There is a pressure that surrounds us as parents to be perfect. In the modern age of technology there is an overload of information available on every conceivable topic, all an arms length away, accessible at the tap of a finger. There is always a better way to cook, to clean, to parent, to vacation, to lose weight, to be evermore efficient! Is it me, or can it get overwhelming?!
It is hard to balance it all. There is work, caring for children, meal preparation, sleep, a million house chores, fun time and reading with children, spiritual enrichment, exercise, grocery shopping, bill paying, doctor’s appointments, and on and on. It is exhausting at times. I was really encouraged by what Pope Francis said about the family recently, “The perseverance which is called when having and raising a family transforms the world and history.” Perseverance that’s what it is! And a dose of courage is needed too to even try to tackle raising kids in a world pushing perfection.
“The perseverance which is called when having and raising a family transforms the world and history.” ~Pope Francis
Perseverance. Like the cross country running quote, “When your legs can’t run anymore, run with your heart.” It takes grit to push through the craziness sometimes. When you feel like you will be driven over the edge by the vermin known as unmatched baby socks (my house is infested) or the frustration of toddlers who simultaneously NEED your help AND want to do it ALL by myself! When the whining is on surround sound and you want to scream, but settle for turning on Elmo and giving the baby a bath only to have him poop in the tub! Persevere.
What I find helpful when I find myself living on the edge of insanity is to prioritize and multitask as much as possible. Like fitting the walnuts and rice in the jar, we first need to keep in perspective what God demands not the world. And once we have our life ordered toward the good of God (the walnuts) the rest falls into place. If you put the rice in first it doesn’t all fit. I read Sigrid Undset’s “St. Catherine of Siena” and found it stinging as the great saint chastises her own mother for wasting so much time and energy concerning “things that do not matter.” I found the irony in her position- things made of matter do not matter much. The focus should be on the spiritual. Appropriate message given this time of year when Christmas is over commercialized. We may be feeling added stress and disorder due to the busyness of the holidays. Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, is a time of preparation. It’s not just about preparing gifts for everyone on our list, but primarily it’s about preparing our hearts to receive the greatest gift: Jesus. Christmas shouldn’t feel like chaos it’s about peace.
In line with focusing on the spiritual, prioritize prayer. This helps keep our lives in proper perspective, God’s dreams for you don’t include some unachievable cultural standard of a perfect body, a perfect home, perfect children, etc. The second key to keeping your sanity while raising a family, is to multitask when possible. The other day my 2 and 5 year old did a craft where they made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches aka their own lunch. It was great for everyone! Another one I like is to combine exercise and playtime with kids. Or perhaps you combine spiritual enrichment with your daily commute by praying or listening to Catholic/Christian Radio. Now if I could only figure out how to do laundry and clean bathrooms in my sleep I’d be set!
The truth is raising kids is challenging in many ways. But the hard work really pays off in a way that is priceless. I wish there was a way to show the parents of unplanned pregnancies (or couples that are afraid to have children) that though it will be difficult, it will be worth it. Imagine climbing a mountain and then watching an awe-inspiring sunset at the top. You take a picture of the moment. But try as you may to show that picture to someone, a picture can hardly capture the magnitude of the moment. The joy and fulfillment of having children is like that. I would argue that whether you’ve been planning the climb for years with your spouse or you were dropped out of an airplane at the base of the mountain with 9 months or less to prepare – it will be a climb. Either way will require blood, sweat, tears, and perseverance. For me, the more difficult journey having a son with uncertain health problems, has only given me a deeper sense of contentment and a deeper understanding of the tender love God has for each of us. Everyday brings new joys and/or sufferings, but we offer them to the Lord and He makes something so beautiful. Impossible to capture completely with words or a picture, but I tried.
Therefore, do not overwhelm yourself pursuing perfection, but per the pope-persevere! Prioritize persistent prayer and patience in parenting and you will transform the world and history! What’s the Letter of the Day? ‘P’ clap- clap!