Inside: a closer look at keeping joy in hard parenting seasons
Sure, sacrifice is always a part of motherhood. But you know those seasons that just really take it out of you? The ones that would look completely different without the instruction and favor of God? THOSE are the seasons I’m talking about today.
For some mommas, that season may be all the time. Maybe you have a child with special needs. Maybe you just have so many children that they rotate going through those really tough seasons. If that’s you, I want to start off by saying, YOU ROCK! Your patience, dedication, and daily sacrifice may go unnoticed. It may be taken for granted. But I want to encourage you as you read. You are amazing! I wish I could be there to cheer you on in person because you deserve it. The days are long. You’re exhausted. Every bone in your body may be begging to quit. But you just keep trucking because if not you, then who?
I wish I could say I have your fortitude. But right now, I’m growing.
It Started so Well…
Man, am I tired.
Our 2-year-old recently moved from our room to her room (that she shares with her older sister), and it’s been a little draining.
To say that my attitude at the beginning of this transition was cocky would be an understatement.
We had it in the bag! I was rocking mom life.
Who said this would be hard? They obviously weren’t aware of my mad parenting skills.
Was I a momming ninja? It sure felt like it.
She was sleeping in her own bed, hardly waking up during the night to come find me, and she was SO PROUD of herself.
“I sleep in my bed alllll night,” she’d share with anyone who would listen.
Then I messed up.
Let me explain…
The simplified version of our bedtime routine is this: every night when it’s that time, I sit next to little Arwyn’s bed until she falls asleep. At first, I would rub her back or play with her hair. I’d occasionally lay my head down next to her. We’d connect and smile. We’d give little cuddles and kisses. It was a sweet bonding time.
Then when she’d wake up in the middle of the night, her little feet would speed into my room, and I’d hear her asking for me. So I’d get up and carry her back to bed.
“Mommy, can you sit with me?” Her sweet little voice would ask. Of course I could. I’d sit back down on the floor and wait for her to fall back to sleep, usually praying rest and peace over her as she did.
Every night this was our pattern. And it was working.
Then I got a little tired.
My (Very Sleepy) Sacrificial Season
I say “a little tired” because my mind and body didn’t realize it yet, but it would get much worse.
And because I got tired, I got impatient. This was NOT my finest hour.
I wanted her to fall asleep as fast as possible because I wanted to get to sleep. We had to get up early in the morning to get her two older siblings ready for school. I had a breastfeeding baby waiting for me back in my room, ready to wake up at any point needing a snuggle and midnight snack. I didn’t have time to sit around and wait for her to fall asleep every night.
And because I felt that way, I broke our pattern of connection and replaced it with one where I sat impatiently while she stared at the ceiling. Then I became frustrated when she wasn’t just zooming off to lala land.
“Arwyn, mommy doesn’t want to sit here all night. I’m tired too.”
Of course, this only made her anxious, which worsened the problem. Before I knew it, our awesome bedtime routine turned into a nightly cry fest and power struggle where neither of us were winning. To make matters worse, it also meant she was waking up more frequently at night AND that she was spending more time being anxious and upset throughout the day.
Clearly I had gotten off track.
Keeping Joy in Hard Parenting Seasons
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV, emphasis mine)
Stick with me. I know this is not the main meaning of this verse. I know this isn’t the big picture. And yet, as I sat crisscross applesauce in my baby girl’s room, oozing a bad attitude, THIS is the verse that came to my heart. God always meets me right where I am.
…for the joy set before Him, He endured…
The Passion Translation says verse 2 like this:
We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!
Jesus was my example. God was showing me I had given up joy in this circumstance because I had taken my eye off the prize.
What is the Joy Set Before Us in Motherhood?
It can be such a thankless job. An exhausting job. A draining job. And no one seems to see all the little things that go into being “mom.” All the little ways we make sure that everyone’s world keeps spinning. It’s so easy to get hung up on feeling unappreciated. Or like what we’re doing doesn’t matter. Or like we’re doing it all wrong anyway. It’s so easy to get ensnared by a bad attitude in this mom life.
But there is a joy we can focus on.
It’s what I had forsaken when I got a little tired.
It’s the relationships that we’re building with our kids.
Connection is Key
Over and over again in the Word, we see God’s heart toward family and the powerful connection there.
During these seasons of greater sacrifice, it can be tough to stay focused on what’s really important. But we can persevere by looking to the joy that will grow from all this hard work. By protecting our connection with our children above our own exhaustion (or whatever else is coming against us), we are intentionally sewing into our relationship with them.
The parent-child bond is one that the enemy loves to attack because it’s one that is so important to God and is one that can be such a pure representation of His love for us. Not only that, but it’s the way we train them up in the way they were created to go.
But it’s one that’s dependent upon our connection with them.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”If there’s one thing my kids are constantly showing me, it’s that so much of their mental & emotional health depends on connection. And it makes sense. After all, we were created to be highly relational beings. https://plantingvineyards.com/keeping-joy-in-hard-parenting-seasons” quote=”If there’s one thing that my kids are constantly showing me, it’s that so much of their mental and emotional health depends on connection. And it makes sense. After all, we were created to be highly relational beings. “]
When they’re cranky? They often need connection.
When they’re being defiant? They need more connection.
When their emotions are clouding their minds? They need more connection.
Sacrificing to protect that connection at all cost means that we’re tending to our special bond with our kids. Like tending to a garden. So even during these harder seasons full of plowing and weeding and digging out stones, we can have joy in knowing the fruit that will come from it.
And it’s a picture of Jesus.
The Example We Can Look to
Going back to our example of Jesus, He sacrificed everything to give us a place in the family of God and protect our connection to Him. He was able to endure what He had to go through (which was so much more than my sleepiness) because of the joy of what His sacrifice would mean. It would mean a family bond. It would mean a loving relationship with all of us. And it would mean freedom for those who would lean on Him.
In our homes, our sacrifice means sewing into our family bond, putting love and connection above all else, and creating a family culture where our children can trust us to understand what they’re growing through (even when that’s hard for us to execute). Not only does that bring them closer to us, but it also shows them the love of God. It gives them a picture to compare to the savior and loving Father we’re trying to teach them about.
Thank God, He’s in our corner! Because without Him, that would be a tall (and impossible) order. But with Him, we have the grace (the ability through His divine influence on our hearts) to learn and grow.
(And I have mercy for letting a bad attitude get the better of me!)
What season are you facing right now? If you’re struggling through a hard one, know you’re not alone! And you’re growing something sacred and beautiful with your child.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”This too shall pass. Until it does, prayer, chocolate, and coffee help! https://plantingvineyards.com/keeping-joy-in-hard-parenting-seasons/” quote=”This too shall pass. Until it does, prayer, chocolate, and coffee help!”]
Until next time,
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