The Vacuum Cleaner Syndrome

Ah, parentsdownload (1)
Aren’t we great?
Always running around serving,
Acting like a combination of Martha and Mary.
A+ parents who are in control, right?

Think again. When any one of us, whether  a mother or not, refuses to give up control, we shut out the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, we end up acting just like vacuum cleaners when it is God’s job to purify our family in His power, mercy and grace. He desires that we simply become conduits of His Love. It is by Christ’s suffering that mothers and their families are healed, not by the mother acting like a sacrificial lamb or a scapegoat like in the Old Testament.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

It is not easy to let go of control because I am naturally wired to act just like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up all my children’s pain. Likewise, my children are compassionate vacuum cleaners, who attract other people’s negative emotions. They are all aware  they learned this dysfunctional behaviour not only from observing my husband and me in action but also because they have inherited this trait from both of us.

This problem, The Vacuum Cleaner Syndrome, is a difficult disease to cure. As my daughter and a fellow vacuum cleaner, Katie, asked this question during a family discussion,

“How can one vacuum cleaner help another vacuum cleaner?”

Four of us around the circle smiled and laughed at the image.Then I blurted out, “Why, show the other vacuum how to reverse the hose and blow out the dirt and not suck it in, collect it or try to control it.”

That humourous comment released waves of uncontrollable laughter blasting clean air through all of us and helped us let go of control. Compassion and empathy are vital in close relationships but my tendency is to try to fix my husband and kids by hoarding their pain within my heart.

Do my seemingly selfless reactions weigh me down?


Is anyone fixed or set free as I sacrifice my peace and happiness to try to help my family?


Does this Vacuum Cleaner Syndrome destroy everyone’s peace and joy when I try to control everything?


The good news is that a silly image picturing mum as a vacuum cleaner does reverse this self-defeating, addictive pattern because it makes it easier for everyone to understand how ludicrous I have been. The laughter that follows releases the tension used to keep emotional pain locked up inside. I am not the saviour; we are all children of God. Yes my life is one of devotion and dying to my false self but I do not serve my family or God on my strength. I live and move and have my being in Him; His strength, love, grace and mercy sustains me and flows to my children. No room for arrogance.

I walk in faith and trust, trust in His mercy and love. Jesus is the only vacuum cleaner who has the ability to literally suck up everyone’s emotional pain and sin, then blow in joy, peace and new life back in. The only prerequisite is to give Him permission. This is the great exchange; surrender dirt and receive the bright, clean breath of God, then laugh at how long it took you to let it happen.

Let’s let go of control and entrust our kids to God and Mary’s intercession.

Sandro Botticelli - The Virgin and Child with Saint John and an Angel (detail), 1490.
Sandro Botticelli – The Virgin and Child with Saint John and an Angel (detail), 1490.

Mary is the Queen over all things: “Queen over all things” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 966).

Entrust our cares to Mary: “Holy Mary, Mother of God…we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: ‘Let it be to me according to your word.’ [Lk 1:38] By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: ‘Thy will be done,’ (CCC 2677).

Mary is Advocate, Helper, Mediatrix. “…the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.'” (CCC 969).

Amen. Let it be so

Linking with Carrie Ann Tripp at   #ThursdayTheologyBlogs

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15 thoughts on “The Vacuum Cleaner Syndrome

  1. I think that is one of the hardest things to do as a mom, to give up control, but yes! We have to do it or we honestly will drive ourselves nuts. Thanks for sharing. Lots of moms need to read this. 🙂 -Abby (visiting from Thursday Theology)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I constantly try to find the balance between letting my kids figure out the world on their own (natural consequences) and helping them when they need it. Moms have a hard time not doing something….even if that “something” they do really isn’t all that helpful! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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