“Every parent with lots of kids that I have seen makes it look easy. Until I met you.”
This was a conversation I was having with a friend on the way home from shopping one day. She went on to tell me of couples with twice as many children who have it together. She asked why it seemed to work so well for them and I struggle.
The honest-to-goodness first thought in my head? Lies, lies, lies…
I used to think that as well, about large families. I mean, the Duggars just put some rules and charts up and everyone falls into line. Surely this works for everyone, doesn’t it?
So we get on Pinterest and really absorb every article in Parents magazine. We try reeeaally hard to put all these ideas to work in our children so we can have success in the eyes of those around us.
And we are all just playing house. Except the dolls have souls. We treat them as robots, but no, they are flesh and blood with thoughts and dreams and questions and a will and a spirit.
Life is messy. That’s true with or without kids.
And when I sit down with these “exemplary parents” with many children I find out something huge. They struggle with the same things I do as a parent. The strong willed child. The messy Mildred. The wife-mother-teacher balancing act.
I find that they don’t always have answers and that they just are doing what works for their family. They are not imposing a standard they expect the rest of us to follow. They don’t want to be held up as a pillar of parenting success. They yell. They falsely accuse. They give up. And then they get up the next morning and do it all again.
We need to see real parents. We need to know we are not alone. Yes, children are a gift and blessing. But they are also very challenging. And not one of us is perfect at raising them.
What kills me more, as a mom of five, is the expectation that I must have it together. That since I brought five lives into the world, I must have this parenting thing down. Why would I bring more kids into my home if I didn’t?
Perhaps we all need to rest in the fact that God gives the children to the parents who need them. God also gives the parents to the children who need them. Simple as that. And it will not now, nor ever, look the same in every living room. Some parents really do have a knack at organizing and structure and their kids really thrive in that environment. Others are a little messier and spontaneous, and their children are better for it. Both are perfectly capable and doing what God has for them in their respective homes.
Let’s learn to appreciate those not like us. But more than that, let’s not put up a front of perfection. It is just that, a front. We all struggle. We all need the wisdom of God to guide us in this seemingly impossible role.
I made a new friend not too long ago. She and I have the same number of kids, similar in age. As we have formed a friendship, we have become pretty transparent. I cannot tell you how many times either her or I have said, “I didn’t know anyone else deals with this! I’m so glad you do too!!”
That type of honesty, where we open our door and show the mess, is a balm. We aren’t denying the blessings of kids – nope, kids are wonderful and being a mom is the most fulfilling job I have ever had. But like everything else in life, it is a hard job. Give advice that worked for you. Share the failures. Share the victories. Be that brutally honest encouragement that we all desperately need.