Because sometimes parenting is just plain HARD…

Ever have those days as a parent when you wonder what in the world you are doing?  Ever get to the end of a day and collapse into bed with a huge sigh, weighed down with all the frustrations and imperfections of the day, and just pray that the next day will be a little easier?  Ever have a day when you feel like you’re doing everything wrong, and you just cry because you really don’t know what else to do?

I’ve had several of those days lately.

It’s easy in those crazy days, in those hard days when you feel like you’re doing everything wrong, to maintain perspective and focus in this whole parenting thing.  Because parenting is just plain hard sometimes.  There are days that stretch you so far you feel like you’re going to pop…days that break you…days that wear you down to the very end of yourself.

Parenting is hard work.

Which is why I think it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the day to day…it’s easy to only focus on just containing the chaos until bedtime (and even then it’s not guaranteed peace because sleep is never a guarantee, at least not in my house 😉 ).  Each day is full of the urgent: there is food to be prepared and laundry to wash and homework to finish and teeth to brush and arguments to mediate and meltdowns to manage…and the list goes on and on.

Parenting is hard work.

But it is also the most important work.

Because it is not just about getting through each day.  It’s not even just about making sure these crazy kids survive to see age 18…or that they are “smart” and “successful” when they grow up.  There is a bigger picture…a bigger story…a more important mission at stake.

I often wonder what in the world God was thinking when He made me a mom.  Imperfect, insecure, unsure, mess-of-a-person ME?…a mom?  He put into these imperfect arms an eternal soul, to raise and teach and love and train.  He gave me this unique and precious little person and entrusted me with her physical, emotional, mental, AND spiritual well-being.  What an incredibly huge responsibility.  It can be so overwhelming sometimes.  I am so not qualified or equipped to do all of that…what if I mess up and mess her up in the process?

I had Emma when I was 23.  We had only been married one year when I got pregnant.  We were so excited.  But we had no idea what we were doing….seriously, no idea, lol.  I look back now on those early years and I see that I really was just in a survival mode, for a very long time.  Emma didn’t eat well…she didn’t sleep well…she cried a lot.  Parenting back then was just plain exhausting.  And it didn’t really get easier when we added Lilly to the mix when Emma was 2.  Ever since then it really has felt like long periods of chaos and craziness, with moments of sanity sprinkled along the way.  I feel like I have fumbled my way through this whole parenting thing…and just when I think I figured something out, I stumble over a new challenge and once again have no idea what I’m doing.

The girls are 10 and 8 now, and you would think I’d have it down by now. Yeah, no…not so much.  Actually, I think these next few years are going to be even harder work in many ways.  Teenage girls.  The very thought sends Mark, my husband, into mild panic attacks ;).

We still really don’t know what we’re doing.  But there are a few things we have learned.  And relearned.  And then learned again.  God has to keep reminding me of these things, because I tend to forget and lose focus.  And because if I don’t keep these things at the front, the “urgent” things in each day will crowd out the “important” things.  The difficult homework assignment, the dinner that burned, the argument, the piles of laundry, the temper tantrum…these “urgent” things that demand immediate attention will overshadow the “important” things, and before I know it we have kicked back into pure survival mode as a family and we are just counting down the minutes to bedtime.  We just “get through” the day instead of embracing the day, whatever it brings, and counting it all joy.

Now, none of these things are my own original concepts or ideas…I’ve heard them at conferences and in podcasts, I’ve read about them in books and magazine articles, I’ve even shared these concepts with other parents, particularly during the time that I was Preschool Director at our church.  These concepts are nothing new, but really putting them into consistent daily practice can be challenging, especially when the demands and responsibilities in the day-to-day are pressing down hard.

So what are these things that I need to remember?  What do I remind myself when we’ve been in that survival mode? What am I telling myself today as I am coming out of a few days of just surviving?…

1)  There is no such thing as a perfect family.  That picture you have in your head of how you think your family should look, how you should act, how you should be? Throw it away!  Let it go!  And quit picking it back up and putting it on the mantle of your heart as if that “picture-perfect” family is your goal.  There’s no perfect family.  Only a perfect God.  In fact God says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)  So don’t stress about the imperfections…God’s power, His strength is its best, perfect, in our weakness.

