When Nurturing Your Children Doesn’t Come Naturally

Friend Patty was sporty, fit and planned to become an astronaut. Instead, she became a wife and mother. Patty didn’t feel as if she had a mothering instinct. Lovey-dovey stuff didn’t come easy to her. She worked hard to curb her military manner. Because she worked so hard, she became an excellent parent. One of the best I have had the privilege of knowing. She lived in the moment and believed her children are precious. Her children are grown now and thriving.

Patty was my first honest Mom friend. She told me the truth about how she felt about Mothering. She felt as if she had to overcome many personality obstacles to be nurturing. By the grace of God, she did. I’m thankful for her honesty. She inspired me to work against the grain of my flesh and be a purposeful parent.

Honestly, being loving and nurturing toward our children is hard work. Why? Because it requires true Biblical love and that is the hardest kind of love on the planet. It’s the kind of love that doesn’t fail, hardly notices when it has been wrong and this kind of love believes the best of everyone.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. (I Corinthians 13: 7b, The Message)

“Our culture depicts a “good mother” as an angel in the house who is naturally sweet, self-denying, and eternally loving. The media creation expectations that mother-love, like our culturally formed vision of romantic love, is something you fall into, a delightful sinkhole that leaves you so sated that you don’t want to climb out.”- Leslie Fields via Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt

While there may be sunny days when everything goes just right for five minutes and we have coffee, most days aren’t picture perfect. Although we love our children, some days we just don’t like them. They behave badly and we’re exhausted.  We dangle at the end of our rope. It’s in these moments, behind closed doors,that Biblical nurturing love is hardest to walk out. It’s in these moments that we woman can not do anything in our own strength. It’s in these moments that Christ’s suffering is close. He meets us there on the battlefield. He understands. It’s in those moments when our flesh is fierce.

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?- Galatians 5:17

We are naturally selfish beings. Our regenerated spirit wars with the flesh. What does that mean? We want our own way. We joylessly grab for whatever we think will make us happy at the moment, five more minutes sleep, one more chapter, a perfectly clean home, a late night movie. We develop a brutal temper when we don’t get what we want. When we do get what we want as a result of yelling or manipulation, we feel lonely, empty, depleted and a deep sense of shame. I know. Lived there in the pit myself. It’s muddy and stinky. There is no peace in the ‘me first’ land of motherhood.

So, what’s the answer? How do we nurture our children when we just want to be left alone? How do we become the nurturing, loving Mother we want to become. How do we fight our selfish nature? One moment at a time. One prayer at a time. One renewing our mind and our bodies at a time. One desperate prayer at a time. When we submit to God’s way, it doesn’t mean we will feel joyful at the time. We constantly have our own Garden of Gethsemane moments.

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.- Hebrews 12:4

Endeavors requiring the most selfless effort yield the most fruit..png

Motherhood may be the hardest work you”ll ever do. If you are having one of those days when you hit your nurture groove, enjoy it! If you are having a day when behaviors are straining every nerve, I hear you. I know. It’s hard. Keep praying. Keep asking. Don’t give up. Endeavors requiring the most selfless effort yield the most fruit. Obstacles don’t mean you have failed. They mean you are running the right course.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.- Galatians 5: 22-23

Nurturing occurs on a battlefield for hearts and minds. It is on the home front we are winning souls and making disciples. “Discipleship is the work of a lifetime, and it comes… sometimes slowly… in fits and starts….two steps forward, one step back…When we develop a long-range vision believe God’s promise that our work will not go unrewarded. Grace is the heart attitude that grants others the freedom to listen and learn so that they grow, they master the skill of cultivating long-term relationships.” (Sally Clarkson) The goal of nurturing is attachment. The goal of attachment is long term relationships. Relationships with our children transfer to relationships with God the Father.

When Your Kids Don’t Make You Feel Happy or Fulfilled

“I don’t want to have any more children!” I confessed to Jerry late one night. We only had one child at the time. All of those early marriage conversations about adopting and having a large family seemed idiotic and idyllic-reality was just too hard to bear.

I had envisioned motherhood in a warm yellow,glowing light with fresh flowers on the table and a pressed aprons, a perfect home, and family dinner at the table every night. I would rise early in the morning like the Proverbs 31 woman, shower and put on pressed clothing, apply makeup and do my hair. Baby Guire would wake up smiling, giggling. We would spend the day cleaning, playing, sorting socks and preparing nutritious food together.

In the real Guire world, Jerry rarely made it home for dinner. I spent my days in an exhaustion-induced fog, wearing puke-covered PJs, catching up on Brady Bunch reruns while walking the floor with Audrey.

Why didn’t the daily tasks of motherhood fill me with joy?

Last Wednesday, I started a series on myths that parents believe. These myths keep us trapped in guilt and worry. I didn’t come up with these myths on my own. The credit goes to Leslie Fields, author of Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths that Trap Us in Worry and Guilt.  

“We are fed up with the myth -shamelessly hawked by the media-that motherhood is eternally fulfilling and rewarding, that it is always the best and most important thing you do… and if you don’t love every second of it, something is wrong with you.”- Susan Douglas, Meredith Michaels, The Mommy Myth

While I don’t agree with most of this quote, I can appreciate the “and if you don’t love every second of it, something is wrong with you”. I’ll get to that in a minute. There is a move in our society to diminish the value of motherhood and we are seeing the fruit of it in drunken brawls, warped morals and school shootings. Women are pursuing other goals, cause let’s face it ladies, motherhood doesn’t always make us feel happy or fulfilled.

myth

The truth is- having a family is a good and godly purpose. Believing that children will always make you feel happy and fulfilled is a myth. Anything worth doing is difficult. I have never done anything worthwhile that I didn’t have to overcome some hurdles or hit some brick walls. Have you? Ask me how many books I have written and saved on my laptop? I go into freeze mode when it comes to revising. Does that mean I should stop writing? No. Of course not. That means I need help and some encouraging writing groups to push me to the finish line.

