I’m Not a Parenting Unicorn
I am going to be brutally honest. There are times that I really don’t enjoy being a parent. It is usually connected to some aspect of the overall parenting enterprise that is particularly unpleasant or difficult. During those times, I give way to the feeling that being a parent kind of stinks. I know that doesn’t sound very mature or very spiritual. If you are a long-time parent and have never felt that way, I salute you. You are officially either a parenting unicorn of unparalleled spiritual maturity or incredibly self-deceived. I guess you can quit reading this article now and go on to something else. For the rest of you, feel free to read on.
Giving In to the Parenting Blues
When I begin to give in to these parenting blues, I tend to focus either on my past parenting failures, my own feelings of inadequacy as a father (combined with the unique demands of being a single parent), or I think about what it would be like if I was free of the parenting burden.
The first two instances are the fruit of a general unwillingness to extend the grace of God to myself. In these situations I have gone beyond the noble commitment to pursue faithfulness and instead taken the complete burden for my children’s spiritual welfare and future upon myself instead of leaving the results to God. If I cannot extend grace to myself, I will find it difficult to extend grace to my children. Therefore they will struggle to embrace the grace of God for themselves.
The third instance, when I think about what it would be like if I was free of the parenting burden, is a different matter. At one level, it isn’t necessarily sinful or bad to think about the freedoms that will likely come with the empty nest. Also, even when our children are still in our home, a periodic thought along these lines might be an indicator that there is something in our life that is out of balance. Everyone needs some time to recharge their batteries or to get reoriented. You may be attempting to pour out of an empty vessel, and these thoughts could be a symptom of a need to make some adjustments.
Needed Reminders for Blue Parents
When I get these parenting blues, there are a few things that I need to be reminded of. First of all, it is perfectly fine to not like some parts of being a parent. In fact, it’s fine to actually loathe some parts of being a parent. I wasn’t in sin for intensely disliking giving price increase letters to my customers when I was in sales. I also wasn’t in sin for dreading the thought of meeting with unpleasant or hostile congregants as a pastor. It was part of the job, so I did it. I didn’t have to enjoy it. I did it as unto the Lord, but that didn’t make it any less of a trial to endure.
I believe that there are a large number of folks that feel a need to smile and grit their teeth, vainly trying to portray a “count it all joy” mentality, when they are actually dying inside. They incorrectly think that their hearts, and their difficult situations, would be magically transformed by a forced smile and spiritual platitude. They don’t feel free to be transparent about their struggles, because they fear God will be displeased with them, or their fellow Christians will view them with disappointment.
In order to think through this rightly, I must remember not to confuse my overall calling with specific tasks within that calling. I know without a doubt that I am called to be a father to my children. It is intrinsic to my being. It brings me inestimable joy, as well as indescribable pain. More than a pastor, more than a friend. In fact, apart from my position as a child of God, I have no other calling in my life that I am so identified by as the calling of father—especially so, since the passing of my wife I am not presently a husband. These unpleasant aspects of parenting, the long sleepless nights, the sick or troubled child, the child that does not take smoothly to discipline and training, or the rocky road of shepherding teenagers into young adulthood are difficult, challenging beyond description, and a fast track to dropping on our knees in tearful prayers. And our God hears us.
Rescued by God’s Grace
I am not rescued from my parenting blues by a fake smile or a Bible verse meme. I am being rescued by a God of grace who suffered for me and stands with me in my weakness. He knows our struggles. He knows how weak you and I actually are and how we fail. And He loves us just the same, not on the other side of our difficult times, but while we are still in the midst of them.
He is making something beautiful, not only of our children in these difficult times, but He is making something beautiful out of us even when the process is downright agonizing. I tell you this not to make you giddy with spiritual excitement but to give you hope and peace before the answer comes. For He wants us to trust Him in our calling, even though the details might be more than a little messy.
Do you get dragged down by the daunting task of parenting? Talk to us in the comments below.