Managing versus Mothering

 Dictionary.com defines a “manager” as:

1) a person who has control or direction of an institution, business, etc., or of a part, division, or phase of it.

2) a person who controls and manipulates resources and expenditures, as of a household.

I just want to point out some key words…control, direction, manipulates.

Confession…

I spent far too many years managing my children than I did mothering them.  Because when I hear the word mother, I attach other words to it—such as nurturing, loving, and giving.  Not that I didn’t do those things!  Let me be very clear that I’ve definitely nurtured, loved and given to my children.  But at certain stages and seasons, managing seemed to overrule mothering.

If I were to guess when I began to see this truth, it was probably during the time my daughter became a teenager.  The challenges began almost immediately, causing quite a shakeup in our family and in my heart.  And then one day I found myself sitting in an emergency room because she had taken a dangerous combination of pills.

That moment changed our family.  But it also changed me as a mom.  I couldn’t manage this one.  I had managed everything else in my children’s lives.  I had controlled.  Directed.  And yes, I had manipulated.  Now I was helpless.  As crazy as it sounds, I’m not sure I would go back and erase what happened.  I believe God used that time to make a significant difference in my daughter’s life and in the way I would parent.

I truly believe that if I had continued to manage (instead of mother) my daughter during that difficulty, we wouldn’t be where we are today.  A relationship that was once shaky became solid.  Communication that was once nonexistent became open.

Although I am so grateful to have learned this during a critical time in my daughter’s life, it would have made a significant difference in my earlier years of parenting.  I would have been less frazzled, stressed and frustrated.  My children would have seen more patience, grace and kindness.

Mama…don’t get caught up in managing your children.  Mother them.  Even when you don’t feel like it.  Even when it’s hard.  The rewards you reap are worth all of it.

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

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Unexpected Lessons in Motherhood

 There are some things you know in your head before becoming a mother.  For instance, the days of sleeping in won’t happen again (at least not for many, many years).  You have somewhat of an idea about sacrifice.  And you know that it’s going to take a whole lot of money to raise a child.  But there are some things that happen in motherhood you never expect.  Here’s just a few…

 

Unexpected Lesson #1 – You Will Be Stretched in Ways That Seem beyond Your Limits…But You’ll Still Make It Through

 

At times I’ve felt that I couldn’t take another sleepless night…another day of dirty diapers, spilled liquids, toys all over…another day of bickering…another day of requests and demands without getting one moment to myself…another day of worry…another day of teen attitude…another day of rebellion…or another day of just being a mother.

 

Yet just when you think you’re going to break because you can’t take one more thing…a strength from within rises up.  Sure, you might make a few mistakes in getting to that place.  You might need to spend a whole lot of time on your knees in prayer.  You might go to bed wishing to rewind the hands of time.  But you will still make it through.

 

Unexpected Lesson #2 – Although It Sometimes Hurts, There Is Freedom in Learning to Let Go

 

I’m a control freak.  I like to have all my ducks in a row and when they aren’t, well, it’s not pretty.  Motherhood has been the greatest teacher in showing me that trying to control everything causes greater pain than I would experience in having no control.  Sometimes God has had to pry my fingers open to help me release control.  And although it hurt, the end result was a feeling of relief.  I experienced true freedom.  Freedom to trust Him with my children.  Freedom from anxiety, frustration and stress.  Freedom to enjoy being a mother.

 

Unexpected Lesson #3 – There Is No Such Thing as a One-Size-Fits-All Method of Parenting

 

I’ve read many books on parenting.  I’ve listened to lots of advice.  I’ve attended classes, workshops and seminars on parenting.  I’ve observed the way other parents do it.  Regardless of all these “helps” (I would argue that some have actually proven to be detrimental), the one thing I’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a model way of parenting.  Not in the general sense and certainly not for all of my children because each of them are so different.  And just when you think you’ve figured it all out, along comes reality to knock you down.  Suddenly you have to come up with a new plan.

 

What works for your friend, neighbor or relative doesn’t always mean it will work for you.  Our journey as a mother is unique, with varying circumstances that determine what’s best for each of us.  Don’t believe the hype—there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all formula to parenting.

 

Unexpected Lesson #4 – Others Won’t Always Agree With (or Like) Your Way of Parenting…That’s Okay Because It’s Not Your Job to Meet Their Expectations

 

I’ve had many a person disagree with me about decisions I’ve made in parenting.  Everything from my educational choices for my children to when I determined it was okay for them to walk home from school.  I’ve been criticized for being too strict and at other times, not strict enough.  I’ve been questioned on what I allow or don’t allow, the rules we enforce in our house and how I handle discipline.

 

If you think it doesn’t happen to you, it does.  Sometimes it’s just not voiced out loud.  But it doesn’t matter.  Because in the end you are accountable for what you do with your family.  It’s not your job to meet others expectations.  The responsibility of motherhood is a heavy enough load without adding other people to it.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

 

Those Moments You’ll Miss

 It drives most parents of young children crazy…or at the very least, it might elicit an eye roll.  It’s the ole “Enjoy this age while you can,” “They grow up so fast” and other comments meant to (if we were to be honest) make you feel a bit guilty for not enjoying a particular age or for wishing they would just grow up.

