. Therefore, I feel just as stressed and insecure about my baby making noise in the cry room as I do out in the main sanctuary. Plus, the more people that are in there (cry rooms are rarely very large) the "cozier" it is, and the more difficult it is to get up and walk a fussy baby or for mobile children to not be right in somebody's face.

(2) Many parents will not even attempt to keep their toddlers under control because "it's the cry room." Well, yes, but I still think we all need to try and show our children how to behave in church so that they will know what is expected of them when they are older. If we don't do that, Mass becomes playtime. So, chaos can reign in the cry room and it's not a good example for anybody.

(3) The congregation becomes less tolerant of children out in the main sanctuary when there is a cry room present, exactly like what Kendra experienced. And that shouldn't be. Children are *part of* the parish community. If a parent wants to bring them into the sanctuary, and is doing their best to keep them from disturbing others (and children just make natural noises, this should be expected and understood), there is no reason why they can't be there. The Church is not a museum. It is a living thing, and children are an essential part of that.

(4) The cry room is separate from the rest of the congregation, and it is *isolating*. Even though there are speakers in the cry room and a window to see through, I felt disconnected from the liturgy.

I slogged away in the cry room with Henry week after week for months, misery gradually taking hold of my Sunday mornings. One day I drove to Mass and couldn't find a parking spot. What's an emotional new mother to do? She bursts into tears and drives home, that's what.

I arrive home in tears and Mike asks me, with great concern, what was wrong. And even I was surprised by my answer.

"I HATE that cry room!! I'm so miserable in there!! It's so tiny and stifling, I can barely breathe, and I hardly feel like I'm even in the church! I can't take it anymore!"

Yes, that's right. I realized that I was actually *depressed* and that my spiritual life was languishing since I started using the cry room during Mass. The very next week I started driving back to our old parish, which I had left simply because we had moved. But I loved that parish, and clearly, this new situation wasn't working for me.

*angels sing*

No cry room. It was WONDERFUL. This church had pews with a wooden divide halfway through, and when Henry got to be a toddler, that was clutch. It was like a built-in baby gate. Yes, I had to worry about him squawking or having a tantrum or any number of other loud things, but I felt again like I was a part of the community, and I could literally feel my spiritual life blossom again. Eventually, the drive got to be a bit inconvenient, and so I tried the other parish near our house, and that's where I still attend today. No cry room there either. And I LOVE it.

There is a 10 am family Mass on Sunday with lots of kids. All of us parents are in the same boat and the congregation is accordingly sympathetic and supportive. And you know, you do have to deal with things such as I did this past Sunday when I had both Henry and Anne with me.

We had:

Instances of dancing in the aisle - 2

Mounting of the pew in a standing position - countless

Peeling on and off of stickers which resulted in one becoming unwittingly stuck to the back of Mommy's skirt in a most mortifying location - 1

Occurrence of very unladylike, LOUD (I mean, all the missal shuffling in the *world* couldn't cover this up) gastrointestinal-related noises - 2

Times sippy cup was thrown to pew - 2

Instances of whining - 3

Instances of shushing - countless

You deal with it. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Children belong at Mass. WITH the community of believers.

I'm participating in Jennifer Fulwiler's 7 posts in 7 days challenge, so prepare to hear a lot from me this week!


  1. I have had a very similar journey with cry rooms myself! And I love the "fire of a thousand suns" part. I'm so grateful that our parish at home doesn't have a cry room. I think it makes for a much more pleasant environment.

    Thanks for linking up!

  2. Yes to all this! And I don't even have children yet :)

  3. Looks like you've been discovered. :)
    It's true isn't it? One always starts at the top and tired of clicking part way through a linkup list. :)


  4. We go 25 minutes out of our way to get to a more child-friendly parish. It has a cry room while the more local one doesn't, but the main reason is just that the priest and congregation all glare at babies at the close parish, and not at the farther one. I don't understand why -- I mean, they must know there's nowhere to take the baby except the vestibule, where you can't hear, and where they leave the back doors open so the babies can bolt for the steep concrete stairs. Maybe everybody just picks up the pastor's attitude, which is very anti-kid. Considering he enjoys thundering from the pulpit against birth control every Sunday, I don't know what he expects! There are LOTS of kids and all the parishes around here.

    I wish there were rules for the cry room. I always think of it as "where we go when wrangling kids in the pew gets too exhausting and we give up and just let them play in the cry room." But now I'm thinking, are all those moms with sweet, quiet babies (what are they doing in there anyway?!) judging me because I let my kids play? We always start out in the pew and then retreat to the cry room when things get too awful .... usually mid-homily. They just won't even stay in the pew. The 1yo is busy crawling under the pews to grab people's shoes, and the 3yo is saying loudly, "It's over now, time to go home!"

    Honestly, no matter what we do, Mass is really, really exhausting. I'm just in stick-it-out-it'll-get-better mode ... I sure hope it does get better.

  5. Yes! Thankfully none of the parishes we've attended since having kids have had cry rooms.


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