As parents, we all know that the rewards of our job are worth it, and that the beautiful moments are more amazing than anything else in the world.
But we also know that anyone who has not been a parent simply has no idea just how difficult it can sometimes be. I know this, because only a couple of years ago, I was one of those people. I was blissfully imagining my life with the gorgeous baby I had been dreaming of having for so long. My husband and I talked about the big family we longed for and the many wonderful things we would do with and for our children.
Oh how we laugh at the naivety now. That is, if we are not crying over it!
Because the truth is, while parenting can be the most wonderful thing in the world, it is also often the hardest.
And when you find yourself on your knees shouting and crying because your baby will.not.stop.screaming and hasn’t slept in what feels like forever, and you hate yourself for losing your temper for the third time this
week day with an innocent little child, parenting doesn’t feel like a glamorous montage of cooing and playing. It feels horrible.
These are the days you are parenting not because you want to, but because you have to. You are bone-tired and feeling low, you have a constant lingering sickness because you haven’t had the time to get better as you drag yourself out of bed at 5.30am for the sixth day in a row.
These are the days when you cannot get rid of the smell of sick in your carpet and your children are waking up constantly from dehydration and the after-effects of sickness.
These are the “4-month-growth-spurt” days that every parent remembers with dread.
These are the teething days, the tantrum days, the days when you hate yourself for the way you’ve treated your children – for the shouting and whingeing and frustration that seems to be unable to leave your household.
The days when God seems distant and you are convinced you are the only person who loses their temper with their children and the only parent ever to break down crying after yet another dreadful nappy change or unsuccessful nap.
Please, parents, please, know this…
You are not alone.
We’ve all been there. In fact, I am there.
I don’t think of myself as a perfect parent. Some days, I’d settle for being a passably ok one. But, as easy as it is to lose perspective on it on tough days, my children are generally happy and healthy, and they know they are loved.
Yes, some days they are sadly shouted at or cried over or left for a few moments while I try to compose myself. I readily admit to that, and repent of it. But they are also fed, clothed, kissed, cuddled, told they are beautiful and wonderful. They are prayed with and over, they are cared for, cooked for, they are loved.
It is never too late. You don’t have to write off today as a bad day and just give up. Can I ask you to just do something for me?
Pick yourself up, breathe deeply and count to ten. Ensure your children are safe and leave the room for a few minutes if you have to. If they are safe, even if they are crying, they will be ok. In fact, they will be better for it, as will you.
And then please do one more thing for me. One thing that I am ashamed to say I have to do more often than I’d like, but that will possibly turn a terrible day and a terrible me into a positive experience for my children.
Ask them for forgiveness. Whatever age they may be, whether they can understand you or not.
Ask them for forgiveness. Because it is you they learn from, it is you they copy, it is you they look up to. And if you want a bad day to not be a wasted one, that is the best thing you can possibly do. Because they will probably forget a lot of the bad days when they are older. But they will remember the practice of repentance, of forgiveness, of empathy and of grace.
I hope that today is one of the truly great days of parenting for you. But if it is not, I pray that it will not be a wasted one, and I pray that forgiveness is abundant in your house.
Oh, and once your children have forgiven you (because they always do), forgive yourself. Don’t let it become a downward spiral, a bad habit, as I so often do. Don’t let anger and self-hatred reign. Let it go.
And just breathe.