 

Just like I couldn’t be convinced years ago to appreciate what I had, it’s the same story for most parents with young ones.  You’re in the midst of exhaustion, messes, tantrums, crying, clinging—insert your personal challenges.  So the last thing you want to hear is how “wonderful” all of this is, and how you are going to wish it back because all you can think is, “NO WAY!”

 

Let me be completely honest—as the parent of a 16, 18 and 21 year old.  It’s ridiculous for anyone to suggest that those moments are ones you will long for and want back.  No one in their right mind wishes to go back to a time in which tantrums were an hourly occurrence, the baby was inconsolable and you didn’t get a good night’s sleep because of a nursing newborn or a child having a nightmare.

 

However, there are other moments that may at one time have felt exhausting or problematic and you would gladly exchange for some of the other challenges you face with teens and adult children.  Speaking from personal experience, I can think of many moments that I took for granted or didn’t/couldn’t appreciate at the time.  For instance, nursing a sick child back to health…comforting a child who has fallen down…reading that story one more time…answering yet another question from a curious little one…tucking in a child…giving one more kiss…again, insert your personal moment that you would wish back.

 

These days I’m less needed.  I have more time for me.  If I’m tired, it’s because I was up too late watching TV.  On a whim I can have coffee with a friend or go out to dinner with my husband.  I can sleep in.  I don’t always have to cook.  The house is less messy.

 

At one time this would have sounded like a dream come true.  The days of what I once longed for have finally arrived…and yet, it oftentimes leaves me feeling lonely and empty.  I know that with time I’ll adjust to the change in my role as a parent.  I’ll come to accept that it will never be what it once was and I’ll appreciate this new stage of life.  But no one will ever convince me that I didn’t already experience my best days as a mom.  So if I can convince even one parent with young children that you WILL miss many of your current moments, I’ve done my job.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

Two Words Every Mom (and Dad) Should Say

You’ve blown it.  You mistakenly blamed your child for something he didn’t do.  Maybe you raised your voice a few notches louder than necessary.  Or perhaps you broke a promise.

 

Deep down you know your child deserves an apology.  Yet you wrestle with saying the words…I’m sorry.

 

Maybe it’s pride standing in the way.  It could be that you never received an apology from your own parents.  Or you just don’t believe that someone in a position of authority should have to apologize.  In some cases it might be you don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong.

 

But here’s why “I’m sorry” are the two words every mom (and dad) should say to their children:

 

It shows you care about your child’s feelings.

 

When someone else’s reaction is over the top, when another person wrongs us or accuses us of something…it’s natural to feel hurt (or angry, embarrassed, etc.).  The point is that you FEEL something and our children are no different.  By not apologizing, you are dismissing their feelings.  But when you acknowledge your mistakes, it shows you care.

 

It holds you accountable.

 

Regardless of the fact you’re an adult and the parent, it’s important to recognize our wrongs.  Apologizing holds us accountable for our actions and will cause us to think twice before making the same mistake again.

 

It demonstrates humility.

 

Children should respect their parents…no question.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t mess up and when we do, that we just brush it under the rug.  Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and admit to our wrongs.  Saying “I’m sorry” is one way we can demonstrate humility to our children.

 

It fosters forgiveness.

 

Unless we apologize for our mistakes, there isn’t much room for finding forgiveness.  And it’s not enough to say “I’m sorry.”  Asking our child’s forgiveness helps him/her to grow in this biblical principle…not only in that they will seek forgiveness when they have done wrong but they will more likely forgive others who hurt them.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

 

Don’t Miss Out on the Joy in Parenting

 In the midst of challenging stages we may be in with our children or even difficulties that seem to have no end, there is joy to be found in parenting.  Like anyone else, I appreciate the days (sometimes weeks or months) when everything is going well and my world feels right.  It’s so much easier to appreciate the role of mom or dad.  But it’s important that even if we’re not in that place, we don’t miss out on the joy that can be ours.

 

Here are some ways you can find joy in parenting (regardless of what’s going on):

 

Surrender.

I’m not talking about surrendering to depression or the thought that things will always be hard.  Surrender yourself to God.  Give up the pursuit to over-manage your children, to attain perfection, or the need to play the role of Holy Spirit over your family.  Surrender your children to God and trust that He has a purpose and plan far beyond your comprehension and/or the circumstances you’re currently facing.

 

Know When to Say Yes and When to Say No.

If you happen to be a people pleaser, saying yes tends to come more naturally.  But it’s not always a good thing—even if what you’re saying yes to is “good.”  Recognize when you’re in a stage of life that saying yes would cause you to be stretched beyond your limits or negatively affect your family.  Which means that you must learn how to say no.  Don’t try to make excuses or blame someone else (it’s easy to put it off on your spouse).  Take ownership of your no.  Having a balanced life is an important key to finding joy.

