by Becky Udman
TJP Parenting Columnist
I was speaking to a group of young mothers recently, and the conversation turned to the challenges we mothers face and what sometimes seems like the never-ending amount of time we must put in.
I listened to their complaints, which included things such as:
• When will I ever be able to go to the bathroom uninterrupted?
• When will I get to sit and eat a meal for more than 90 seconds without being asked to get up and get someone something? There are not just my kids’ requests, but also my husband’s!
• Will our children ever reach an age when they realize it’s already noon and I haven’t eaten anything?
• Why is everything always Mother’s fault? If they can’t find their shoes, it’s my fault. If they don’t have friends, it’s my fault. If they left their spelling words at school, it’s my fault.
The conversation went on and on, and I probably could have thrown in a couple of dozen kvetches myself!
I happen to be in an interesting situation in life, because I am blessed to be the mother of children ranging in age from newborn to young adult. (My oldest is 20.)
There are so many things that I am still learning about being a parent, but one thing I have come to realize is that each stage of a child’s life is so special, with so many opportunities for them to grow and bond with us. There are many ways to look at any situation (as is true in all relationships), and the challenges of raising children of any age have the potential to result in fond memories, rather than merely avenues for us to reflect only on the stresses and headaches of childrearing.
Misery likes company, so we must be careful not to be brought down by people with negative attitudes about parenting.
What is another way to help us remain upbeat when it seems like parenting leaves us with little time for ourselves, and those around us do not appreciate all of our hard work?
A teacher of mine once put things in perspective for me with the following observation:
If we examined most of our day-to-day situations, we would probably realize that we are actually living out many of the scenarios that we prayed for.
For example, a mother who is stressed because her newborn has been crying all morning and her toddler just dumped Cheerios all over the floor, while the cake she had in the oven is burning because she didn’t hear the oven timer go off with all of the noise in the house, is living what she prayed for.
A woman who was just told by her 16-year-old daughter that she is so mean and she wishes she could live somewhere else, while her 10-year-old son is refusing to do his homework with the determined yell of, “You can’t make me!”— that mother is living what she prayed for.
The key to keeping a positive outlook when things seem overwhelming, and it seems like everyone else has it so easy, is to remember that these experiences are opportunities we’ve been given: to teach, learn, grow, and connect...if we allow them to be.
So what if we might not be able to use the bathroom alone, or the food is cold when we finally sit down to eat as a family? Isn’t that what we were really praying for when we hoped to one day to have a family of our own?
It won’t be long before the days pass by, our kids are grown, and we will no longer have them around to directly nurture and influence. Until that time, if we can keep calm, put things in perspective, and not react to our children’s outbursts in a negative, angry way, then we will be setting the tone for a loving and secure environment in which everyone can grow, both children and parents!
In a few weeks, most Americans will be sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner. Let’s not wait until then to be thankful for our “adorable little challenges.”
Mrs. Becky Udman is preschool director of Torah Day School of Dallas (TDSD), a facilitator in the Love & Logic parenting method, director of Camp Kesher, and the mother of 13 (six boys and seven girls, ages infant through 20).