#1. Grace and Mercy need to be your very best friends the moment a + appears on the stick because I’m positive you’ll need them. Parenting is not for the faint of heart or the weak willed. Your kiddos will mess up. So will you.
Apparently practice makes perfect because parenting gives you lots of it. Just when you think you’ve survived one stage, you wake up to find them in the next one. And the learning curve starts all over again. It’s okay. Grace and Mercy with a little forgiveness thrown in makes for great parenting skills.
Grace and mercy are equally needed for the toddler who won’t let you pee by yourself as well as for the pimply-faced teenager who doesn’t acknowledge ever having had parents.
#2. Do what works for your family. Stay-at-home? Work from home? Work outside the home? Breast or bottle? Homeschool or public school? How will we discipline? So many decisions to make and everyone has an opinion about what you should do.
I’ve worked outside the home because I needed to financially but also because I wanted to at times. We homeschooled for a couple of years but mostly it’s been public school for our kids. While it’s good to seek advice from people who are ahead of you in this parenting thing, at the end of the day these are your people you’ve been given to protect, nurture and love. Trust that God gave them to you knowing you will do your best to do what’s best for them.
#3. Stop comparing yourself to others. Period. It’s the sucker of joy and maker of exhaustion. We are all uniquely designed with different personalities and quirks, needs and wants, capabilities and limits, talents and gifts, and energy levels depending on the season we’re in.
I know you may think organic is best but you can trust the Gorton fisherman every now and again and still be a good Mom. It’s okay if the last thing you want to do is crafts with your toddler. It’s okay if it’s the thing you love to do most.
It’s okay if dragging three littles to a play date is like nails on a chalkboard. And it’s perfectly fine if that’s what works for you. If you think your teenager should work or if you think their job is to concentrate on school then great! Do what works for you and your family.
#4. Disconnect from Social Media every once in a while. Please. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest…oh my word…so many opportunities for us to see just how very badly we’re failing. Often times I catch myself scrolling through everyone else’s perfect lives during a season of hard or lonely. Maybe you do too. I also find that during those times, I need to put my phone down and walk away for a bit.
Allowing yourself to disconnect from everyone else’s virtual reality let’s you live in the moment of your own. You can enjoy your family without comparing them to someone else’s. (re-read #3 above) A digital rest resets the wiring in your brain bringing with it gratitude, contentment and peace.
#5. Have a support system in place. This can be a big group like MOPS or my church does a Mom’s group every Wednesday where the Mom’s of younger kiddos get together and learn from each other and a mentor Mom. They have play dates with the kids and nights where they get together without them.
Maybe a bigger group isn’t your thing. I have a small group of women that I adore. We get together to laugh, cry, catch-up and check in on how the other is doing. It’s pretty laid back and just what I need for support.
We were designed for connection. We need to know we’re not alone. So whatever that looks like for you, reach out and find your people.
#6. Connect with nature. Go outside, soak up some sun, walk in the grass barefoot, look up at the stars, notice the moon, watch a sunrise or sunset, breathe in deeply, take a hike in the woods, dig in the dirt, rake leaves, look for wildflowers, skip rocks in a pond…do something outside.
It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. (Robert Louis Stevenson)
I think Robert was on to something. Connecting with creation connects us with the Creator. Connecting with the Creator refreshes, renews and rejuvenates. Try it.
#7. Connect with God. This doesn’t have to be set in stone. My time with the Lord looks way different in my 50’s with one teenage kid at home then it did in my 20’s and 30’s when I had five at home and was working. Our time with Him is more than a checklist, a study or specific amount of time.
Our prayer life can be anytime, anywhere. And yes, please Lord, don’t let me snatch them baldheaded today is considered prayer. As is dear God, help me! It’s not always on your knees, in reverence. Sometimes it’s in your car, in the thick of it.
Connecting with God can simply be being aware of Him, watching for Him, feeling His presence, thanking Him throughout your day, having a still moment of peace because of Him, see #6 above, reading a verse in the morning and pondering it the rest of the day.
#8. Find a rhythm for rest. God created the entire universe in six days, the seventh day He rested, not because He needed it but because we do. It’s His gift to us. What’s your rhythm?
Is it taking a nap? Do it! No guilt. No shame. Those dishes and dust bunnies will be there when you wake up or next week or when your kids are grown and gone. Take the time to take a siesta.
Maybe napping isn’t your thing. What if you allowed yourself time when the kiddos are napping or after bedtime to indulge a little? Take bath with candles lit and your favorite book. Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and look through a magazine. Curl up on the couch with your favorite blanket and book. Sit outside in the sun and do absolutely nothing! Eat chocolate or ice cream all by yourself…no sharing with anyone and completely out in the open. No closet dessert for you! (Gasp!!)
Find a rhythm that works for you, and then do it.
#9. Know you are not forgotten. I wrote a post a while ago to encourage you who are doing the mundane, the everyday, the simple acts that nobody sees or seems to care about. It’s to cheer for those who wonder if what they do day to day really matters. You’ve wiped noses and butts and feel stuck in a rut. Picked up toys and are tired of noise. You can’t answer another why or hear another cry. You show up to work all grown up covered in boogers and throw up.
God sees you.
God used a lunch packed with love, an ordinary, everyday task to feed hungry souls for His kingdom work. The same God that made a miracle from the meager will use you too!
In the middle of messy.
In the middle of mundane.
He makes miracles happen.
You are not forgotten. (Click here for the full post.)
#10. Your efforts are not in vain! The first time my oldest came home from college he gave me a big bear hug and proceeded to thank me through out the whole weekend. Everything I made to eat was the best he’d ever tasted. His sheets smelled wonderful. The house looked extra clean. Thank you for doing my laundry. Thank you for giving me an extra $20. It didn’t stop.
Kid number four is now in her junior year of college, first year in an apartment. She sent me this text just a few days ago:
What you’re doing today is important work. I know it’s hard when you walk in to a Picasso of poop on the wall. Or when your surly teenager won’t leave his room and has the vocabulary limitation of fine. Keep going. It matters. You’ve got this!