Almost thirty years ago an earth-shattering, life-changing event took place in my life. I gave birth to a son. This event was followed just seventeen months later by an equally earth-shattering event—the birth of twin daughters. My life has never been the same. Gone were the care-free days of back-packing in Europe, hitch-hiking to a peace demonstration, or taking the summer off to work with campesinos in the Dominican Republic or street people on skid row. Gone was the ability to go off and crash for a couple of days after weeks of over-work. All of this was buried under mounds of diapers, baby cereal, strollers and car seats. Even the smallest excursion proved to be so much work that I questioned the worth of ever leaving the house.
Looking back on those early years of mothering once I reached the magical space where my children were no longer dependent on me for every mouthful they took and yet had not entered the turbulent years of puberty, I sometimes wondered how I did it. I can remember days of waking up and wondering—where had I gone? I didn’t recognize this constantly tired woman with spit-up on her shoulder. This woman who rarely, if ever, had an uninterrupted adult conversation—this drudge that I had become. This wasn’t me. I had lost me.
And yet I could see that in losing myself, I had found myself. The Christian truth remains—in dying to self, we find ourselves, and find new life in Christ. I realized then that I was more myself, more truly me for the experience of child-rearing. Dying is painful and yet the rewards are great—well worth any pain. I looked forward to many more years with my children, watching them grow, mature, and struggle; allowing God to take me and them where God chooses.
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There are thousands of books on parenting available today trying to tell us how to handle any situation imaginable. Sometimes they are helpful, sometimes they are not. Sometimes they can just add to our stress load by enumerating the many ways in which we fail each day. Some parents read book after book in search of that illusive magic formula that will somehow unlock all those doors, solve every riddle, and let you know how to handle every situation.
There is no such magic formula because what works for one child won’t work for another; what works at one time with one child won’t work at another time for the same child. In that books are helpful, use them as a resource to help you see new ways of handling situations and difficulties. We can always learn new ways of parenting. In that they add to your stress load, discard them. No-one needs that, especially not mothers.
Another stress factor for mothers is that as soon as you think you’ve got it down and know what you are doing, your children enter another phase in life requiring you to find yet new ways to cope. It doesn’t end when they grow up. Adult children bring a whole new set of difficulties and challenges of their own.
In the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes,” the main characters play a game called “Calvin ball.” In Calvin ball the rules change constantly at the participants’ whim. How like parenting! It’s the only game around where the rules are constantly changing. Yet another source of stress.
Mother Stress: It Cause More than a Few Grey Hairs is now available through Amazon Kindle for $0.99.
Other booklets in the series are available for pre-sale, for $0.99 each: