You look tired”. I wonder if anyone has ever greeted you this way? I seem to get it a lot! It’s hard to know how to respond, isn’t it? Perhaps “That’s because I am tired”, or “I’m pretty sure this is just my face now” or perhaps on more difficult days it’s the sort of comment that makes us burst into tears. Even if we have managed to hide the physical signs of tiredness with a thick coat of concealer and a double shot latte, many mums would agree they don’t feel just tired, but weary. While feeling tired seems to imply just needing a decent night’s sleep, weariness conveys that bone-deep exhaustion we can sometimes feel about life. And we are particularly prone to feeling it in our parenting. There are two main ways I am at risk of becoming weary as, alongside my husband, I seek to raise our children.
Imagination and Reality
Before I had kids, I imagined the sort of mother I would be. I had a long mental checklist. I would always be patient and kind, affectionate and warm, but firm on misbehaviour; although it was unlikely these hypothetical children of mine would ever misbehave given the excellent parenting they would receive! I pictured teaching them about the Lord Jesus from their earliest days and being able to answer wisely and age-appropriately all the questions their curious minds would come up with. Most of all I imagined being filled with a sense of purpose, fulfilment and enthusiasm as I guided these young souls and brought them up in the faith.
I imagined being filled with a sense of purpose, fulfilment and enthusiasm as I guided these young souls and brought them up in the faith. Mothering has panned out a little differently from what I expected!
Since those days, God has blessed us with five living children, and you may be somewhat surprised to hear, mothering them has panned out a little differently from what I expected! Some days being patient and kind seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Some days I am more about barking short commands with the demeanour of a slave master than about being affectionate and warm. Some days, I let discipline slide in my laziness one moment, only to overreact to their poor behaviour in the next. I am continually disappointed by my own weaknesses and failures. Sometimes I get to the end of a day and despair at all my mistakes and the ways I have failed to love my kids as I ought.
Despair and its Antidote
This is the first way I can become weary at my work in parenting. I can feel overwhelmed with guilt at the ways I am failing to parent and feel tempted to despair that there is any point pressing on. But, as those who follow Jesus, we don’t need to be wearied by this burden, in fact we are told “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). In our parenting, as in all things, there is no sin that Jesus’ blood will not cover. As God’s beloved children we can bring our weaknesses and failures before him, confess them and be forgiven. And we can also freely admit to our children that we have failed them and apologise wholeheartedly. There is a great joy that comes in parenting this way that frees us from being wearied and crippled by guilt. We have failed and, as sinners, will fail again. But we are forgiven and as we entrust ourselves to our Father, in His strength we can press on.
Thankless Tedium and The Father who Sees
The second way I can feel wearied is the monotony of repeating the same tasks day in, day out. The frustration of serving up a meal, lovingly planned, shopped for, prepared and cooked only for it to be thrown on the floor by a toddler. Or of a just vacuumed carpet that dirty shoes are walked across. Or of the never-ending story of the laundry pile. We can also feel discouraged as we keep hitting the same hurdles. The siblings who keep bickering, no matter how many times we try to bring harmony. The child who fails to listen when asked to do something.
And most of this seems unnoticed. No one will give us a rave performance review for having washed wet bed sheets every day this week, no one will pay us overtime for the hours nit-combing all those heads, and there won’t be a standing ovation for holding our tongues when our teenagers lash out again. We can be tempted to feel all of this is for nothing as no one sees or appreciates it. However, that’s where we are most wrong.
Our loving Heavenly Father sees when we restrain our anger; when we seek to love our family by emptying that bin rather than leaving it for someone else; when we decide to change the tone of an afternoon and rather than snapping at children.
We have a loving Heavenly Father who has a running count of the numbers of hair on our head, even the grey ones! He sees when we restrain our anger and take a deep breath before seeking to lovingly resolve a dispute between siblings. He sees when we seek to love our family by emptying that bin rather than leaving it for someone else to deal with. He sees when we decide to change the tone of an afternoon and rather than snapping at children, put down our to do list and instead play a game with them.
Help for the Long Season
How thankful I am for God’s word and his encouragement when I feel this way! Galatians 6:9 reads “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up”. Parenting can be a long season of sowing and we can feel we don’t have much to reap. But God is at work in us just as much in this season of our lives as any other. As we (once again) hang out the washing, and make that meal, and rock that crying baby we can know God is teaching us to persevere, to deny ourselves, to love and care for those who won’t necessarily thank us. We have a Father who does see as we sow. Who sees us doing good and living with Him as Lord and is delighted in us and has a heavenly rest waiting for us.
So dear sisters, although we might feel physically tired, let us not grow weary of doing good in our parenting. Let us remember that we serve the one who forgives us our sins and failures and who strengthens us to do the good He has prepared for us to do.
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash