Brett’s out of town on a mission trip. Owen’s struggling with a sleep strike.
So I felt like the girls and I really needed our pre-sleep prayers tonight.
“I want to pray first!” they said simultaneously—and they yelled this phrase over and over in the hopes that the other would back down and agree to pray last.
The situation escalated til both girls were convulsing and crying and the yelling worked its way up to a high-pitched, hysterical sobbing whine.
I calmly told them to shut it.
In a moment of brief silence, I pointed out that they were crying and fighting and screaming and being rude over the issue of who gets to talk to God. First.
“Do neither of you see the irony?” I asked.
I was not in the mood to pray anymore.
I wasn’t really in the mood to parent in that moment either.
“Mommy needs a time out,” I said.
When I spoke to a mom’s group last week, I was reminded of how tough parents are.
And they’re tired.
And I wonder if part of the fatigue is our unwillingness to work through the understandable feelings of frustration that accompany being a parent.
How likely are we to admit negative emotions regarding parenting?
You’re allowed to dislike your job, you’re allowed to dislike your spouse or your friends or your church, but you’re not allowed to say that you have moments where you don’t like being a mom. Ever.
But there are rare times when I don’t.
I hear people say that they can’t imagine their lives if they weren’t parenting, And I love being a mom, but I can totally imagine my life without kids- especially when I smell a coconut candle and consider my potential life in Maui.
I shared this raw emotion with the mom’s group last week and I waited for the rocks to fly.
But they didn’t.
And maybe it’s because we all have a day or two or nine where we have those feelings.
And if we shame ourselves for disliking some moments of mom-ing, then we won’t get to deal with and work through those feelings. And if we ignore those visceral reactions or suppress our struggles, they will come out somewhere else.
But facing those moments, taking those times out to sit in and move through those emotions brings some reprieve. We have to give ourselves the freedom to feel the frustration and the exhaustion of repeating yourself and cleaning up squashed grapes and flossing your girth-y toddler’s neck rolls to get the food out.
It makes us better parents.
And it makes us healthier people.
And if we don’t allow ourselves to feel put out, then we can’t work through it and if we can’t work through it we become people who resent our circumstances. We become “those” moms who strain to act nice and patient instead of being people who love and can embrace our children because we embrace our own humanness.
Your children will be fine if you work through your personal frustrations with parenting. My children are fine when I tell them I can’t be their personal jungle gym and instead I escape to a corner of the house to pray.
We want to raise healthy, responsible, well-adjusted children, yet we are detachedly going through the motions and suppressing our parenting frustrations.
And kids know when you’re annoyed.
Our stress breeds stress in our children.
So we have to face our tired souls. We have to create space to be angry or annoyed when we’re fishing panties out of the dishwasher or our child incurs an injury because they were disobedient.
God brings us through those emotions into deeper love for our kids. Our feelings create space to reflect on where we are going and what we are called to as parents. It’s a checkpoint. We are reminded of our need for grace and our tendency to parent out of our own limited affection instead of God’s heart for our children. Facing our struggles sets us up for deep transformation—the kind that takes us from acting loving to actually being loving.
And my emotional honesty enables me to laugh at the prayer brawl instead of tense up with resentment. I can look at my kids- these little containers of oversized hormones, and I remember why I chose to get pregnant in the first place.
Listen to yourself. Create space for frequent encounters with God. Embrace your frustration as a way to commune with God and be transformed. And do it before you lock yourself in a closet while your children break your stuff and dump spaghetti on the floor you just mopped.
Because it will happen. And you will feel frustrated. But you can move through it and come out on the other side with new resolve and a refocused purpose in parenting. Ultimately, this is the path of transformation and sanity. It's even the path to enjoying our kids.