2)  God is writing a bigger story.  He’s writing a story that goes beyond that really bad day…it’s a story that is bigger than that temper tantrum, that mistake, that poor choice, that ruined dinner, that dirty toilet, that crazy homework assignment, that argument, that pile of bills, that unfinished list…His story is bigger than all of that, and what’s more, He’s using ALL of that for a purpose in His bigger story.  He’s writing a story through you, and your imperfect family.  It’s a story of love and forgiveness and redemption and grace and mercy….He’s been writing it since the beginning of time…a story of a God who takes us, in all of our mess and imperfection, and redeems us through Jesus…and your children are getting a front row seat to that story being lived out every day in YOU.  And guess what?  He’s writing that story through them, too!  So point them to this bigger story….show them how God is using everything in your life to shape your heart and mold your character, because He has a plan and a purpose…then help them see how He’s doing the same in their hearts and lives too.

3)  Keep the end in mind.  You don’t have forever.  You only have these children for a short time.  It may seem like a long time from now, but the years will fly by and before you know it you are sending them off to live out God’s story on their own.  If you intentionally recognize that your time is limited then you will intentionally make more of the time you have.

{I have this nifty little app on my phone called “Legacy Countdown.”  It counts down the weeks, days, hours, minutes, even seconds that we have left before each child graduates high school.  Kinda puts things in perspective, and helps me remember that my time is limited…there is an end. (Not that all parenting ends at high school graduation…but it is a key event that marks a change in our role as parents).  Anyway…it’s a great little (free) app that I highly recommend.}

4)  Consistent investments over time WILL make a difference. Keep investing.  Every day.  Keep praying with them, keep reading God’s Word with them, keep talking about God, keep spending quality time together, keep doing things together, keep laughing together, keep exploring the world together…don’t grow weary…don’t get discouraged…keep investing.  It WILL make a difference.  You don’t have to do it all.  You don’t have to do it perfectly.  Just keep going.  Trust that God is working, even if you can’t see it.  Keep leaning into Jesus…keep trusting Him and following Him.

5)  Pray.  Pray, pray, pray.  Lay it all at His feet.  On the days you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, and even on the days you think you do…ask God for wisdom and listen to His voice.

Usually it’s the days that I am too “busy” to slow down and really take time to spend time with God, to really listen to Him…those are the days that I feel most in survival mode…those are the days that the urgent things scream so loud that I ignore the important things that are whispering to me, gently tugging at my heart.  But if I take the time to slow down, if I intentionally slow the hurry and set aside the urgency of the busy, and just spend time with Jesus….if I make space in the pace for Christ…then I am able to focus…my heart can have peace.  And then I can parent my girls with a little less crazy and a little more intentionality.

Being a parent is hard work.  No doubt about it.

And I am so far from having it all together…I am so very imperfect at this thing.  But it amazes me how God takes someone like me…how He can take a couple like me and Mark, so far from perfect and such a mess on our own…and He allows us to be a part of His story in these amazing little girls’ lives.  He fills in the gaps…His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses…and He comes right alongside us and writes His story of grace and forgiveness all over our family.  We mess up, and He uses it to teach His forgiveness.  We fall down, and He uses it to show us His grace.  We love, and really He’s showing us HIS love through each other.  He uses our lives to shape our children’s lives.  Who we are, what we say, what we do…it matters. Because it’s shaping them.  It’s an incredible, (sometimes scary), amazing, wonderful thing.

Today I embrace whatever comes, and I pray that God will give me wisdom to live a life in front of my girls that just draws them to Him.  Because really it’s not about me being a “good” mom, or a “perfect” mom…and it’s not about creating a “perfect” family…it’s about pointing my girls to the only perfect One, the One from whom every good and perfect gift comes, Jesus…so that one day they will leave us and go out and do the same thing, point others to Christ, as they live out His plan and purpose for their lives.

Parenting is hard.

But what an amazing privilege and awesome adventure it can be!

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2 thoughts on “Because sometimes parenting is just plain HARD…

  1. Micki January 15, 2014 at 8:36 am Reply

    Love it!
    Best line: “Not that all parenting ends at high school graduation…but it is a key event that marks a change in our role as parents.” So true 😉

    And that app…you remember what it looks like at zero hour?? LOL…wow.

    • Jennifer Tucker January 21, 2014 at 8:17 am

      Lol…yes! I actually thought of you as I wrote that sentence 😉

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