I’ve been feeling some type of way over the last … I don’t know. Ever since having kids, my outlook on life has changed completely. I’m not a different person because I … A: realized the life I used to live was wrong, or B: was having too much fun, or C: just needed something different. I think we all go through a major life change at some point, and mine happened when I brought my first child in to the world.
Never, ever ever in my life have I felt so much fear, excitement, anxiety, love, guilt, jealousy, anger, disappointment, confusion, temptation, indecisiveness. You get the point, the list goes on and on.
There should be a word for the infinite number of jumbled up feelings a parent feels when they bring a life in to the world. Because this is a scary world. It’s a confusing world. It’s so full of so many unexplainable, beautiful, challenging, surprising things, that not only just affect you anymore – responsibility has a whole new meaning at this point.
You mean I can no longer be selfish?!
Once you bring a child in to the world, selfishness has no place under your personal description. It’s no longer about you, but about the well-being of your child.
You also lose friends. I know this because I’ve lost a multitude of friends, or people I once thought were friends. For those of you without children that think your friends have abandoned you to their little ones, well, you’re right. We have, in a way. It’s not an intentional “forget you” – but it’s more of a “I love you, you’re important to me, but I have to tend to someone far more important than you will EVER understand. And if you love me, you will still try your hardest to be a part of my life, and understand that I am doing the best I can do.”
Another thing that rings in as new during your years of parenting are the opinions. The endless “advice” and opinions that have no place or reason to be said. I think this one has been the hardest for me to swallow. And with that being said, I’m going to roll with what is on my mind lately and dive right in to this topic.
Being a parent in itself is tough, but being a new (newer) parent, that hasn’t been in the wise shoes of an older mother or father who has experienced the similar circumstance that you are going through, makes the journey even more overwhelming. Being a new parent who is under constant watch from others is nerve-racking. Talk about feeling like a failure! Try being a new parent who is constantly subjected to criticism by EVERYONE – I’m not even talking about strangers – but every other “been there, done that” parent you know! It is unbearable and more often than not.. uncalled for.
Something I feel needs to get straightened out immediately is one simple concept.
I am the one who housed this child when God began the creation of them in my womb. I am the one who decided on the name, the colors of the nursery, created the birth plan and chose the hospital, and all other details pertaining to that child (along with my husband). I carried them for their entire lifespan in utero, and I am the one who will carry and hold them during most of life’s endeavors, as long as God allows me to.
Despite common belief, parenting is an unexplainable, sporadic, unique job; each and every parent is different, along with each and every child. One single child was not born and then followed the same unchanging, completely identical children that would write the history for all children to come. There is no “right way” to parent a child. There is and never will be the right theory or correct path to parenting, except simply doing it; learning and growing from each experience.
If you are a graduated parent of once-young children/now adults who have gone on to begin their own beautiful families, and everything you did worked the first time around, and you never once felt like you let them down, then I applaud your efforts and I congratulate you on your accomplishments – but you, my friend, are not real. Every parent suffers from guilt, shamefulness, anxiety, regret, failure, and confusion. Every parent goes through the motions of “what did I do wrong? How do I fix this?” So to give advice and opinions in a way that says to a new mother or father “Oh, you poor, poor child. Let me have that baby and I’ll show you how it’s done,” is completely and utterly absurd.
Instead of pouring out your wisdom and mental, unpublished (because it’s ridiculous) “Guidebook to Parenting”, thinking you know what it’s like to be in that persons shoes, I advise you to do something different. Offer encouragement. I have never in my life needed someone to tell me how to do this job. No, I don’t really wake up in the morning saying to myself, “Please, someone slap me across the face with wisdom on the correct way to raise my child.” I do, however, usually think about how nice it would be to be told I’m doing a great job even when I don’t feel like I am. Such as the times a grocery-store-run on a seemingly good day turns in to a crying mob scene. My three year old throws a fit because he realizes I’m not buying him that $15 egg beater that’s hanging off the eye-catching aisle display, as my infant explodes poop all over himself and the wheel on my cart decides it’s had enough rolling for the day. When you pass me in the aisle looking like a wreck and my face is in my hands (because you really can’t begin to understand that my definition of a “good day” is that my kids actually took a 10 minute nap so I could partially eat the sandwich I had made myself two hours beforehand) – take a minute for me. Pray for me. Pray for my patience for my kids. Pray for my soul to find some refreshment in Jesus. Pray with me and maybe offer me some encouragement. But far too often, parents who have been in that same position at some point tend to forget how difficult it can be at times and pass judgement. Why do we do this?!
I do it! I am sooooo, so so so guilty! I see parents who appear to fall short of my standards and think, “Gee, could you be any crappier of a parent?” But very rarely do I take it upon myself to pray over their difficulties. I also do something that is disheartening to my soul, and compare myself too often to other parents. I think, “Wow, they are great parents, I wish I could be like them.” or “They really seem to have it all figured out, it must be nice to have the energy, the constant love and patience they have.” When in reality, they probably are feeling and thinking the same thoughts I have about some other wonderful, excelling mother who also follows the same vicious cycle of coveting thy neighbor. And I think, too, that our culture is often so quick to be critical of each other before offering a helping hand, a loving and encouraging word. We all have amazing ideas, great stories, and quick go-to solutions, but the answer isn’t the same for everyone. All we can do is share our situations and offer our advice and opinions upon request. (Of course we also know that there is a huge difference in raising our children with safe, healthy and humane care and then other ways that place our children in harmful situations. When harm is being done, it’s obvious that your instincts and judgements are needed to help that child be placed in protective hands).
This post wasn’t written to point my finger at anyone in particular, and honestly I can point that finger directly at myself because I often times, if not all the time, fall short of the person Jesus wants me to be. To be like Jesus would be an amazing thing – to constantly be the encouragement another person needed. To surround others with love when they need it the most, no matter what they’ve done or are going through. To lend a hand even when passing judgement and strolling along seems so much easier and less time consuming. Oh Lord, help me and challenge me to strive to be more like You.
When you think you are failing, and even when encouragement from others is lacking, I just want you to know, parent-that-feels-frustrated-and-overwhelmed-by-all-that-your-job-entails, you are not alone. When you need a word of encouragement, look to scripture and your failing thoughts will turn to amazing possibilities. Gods word says it best.
“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they may stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon your and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
“Love endures long and is patient and kind… it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fade-less under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-5, 7-8
By the way, parent, you are doing an amazing job. Keep your head up. When you need strength, God has you.