I am presently leading a group of young mothers in a discussion, support, sharing, and prayer group at our church. We use an interesting book as a starting point for our weekly meetings. The main premise of our current book is that we make married life and parenting harder by trying to make it look easy.
Think about that. How many times have we told friends and family, and even complete strangers, that everything is fine and then we shut the door and cry in frustration at how tired, disappointed, worried, confused, etc. we are?
Why is it so hard to admit to others and ourselves that being patient, empathetic, helpful, energetic, creative, understanding, and loving all the time is just plain hard? Why do we try to pretend we “have it all together”?
Fear of Perception
In my opinion, the major reasons have to do with our fears that admitting problems will make others think less of us, will think we are not a good parent or spouse, and/or will judge us as lacking. Then we also move beyond what we imagine others will think of us and say to ourselves, “Well, they are probably right. I am not a good parent/spouse because I am having these difficulties. A good parent would not want to run and hide sometimes, would not want to tell her family that she is fed up with their problems and needs, and that she would like someone to care about her needs once in a while.”
Parenting Qualities and Practices
So, what does makes a “good” parent? Fill in the blank yourself:
A good parent________________.
Here are some of my thoughts on this sentence completion:
- A good parent is not perfect and does not expect her children or spouse to be
- A good parent is hard working, not lazy, but still understands the need for herself and everyone in her family to eat well, exercise, and have free time to indulge in their own unique God-given talents
- A good parent does not judge others or her children because they do things or think things differently
- A good parent realizes that she leads by example and shows her children daily ways to help others as well as themselves
- A good parent puts aside her iPhone, computer, Facebook page, etc. to find time to read to, talk to, snuggle with, sing to, etc., her little ones while she still can
You fill in the sentence and ask others important to you to do the same. There are so many ways we are already being good parents, even though it is hard.
Infuriating and Lovable
The next time you are in Walmart and see a parent struggling with one or more tired, cranky children, instead of judging her, say, “We love them but sometimes they can be infuriating, can’t they? I have been there myself and it isn’t easy sometimes.” You may never know what those words could mean to this parent.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, call a trusted friend or relative and vent your insecurity at how you are doing in the parenting department. Let them reassure you by reminding you of many great qualities that they observe in you. Tell them you need help as you seek to gain perspective on this lifetime challenge of raising children.
This is not to say we should all turn into complaining bores. Far from it, let’s find the humor in the daily struggles, laugh at ourselves and our children, and learn not to “sweat the small stuff.”
When we can share, laugh, and admit that it is not easy, we are making this challenging job a lot easier for ourselves and all those we love.
Betts Hunter Gatewood is a National Board Certified school counselor with 28 years’ experience in elementary and middle school counseling. She holds an EdS degree from USC and has authored or co-authored four books on school counseling strategies and activities. She and her husband are the proud parents of three adult children and have four granddaughters and a grandson.