I remember the years when I was basically home bound with many young children. Sometimes I wondered if I should be doing something more important “out there.” On my hard days I had moments when I wondered if I was throwing myself away for children who didn’t seem to appreciate anything I was doing for them. When we are mothers of young children we are generally young ourselves or at least new to being a parent. It is not easy to painstakingly extract our selfishness. So we hang on as long as possible, hoping someone will eventually appreciate all we do. One day it dawns on us – the eyes God see everything and that’s enough.
Most of our behavior with our young children is a private experience even they won’t remember – consciously. Yet there is another memory of the heart – a deep personal feeling we carry inside that tells us if we are loveable or unlovable, safe or unsafe and whether or not we can trust others. We learn these things from our parents and we take those feelings with us when we leave home.
On those hard days when the baby is screaming, the toddler paints his entire bedroom in petroleum jelly, and the preschooler gouges the new sofa with a butcher knife it’s hard not to feel like you’re going to go crazy. Feeling overwhelmed is a chronic parenting condition. It’s not easy to work very hard every day without pay, recognition or reward for little people who throw up all over us, scream in our face and throw things at our head. It’s not easy to fix nutritious meals that mostly wind up on the floor. It’s not easy to clean a house that is being destroyed even as we work. It’s not easy to be romantic with our spouse when we haven’t even had a chance to take a shower all day. It’s not easy to be a parent of young children. It takes years to grow into our role.
We know we’re making progress when we finally stop feeling sorry for our self. We’re ready for the next school in parenthood when our life becomes less about us and more about them. Our perspective shifts. We realize being a child isn’t easy either. Hey, it’s not easy being three. Try climbing up on a commode that is twice as big as you are. When we begin to look at our children the way an educated art patron in a museum looks at Michelangelo’s David or the Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, we will see them as the masterpieces they really are.
Taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves is a mission – a calling and worthy our best effort. If we work very hard and give our all to our parenting career, our children might turn out well and they might not. We are an important part of our child’s life, but we can’t realistically take all the credit or blame for the adult our child becomes. We only have to take the blame and credit for how we turn out.
No matter how many battles we fight on the home front, our name will not appear on a monument. We will work our whole life for something we never see finished. But if we make the necessary sacrifices, parenthood will be a personal cure for self-centeredness and an anecdote for false pride. The primary relationship we have in this life is with our self. There is nothing like parenthood to make us face our self and seek divine help. Then when we lay our head on our pillow at night, we may not see the dream of CEO printed on our office door or visions of mansions and luxury cars. We will see the radiant faces of our children and hear the echo of their laughter.