How to Parent Joyfully: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb
Dr. Strangelove, anyone? One of my dad’s favorites. And one we watched as children (and didn’t get, of course). Parenting is sometimes loving a bomb. Not to be confused with the 90’s term “da bomb.” Parenting is a tough joy, right? It’s the eternal paradox of “I-love-my-life and I-hate-my-life.”
A friend’s blog said it perfectly the other day: Mothering Spirit “Conversations with Myself at 2am & 8am.” How do we come to more fully embrace the low lows and not just yearn for the perfect days? I have two thoughts to share on this. Big disclaimer though: I find parenting joyfully a continual and challenging goal to strive towards in my own vocation as a mama, so I don’t write this from a position of self-perceived superiority, by any means!
1) Count your blessings.
If you are privileged enough to get pregnant without the assistance of medical technology, start with saying “thank you” there. If you can conceive a child, and carry that child full-term without undue medical problems, say another huge “thank you.” If your child is born free from developmental differences and challenges, you are blessed in a different way than parents of special children. If you are able to adopt a child the age you are hoping for, you are blessed. If your child survives infancy and childhood without life threatening or challenging medical conditions, say thank you.
Lots of blessings counted so far. And we try to remind ourselves that being a parent, and a family member, is about self-sacrifice. So we have tough times, but we’d have those in a different way if we were childless. It’s a continual affirmation of love through dishes, diapers, and discussions. It’s unremarkable evenings filled with baths, crying, cleaning up toys, and an attempt to stay connected to our outer world friends.
There is so much joy to be found in interacting and playing with your child! With a toddler many days are doling out boundaries, discussing why “we” don’t do certain things, and wrestling with gently guiding him toward making the right decision. But many days are filled with morning massages, giggles, tickles, chases, laughing through books, intent gazes of love, and sweet kisses.
St. Francis of Assisi wrote this great prayer for peace. Here’s the translation, and here’s the original. I try to pray it every day. My favorite line is “Let me not so much seek to be loved, as to love.” It gives me peace and calm, and reminds me of my blessings, and my purpose here (not to self-fulfill, but to be a vessel of love!).
2) Lean on your friends & family.
Take comfort in the love of those around you. Turn to your folks, siblings, cousins, relatives, family-by-choice members (those special friends), and set down your burden for a few minutes. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings as a parent, remind yourself that the point is to try your best (and God doesn’t ask of us anymore than our best effort), and always be honest as to whether or not you are giving your all to your child/family. If you need to reassess your priorities, do so in a realistic fashion. Where can I spend more time, less money, and how can I give more but not kill myself? What is balance for me? What’s best for our family?
If you’re drowning in the waters of new parenthood, or feel stale or burnt out, go to church, go to yoga, do some private meditating, and make the time for renewal. Our priest gave a great homily on Sunday about the purpose of life. Remind yourself of your purpose, and complain & vent to your friends & family. You don’t have to do this alone!
Also, don’t hate on your friends who seem to have it much easier, or have no complaints (have the perfect husband, perfect kitchen, perfect little frankenstein kid). They have their own crosses to bear you just don’t know about.
The comfort and support you find in those around you will help you embrace and be better able to act out this awesome vocation of parenthood, and try to parent joyfully. It’s helped me tremendously. Thank you, beloved friends & family!