I hear Moms say that parenting is too hard. I agree. It is hard. So is power walking five miles or training for a 5k. I would put those tasks at the bottom of the list when it comes to ranking them in order of difficulty. Parenting would be at the top. Yet, we do both of them, not because they are difficult, but because they are worth it.

  • Children are not in our lives to fulfill our needs. We are here to fulfill their’s.
  • Children are a blessing (read through the beatitudes for a longer list).
  • Happiness should not be our highest goal in life.
  • Children are made in the image of God and have infinite value.
  • Children help us learn to love as God does.

“I understood instinctively and theologically that until I poured my life out to others, my own desires would enslave me. I wanted paradoxical freedom that comes from giving my life away.” – Leslie Fields.

Early in my parenting years- my intellect and the current philosophy said it was “time for me” sprinkled in with some vain deceit, and I followed my own desires senselessly. I stayed up late watching what I wanted on TV.  It was “my time”. The next day, I awoke cranky, tired, and craving more “me time”. I demanded it. When the kids wouldn’t nap, I became frustrated mama, not because I knew they needed sleep, but because I wanted time. My “me time” wasn’t the fufillment of necessary rest, but an excuse to self-indulge and my “need” for it kept growing larger and larger.

I had a holy confrontation coming and it hit me hard. When my kids starting having some major health issues, God turned me into a purposeful parent. Not a perfect parent. Just one who saw her purpose. After my book of revelations, I began to parent on purpose. To plan. To envision where my kids would be in ten years in spirit, soul and body.

Where do we find happiness? 

Children teach us how to love, how to serve, how to walk in the fruit of the spirit. We are here to fulfill God’s purpose. So are our children. “God is using our children to conform us into the image of His Son.” (Leslie Fields)

Parenting is a worthy investment. It doesn’t always make us happy. Our joy comes from the Lord. We can receive that joy through parenting our children, but that doesn’t mean every moment is warm and fuzzy. Puke covered PJs still don’t make me jump for joy. We can learn to be content regardless of our circumstances. Some of them are poopy. Our feelings can fluctuate, but our purpose can stand. God’s purpose can stand. I don’t feel the same during mile five of a power walk as I do in mile three. Sometimes, after little sleep the night before, I feel as if I am a pirate with a heavy peg leg in mile five.

Maybe you feel like you are dragging today or this week or this month. Maybe you feel as if you are swimming through sludge? Wondering if parenting is all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe you’re up to your elbows in peanut butter and wonder if you really have a purpose in this life. “Every day is a Monday”. (Carly Jones)

Dear friend, don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Grab a new cup of perspective. Ask God to help you find joy in some moments. Ask Him to give you an eternal perspective. Do the hard stuff and trust that God will take care of the results.

 

 

Three Myths About Parenting that Keep us Trapped in Worry and Guilt

“Soul shaping is hard work. Often planting these seeds pushes against your own selfishness. Excellence requires that you cultivate and uphold your own inner standards in a world that makes concessions.”

I used to think that there were major sins and minor sins. Sins that were outwardly visible or labeled ‘bad’ were the ones to stay away from. Sins like MURDER. Or DRUNKENess. Those were the sorts of sins a good girl stayed away from.

I was a good girl. All my life. I didn’t commit any of the offenses I hi -lighted in my Bible. AT least on the outside. Then I had kids. If you want to mature, spiritually or otherwise, just have a few kids or adopt some.

Kids push your buttons. They stir up the inner sins, the darkness lurking in the depths of your evil lair, or just your mind. Children can turn super heroes into villains overnight. Actually, they don’t do it. We do it to ourselves. All that junk we keep hidden in the closet of our mind, the door that we slam shut with little sins like selfishness sticking out like a coat hanger. We clean up the rest of our act to be the ‘good girl’ until those kids open our closets. Everything spills out that was there in the first place.

I know. I’ve been there. Every button pushed. Every nerve taxed. Exhaustion sets in and you’re just trying to be a nice Mom. A sweet Mom. And you just fail.  Me too.Yikes.

There’s all kinds of info out there on the web and in print about how to train your kids. How to take care of yourself. Some suggest Moms just get away. Some Moms go to work just so they don’t have to deal with their kids or everything their kids bring out in them. Impatience. Anger. Yelling. Hiding.

We just don’t talk about this. There’s a lot we Moms don’t talk about because we are so busy trying to be the best, to measure up. We put on our false face and keep going. Inside, we’re dying cause no one else will fess up. The lady beside you in the Target check out line certainly has it altogether. The minimalist you follow on Instagram never yells at her kids to pick up their toys, cause they don’t have any, so she is sinless, right?family

 

So, on top of all of this self-loathing, we lie to ourselves. So why try? Is there an answer? Are we Moms doomed to implode or explode? Or are we believing myths? Leslie Fields, author of Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths that Trap Us in Worry and Guilt, says, “Ironically, pretending that parenting is easy diminishes the value of family”.

Friends, we are imperfect. We can start there. Also, we are not failures. We’ve just been listening to the wrong voices.

Three Myths about. parenting ( from Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths that Trap Us in Worry and Guilt).

  1. Having Children Makes You Happy and Fulfilled.
  2. Nurturing Your Children is Natural and Instinctive.
  3. If You Find Parenting Difficult, You Must Not Be Following the Right Plan.