There are three things I never desired to do in my life. I never wanted to live in Texas, I never wanted to homeschool, and I never had the desire to write a book. Currently I am doing all three. Only now something has changed. As a Michigan-raised gal, I still find it difficult to get used to Texas. I am doing homeschooling more out of desperation than desire. But now, I desperately wish to write. Ah, but there’s the rub. With five children and a homeschooling schedule to work around, writing isn’t a luxury I can afford. Instead of spending my baby’s nap time working on my book and running word counts, my days are filled with Shurley English jingles and Saxon math. And I’m not always okay with that trade-off.
At some point in nearly every parent’s life, there comes a point when their children seem to be a “burden” rather than a blessing. Maybe a stay-at-home mom resents her children for robbing her of a career. Perhaps a father would rather spend his weekends watching football instead of hauling the family off to another all-day soccer tournament. Maybe the cost of raising children leaves no money left over, and parents get sick of living from paycheck to paycheck. Or maybe it’s just that the day in/day out of caring for young children drains one’s energy dealing with tattling, fighting, runny noses, potty accidents, and talking back. No matter the reason, there comes a point when a parent finds himself thinking, Why did I ever want kids, anyhow?
Lest we forget, let’s see what God says about children. Psalm 127:3-5a reads as follows:
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
Obviously God considers children a blessing. A reward, even. And certainly, that’s the sentiment when a baby is born. I remember so clearly when I held each of my children for the first time. They were so tiny, so frail, so helpless and dependent, and my motherly instinct was just to cuddle them and whisper promises into their ears that I’d always protect them. Babies are sweet and lovable. But those babies become toddlers. Toddlers who assert their independence and tell you no and make messes and spill their milk on purpose. And when those toddlers get a bit older, they tattle and talk back and get into fights and learn swear words and teach them to their younger siblings. And then they become teenagers and a whole new set of problems arises. Soon you find yourself thinking, What happened to that sweet little baby I took home from the hospital?
So what should you do when you find yourself thinking of your children more as a burden than a blessing? I propose three steps:
When you get irritated with your kids, say a prayer for patience and a fresh perspective. But don’t stop there. Pray at other times of the day as well. Pray in the morning before you even encounter your children. Pray with them. Pray at night before you go to bed. Pray for them and for yourself. You may find it helpful to use a guide such as this one from Family Life, which has a list of things to pray for each day of the week.
Take a break
We live in a difficult time in history. In the past, raising children tended to be much more an entire family affair. Extended family lived close by, if not in the same house. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were all readily available to help with housework, kids, and cooking. That is becoming less and less common in our society today. It’s rare for a large extended family to be available nearby to help. If you find yourself feeling like you’re doing this alone, it’s probably because you are! And it’s a sign that you need something to change. So, take a break! If your spouse is available, leave the kids with him or her for an hour or two. Leave the house if possible. Do coffee or dinner with a friend. Get a massage. Talk a walk. If you have the means, hire a babysitter and have a real date night with your spouse. If those things aren’t possible, take mini breaks in the house. Put the kids in front of a video and take a nap. Do a devotion. Read a book. Call a friend. Your kids don’t need you to be spending time with them every single second. They need you to be relaxed and sincere when you do spend time with them.
Change what you can and accept what you can’t
There are some things you can change easily, some you can change with a bit of effort, and some you can’t change at all. You can’t change your children’s ages, and you can’t drastically alter their temperaments. But you can change the scene when tempers start to flare. When your kids are testy, grab a book to read out loud to them. Arrange an impromptu play date with neighborhood friends. Take a walk to get fresh air. Show them pictures or videos from earlier years. Get everyone’s mind off the grumpies.
If your frustration comes partly from the overall picture, brainstorm for ways you can change your situation. Do you get frustrated because your house is constantly messy, for example? Is there any way you can hire someone to help clean? Even a teenager from your church could be a big help for a few hours on a Saturday. Or, see if your spouse can take the kids out for a few hours so you can work in peace. But you also have to realize that with young kids, the house just won’t be spotless. In my case, I get frustrated because I want more time to write. So my husband helps me get the kids to bed at a decent hour so I can write once they’re down. I know I have two hours of writing to look forward to at the end of the day, and that helps my overall disposition. It’s unreasonable to expect that I can fit in a full day of writing, but I have a couple of hours each day, and I can live with that.
Children are a blessing. It’s an incredible privilege to raise children for the next generation. And even if you don’t have other people around to help, God your Heavenly Father is always available. He loves you and He loves your children. He won’t leave you alone in this thing called parenting. Call upon Him in prayer, take a break when you need to, and change what you can when you feel overwhelmed. And now if you’ll excuse me, it is office time here. I still have an hour left to finish the next chapter of my book!