Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let's Be Honest, Parenting is Tough

Parenting.  This seems to be such a hot topic these days.  You can read countless books on different parenting styles, magazine articles making promises that doing "x" will change your life, and countless blog posts that make one think about and evaluate your parenting philosophy.  I love to read and have spent many hours soaking up information from all of these categories.  It wasn't until recently, however, that I switched from reading parenting books and advice written by "professionals" about research and theories to material written by the true professionals:  moms.  Real-life moms.  And better yet?  These books are written by moms with strong faith that have led me to an entirely new view of parenting.  

If you're like me, after reading a book by the "professionals," whether it be on sleep, discipline, or eating, you're left with the hope of changing things, but in the end feel a bit empty or guilty because it was not a success.  Perhaps you're left questioning yourself or even convinced that you're just not cut out for this.  In my experience, all of those books didn't quite work for our family, so throughout the years we've just rolled with it and come up with our own philosophy on all of these topics.  Our kids have been horrible sleepers, but we stick to early bedtimes and attempt a nap/rest time each day.  Our kids have their good and bad moments, so we use time-out, positive reinforcement, and praise to try to shape their behavior.  As for eating, between reflux, sensory problems, and just plain pickiness, we've done our best to provide them with nutritious food and offered a variety of choices.  Sounds pretty plain and simple, right?  Does it coincide with what the "professionals" suggest?  Probably not.  Do people try to impress what has worked for them upon us to "help?"  Yes.  Has it been a challenge?  For sure!  But, such is the life of parenting young children.

Recently there has been a shift in the way I think about and view my parenting.  When I finish reading a book, I feel encouraged.  Rejuvenated.  Hopeful.  I understand that I'm not alone and that parents of young children struggle.  There is no magic "fix."  It has made me think about my choices more, reflect on what I'd like to change, and pray for the strength and guidance to do so.  Tough questions have been asked and I've thoughtfully answered them.  Why?  Because our children are special gifts and it is our job to nurture them, encourage them, and guide them to the best of our ability.  I know I will make mistakes along the way, but I am trying each day to make small changes and embrace the wonderful and the challenging moments.  I'm trying to lower my voice, slow my temper, and focus on the positive.  It's definitely a work in progress and some days are better than others.  Ultimately, though, I'm confident that I'll be able to do this.  I'm ready for a change and to escape this cloud that has hung over me for more time than I'd like to admit.

Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson focus on the importance of connection and support for a mother (I believe it would be true for fathers, too).  One of the most important "ugly truths" about parenting, especially staying at home with the kids, is that it can feel so terribly isolating.  Sometimes I think we feel ashamed that we feel this way, but it's true.  I'm sure many can attest to it.  We crave connection and interaction with people taller than four feet.  It is an area in our lives, since moving, that we still struggle with with.  One of my priorities is to connect with other moms more.  It would be nice to do play dates, mom's night out, or a book study on a regular basis.  Gathering with other couples or a night out alone with my husband have also made the priority list.  Life can't just revolve around the adorable little children.  In addition, I feel strongly that our church should have a mother's of young children group so that the moms can connect, have a support system and the families can build a strong community.  Along with another friend, we hope to achieve that goal soon.  I love Clarkson's advice that in this day and age of busy, it is best not to wait for invitations from others, but take the initiative to make these connections and create these opportunities ourselves.  Speaking from experience, I could not agree more.

So, what sparked this post?  What have I read lately that has given me encouragement and hope?  Two books:  Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst and Desperate, Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson.  If you feel like you could use some encouragement or need a little pick-me-up, I can't recommend them enough!  Enjoy!

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