I’ve got five kids who need a whole lot of time and love and effort from me as I run them aroud to where they need to be, talk with them about all that is going on in their lives, and try to get them to do the things they are supposed to do, I keep up a household (not that well sometimes) and do a lot of shopping and cooking, I work to find time to be with my good husband, I run this website and do a lot of work creating podcast episodes, writing articles, posting stuff on social media, etc, I have responsibilities in my church and plan neighborhood events frequently, I have a book group and a discussion group I enjoy and that helps keep me reading good books and listening to good podcasts and TED Talks, I go hiking every week with friends and do a pretty good job going running and doing yoga at least a couple times a week, and I’ve got plenty of other projects and activities going on.
Yep, I do a lot of stuff. But you know what? All moms do a lot of stuff. We all do different things based on needs – our needs, our kids’ needs, our situational needs, the needs of our stage of motherhood. Some moms do a lot more in some areas and a lot less in other areas. I used to have more mom-related demands in some areas (diaper changing, mess-clean-up, bathing and feeding kids…) and a lot less in others (getting kids to where they need to be, helping with homework, dealing with my kids’ moods and emotions and friend drama…). As my mom always says, life doesn’t get easier – it just gets different. And sometimes “a change is as good as a rest.”
When we look at other moms and see what they’re doing or not doing, it’s so important to recognize that everyone has a different bandwidth based on their talents, needs, family situations, upbringing, personally-imposed and otherwise-imposed boundaries, etc. What seems super-ambitious and overly-busy to one person may seem a little lazy to someone else. What seems half-baked to one mom probably seems over-the-top to another. And what works during one period of our own lives may not work at all during a different period of our lives.
When I had five little preschoolers, I did a ton of stuff. But I didn’t run a website. I couldn’t have. It felt like a great day when I’d been able to get one load of wash done or go to bed with a clean kitchen on top of meeting my kids’ basic needs. Now I have lots of kid-less time every day to get things done while my children are at school and so many thing are easier – but my time and emotions and abilities are still stretched constantly, just in different ways.
One time several years ago, I remember sitting behind another family in church. Their kids were well-behaved, sang all the songs, and looked at church books quietly throughout the meeting. As I struggled with all my preschoolers, pulling out every trick imaginable to keep the kids somewhat quiet and corralled in our pew, I envied that mother in front of me. I wondered if I’d EVER be able to actually listen to anything going on in church and if my kids would EVER be well-behaved in public.
But you know what? My kids are really good in church now for the most part. We make it through every meeting without anyone having to be taken out crying at the top of their lungs and without anyone punching their brother or crawling away under the benches. Yes, the kids are good in church now partly because we’ve worked on it for a lot of years, but mostly, they’re good in church because they’re older.
A few months ago, I had a mom sitting in front of me with a baby and two preschoolers, struggling as her baby fussed and her other kids bickered over toys and books from the bag their mom had obviously carefully prepared with every possible thing that might keep them happily busy at church. I wished I could help in some way – but the kids didn’t know me and I didn’t have a bag of toys that might help. After the meeting, the mom apologized to me for her kids’ disruptive behavior, saying, “I sure wish my kids could sit quietly like yours! I feel like we’re a three-ring circus every Sunday, and it’s so hard to feel like anyone’s getting anything out of church!” I had to laugh. She was ME a few years ago, and I told her so.
I love this quote: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier – not that the nature of the task has changed, but that our ability to do it has increased.” I’ve always loved this quote: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier – not that the nature of the task has changed, but that our ability to do it has increased” – and I’d add this ending – and/or the people we’re working with have matured!”
In some ways, life is a lot easier now. No more diaper changing. No more waking up in the night with babies or kids who need something. No more getting kids dressed and brushing their hair. No more feeding children one spoonful at a time. No more trying to answer a hundred “why” questions a day for children who think I surely know everything.
But in some ways life is a lot harder now. There’s lots of talking and praying over where to step in and what to say and where to back off. There’s a lot of work involved in trying to really understand and meet needs of people who don’t really recognize their own needs and often seem to think I don’t think I know anything.
There will be plenty of pay-off moments in our lives as parents. We’ll see our children accomplish things they’ve worked hard for and smile that beautiful triumphant smile. We’ll see our kids make a lot of good choices and learn from some bad choices. We’ll see them develop into uniquely interesting and wonderful people.
But there will also be plenty of hard times and sad times and frustration as we work hard and sometimes see so little result.
Parenting doesn’t get easier. It just gets different. The worries change. The triumphs change. Some days – or months or years – will be super hard. Some moments will be breathtakingly beautiful. Parenting isn’t for whimps. But wow, what a ride!
QUESTION: How has your life changed recently? Is there a challenge you’ve been facing for a long time that has suddenly transformed into a different kind of challenge?
CHALLENGE: When you start to compare yourself with others or feel impatient about your progress, consider how your life is unique and commit to persist in doing the things that really matter.