Parenting is Hard; and Awesome!

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parentingis hard graphic 2I’m always interested to hear what parents have to say to a new expecting couple when they start asking, “What’s it like to be a parent?”

Did you ever ask this question? What kind of response did you get? I’ve heard all sorts of responses. I’ve heard mothers highlight the massive increase in laundry or Dads spotlight the decrease in privacy. I recently sat quietly and eaves dropped on a conversation about this topic. I was amazed at some of the horror stories and the talk of sacrifice. However, I was thrilled at one Mom’s response after the reports of heroic martyrdom had come to a close. She spoke softly but directly to the couple that had asked the question.

She said, “Parenting is hard… And awesome!”

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She then proceeded to tell this couple the story of her three children’s births. She excitedly told them about watching her kids’ firsts: their first steps, first words. She articulated what a privilege it had been to be part of her children’s’ lives.

The most wonderful thing is when she did this, the rest of the group joined in and started telling the couple all of their favorite stories about being parents. The conversation went from fear inducing to stirring up feelings of joy and wonder. You could see the couple’s bodies soften and their countenances lift as the group recounted and focused on the benefits and enjoyment of parenting. Not only did the expecting couple change, but so did the rest of the group, all in response to what they focused on and how they spoke about their kids.

We know it’s hard but it becomes “less hard” when we focus on the “awesome.”

I love what this mother did! She didn’t deny that parenting was difficult at times, but she also did not define parenthood by the struggles. Parenting didn’t have to be one or the other, it could be both: hard AND awesome. She recognized the fact that is hard makes it that much more awesome! This acknowledgment actually added to parenting’s value rather than diminishing its value.

Learning to focus on the awesome

In my counseling practice I often do an exercise with parents that seeks to bring out the awesome in the everyday hardship of parenting. I ask them to take a piece of paper and write five things that they struggle with as a parent. It can be tasks they find particularly unpleasant or things their children do that drive them crazy. A list might look something like this…

1. Endlessly cleaning the kitchen

2. Loud kids

3. Kids not doing what they are asked

4. Exhaustion from feeding the baby 4 times p/night

5. Kids interrupting

I’ve found this list of five items often comes without a lot of effort. Parents are usually able to come up with these five struggles relatively easily, but next comes the tougher part of the exercise. I ask them to look at each of the five things they listed and writing something positive or “awesome” about that thing. Parents tend to resist this part a little. They look at me like I’m crazy and often sit for several moments without writing anything. Some will even say, “I give up, I can’t think of anything positive about these things.” After sharing some examples and working on it a little we might come up with positive responses to the list above that look something like this…

1. Our messy kitchen is because our family is well fed. (Endlessly cleaning the kitchen)

2. Loud kids are usually playful, happy kids. (Loud kids)

3. My child is learning to test boundaries and be assertive. (Kids not doing what they are asked)

4. We develop a strong connection and fulfill needs. (Exhaustion from nightly feedings)

5. My child interrupting is evidence that he wants to be with and talk to me. (Kids interrupting)

Be deliberate with our thoughts and words

Some of the examples above feel like a stretch to some parents at first, but the objective of this exercise is to recognize that we can find positives in anything and everything. Our personal happiness and satisfaction as a parent or in anything in life for that matter, is more dependent upon perception than circumstance. By being more deliberately positive with first, our thoughts and second, our words, we can not only change our own happiness but can have dramatic influence and impact on the happiness and experience of others. We can make a profound difference in our own experience, our children’s experience and even the attitudes and experience of parents around us.

We can uplift, encourage and empower by seeing and focusing on the awesome. We can enjoy the dichotomy of being stressed and peaceful, as well as exhausted and rejuvenated all at the same time. Parenting is indeed both hard and awesome! As we purposefully dwell on the positive, we will see more of the awesome and the hard will only work to enhance the awesome!

Question: What is something you struggle with as a parent and what is something positive you can find about that thing?

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