It was so easy, right? So easy, when you found out that you were going to become a parent, it was so easy to picture the perfect little family that you were about to have. It was so easy to envision all those sweet newborn snuggles and easy to dream about all the times when you would kiss boo-boo knees and dress kiddos in adorable outfits. Maybe you even laughed about the blow-outs and sleepless nights to come, but now that you’ve been through it, I think we can all agree that we had NO IDEA.
Because then it all happens for real. All the baby snuggles and the blow-outs, and then the toddler tantrums and the worry-filled nights and the guilt and the budget concerns, and then you realize that this wasn’t what you were promised. This isn’t what you signed up for. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your mini and you would never, ever want to face a life without them, but maybe today it just feels like a lot.
I had one of those days recently. My husband and I had spent months saving and preparing for our beach vacation. We were going to test out our newly-inherited pop-up camper and introduce our 18-month old to the beach. I’ve always loved the beach and I had this image in my head of sitting water-side, sipping a froo-froo island drink with the baby snuggled contently into my arms. I had pushed through several tough weeks to bring this little dream to life.
Then reality hit. We got into camp later than anticipated and still had to pop-up the camper, and then the wind was CRAZY. Like, is this camper even going to stay on the ground, crazy. Then we still had to cook dinner—and there wasn’t a single margarita or daiquiri in sight—and all the while my car-drained toddler just wanted to run, specifically into a road or a fire or into the swamp filled with alligators and venomous snakes. I was hangry, already dreading trying to put the baby to sleep in a camper in gale-force winds, and just plain mad. This was not the perfect family vacation I signed up for.
Then I realized something: this situation was not what I wanted, but my family dealing with an angry, over-the-edge mama was not what they had signed up for either. I could tell that I was making my husband uncomfortable and even my daughter was sensing my sour mood. It was fine for me to be let down, and totally understandable, but it wasn’t acceptable to hurt my family’s feelings in the process.
After we got food on the table, I took a moment away from it all. I prayed for God to clear the weather and give us the peaceful night’s sleep we needed to have a better day tomorrow. And after that the rest of the evening was far more enjoyable. Did the wind stop? No. Did I get a restful night’s sleep? No. But, my daughter miraculously slept through the crazy wind and we had a wonderful day the next day.
And when I started posting pictures to facebook of our sandcastles and swimming selfies, I realized that most people looking at those photos would only see a picture perfect family vacation. They wouldn’t see the disappointment, the near tears, or the anger of our first day. It’s easy to look at the families around us and see something so picture perfect and ask ourselves why God is making our parenting journey so hard.
But the truth is that we’ve all been there. We’ve all struggled and lost our temper or been sour when we wanted to be joyful. And when our toddler is crying or yanking on our very last nerve, it’s tempting to say this is not what I signed up for. And while that might be true, God gave you these little ones because he knew that you could handle it. You are the best parent for them. And He will give you the strength you need to fight today’s battle. So take a moment, adjust your World’s Best Parent tiara, and then handle the situation. You’ve got this.
So when the winds of life are threatening to knock you over and the sleepless nights have you teetering at the very edge of what you think you can tolerate, and your mind is screaming at you that “This is not what I signed up for!!!”, remember that it’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to be disappointed. And it’s ok (even encouraged) to take some time away from your children.
Say a prayer. Ask God to give you the patience that you can’t seem to muster. Ask Him to set realistic expectations of your parenting journey and to help you overcome the daily struggles that will inevitably follow. Ask Him to work in your heart to settle your anger and find sympathy, understanding, and peace. Then return to your family and just be there for them.
Daily, ask God to remind you of the supreme importance of your calling. It truly is a lofty calling and it reminds me of a quote that’s always stuck with me: “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”
Parenting might not be exactly what you signed up for, but it is exactly what God intended for you. Never lose sight of the person God sees in you. Strong. Capable. Loving. May He equip you every day to stand in the gale-force winds and not falter.