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Perseverance in Parenting

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 walnutrice 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. pbjIt 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.

A photo of a recent Idaho sunset. Such beauty in our own backyard!

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!


Mom Jeans

momjeanspic“Mom jeans” a derogatory term for high-waisted unfashionable jeans. I have to admit my kids are too young to be embarrassed by what I wear, but I totally have mom jeans.  Bring on the 5% Spandex and cinch in the waist!

“Going through pregnancy is like lending a paperback book to a friend, it is seldom returned in its original condition.”    -Regular Joan

I am 8 months post partum and the busy life with three little ones allows very little time for exercise. It is frustrating and it shows in the 15lbs of baby weight left to lose. Carrying the baby strengthens the arms, but the belly is not so cute now that the baby is gone! I’m seeing a new meaning to ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ perhaps it is the tattered book with the water damage that is a most exciting adventure!

It is hard not to get discouraged at times. Positive self talk, “It took 9 months to gain the weight I should at least get 9 months to lose it.” Seems fair, but I can’t look back at pre-baby photos and not know that things will never quite be the same. Sigh.

I read a rather jolting quote of Peter Kreeft’s, that pointed out how the devil distorts Christ’s holy words “This is my body” into a defense for abortion. During the consecration of the Eucharist a Catholic priest repeats the words of Jesus at the last supper saying, “… for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.”  Sadly, like the post- abortive young woman told me “this is my body” and I don’t want to put it through that [pregnancy]. Of course this attitude has a complete disregard for the some-body growing inside her.

image from Pinterest. Psalm 139**

I think there is too much emphasis on having the perfect body. It’s funny because if you look at the models in magazines – you know that the majority of women are not made to look like that. And ironically with all the airbrushing even the women in those pictures don’t look like the women in those pictures!* Is obsessing over one’s weight a form of materialism? I do believe in honoring the bodies God gave us with healthy habits, but focusing too much on the physical is not a good thing. It is actually kind of shallow. And really our self worth should not come from our appearance, or anything else based on the perception of others. Because it isn’t what others think about us that determines our value; it’s what God thinks about us.  And I get the feeling that God thinks I’m doing alright, even if while on loan my body did get a few marks and blotches. It’s the story inside He’s more concerned about.

Am I feeling guilty about the extra weight? Yes. I would love to have my body bounce back like it seems to happen for the moms in their early 20s. But my guilt doesn’t measure up against the pride and joy I have in my beautiful children. In society’s eyes I may be overweight, but in my children’s eyes I am beautiful, smart, caring, fun, and pretty much all the stuff a super hero is made of. And with love like that it is pretty hard to feel anything but good.

aug2010 058Someone once gave me a onesie that said “Happiness is Mommy” and I love that because it is a two way street. Babies relish in the happiness of being held by and nourished by Mommy -their whole world. And the Mommy is happy being able to give that little baby all her little heart desires, a full belly and a soft place to sleep with reckless abandonment.

So add the Mom Jeans to my tab. Thankfully, my happiness does not hinge on my dress size. Mommy is happiness because God has given her so many blessings! A faster metabolism just wasn’t one of them ; )

*joke borrowed from Mark Gungor, Laugh your Way to a Better Marriage

**Psalm 139: 13-16 You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. 15 My bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.* 16 Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before I came to be.