 

Increase Faith So You Fear Less.

You won’t gain increased faith by fearing less but you will fear less with more faith.  Trusting God with your children and life in general will bring greater joy.  Because instead of the focus being on your circumstances, it’s on God.  The enemy of your soul wants to rob you of joy by instilling worry and fear.  Don’t let him become greater than the One who brings peace in the midst of a storm.

 

Learn to Relax.

Some parents (raising a hand here) are oftentimes wound so tight they don’t know how to relax.  I’m not just talking about getting away to do something for yourself (whether it’s lunch with a friend or going outside to read a book)…although, those are important, practical ways to relax.  I’m referring to the way we sometimes freak out over the smallest stuff.  How we waste energy and time fretting about things that don’t really matter in the long run.  Let kids be kids and remember that messes can always be cleaned up…that they won’t always be that age and one day you’ll miss even the challenging moments of parenting.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

Breakthrough in the Midst of Brokenness

 Recently I discovered a new song by a group called Lifehouse.  The song is titled “Broken” and it contains a line that when I first heard it, well, it sort of caught my breath.  It so accurately captures what I’ve been living the past few months…

 

“I may have lost my way now, haven’t forgotten my way home.”

 

As a spiritually broken mom, I’ve definitely felt lost.  And that means I haven’t been able to provide any real direction for my children.  How can a lost person show someone else the way?  Well, they can’t…and let me tell you, that’s a scary place to be when you’re a parent.

 

Yet the hope in all this is that I never forgot my way home.  I may have taken some detours and I might still be groping my way through the fog…yet I DO know how to get home.  And guess what?  So do my children.

 

In fact, of all times to see spiritual breakthrough in one of my children, it occurred in the midst of my own brokenness.  In our earthly minds it doesn’t sense.  But you see, if the forming of our children’s lives was solely based on us…well, God would no longer be necessary.  We can only come to see how very much we need Him when there is nothing else left.

 

I’m no longer terrified that my spiritual brokenness is going to damage my children.  No matter how “whole” I am and how well I play the Christian mom role, it can NEVER replace the God who meets every need and fills every empty place.  In fact, the more I get out of the way and stop trying to play Savior, the better off for my children.

 

Here’s the thing…yes, my children have witnessed that I’ve lost my way.  It’s not something I can hide, no matter how much I think I can.  They see through it.  I could stay stuck on this reality.  Yet God has been reminding me that they have also seen something even more important—that I know my way home.  They know the Word of God is still important to me…that tears flow…that prayer is a part of my life…that God’s ways are questioned…that praise and worship music lifts my spirit…that doubts sometimes plague me and that faith restores me.

 

In our humanness this sounds so confusing.  But God helps the senseless to make sense.  Only He can do that.  How do I know?  Because I’ve seen Him move more in my children’s lives during this season of my spiritual brokenness than I’ve seen in a long, long time.

 

And once again I come to the cold, hard truth that my abilities as a parent reach a certain point in which they can do nothing.  That all my efforts and good works as a mom don’t equal (or even come close) to what God can do in my children’s lives.  When I’m unable, He is more than able.  When I’m at the end of my rope, He pulls me up.  When I’ve lost my way, He brings me home.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero

When Mom Is Spiritually Broken

 Although you’re never fully prepared when it happens, it’s certainly not uncommon to deal with spiritual brokenness in our children.  Sons and daughters who struggle with faith, who question truth or even walk away from God.  In some ways we almost expect it to happen when they hit the teen years or when they gain their first taste of independence as an adult.

 

But what if the spiritual brokenness isn’t an issue with your child?  What if it’s with you?

 

It’s not something we hear much about.  It’s not a common topic in Bible studies or even as a conversation piece.  And yet it happens.  Probably more often than we know.

 

One of the things I have been committed to in writing this blog is honesty.  At times it’s required more of me than I’ve wanted to give.  I’ve shared things that others would have kept in secret.  I’ve exposed parts of me that I’d preferred to have kept hidden.

 

I would have loved to know I wasn’t alone in my earlier years of parenting.  And so that’s just one of the reasons I’m willing to bare it all.  Even now, with older kids, I still know that I’m not alone.  I want to be a voice that speaks out hard truths.  And so with that, I take a risk in sharing some of my own spiritual brokenness.

 

It’s scary to be in that place.  Because it doesn’t just affect me.  It affects my children.  Therefore, I struggle not only with my personal issues but fears that it will negatively impact my children.

 

Although my brokenness probably started at a time I didn’t recognize its beginnings…it became much more obvious in the early months of 2015.  A variety of challenges seemed to hit at once.  One of the biggest was the death of my father, which hit me very hard.  On top of that was the birth of my granddaughter—although certainly a joyous occasion, the timing and circumstances surrounding it still created some stress.  In addition there were marital problems, financial difficulties, job insecurities and health issues.  But these were just the top six.  Let’s just say that 2015 hasn’t been one of the easier years for me or my family.

 

The impact hasn’t just been emotional and physical.  It’s affected me spiritually.  Not that I ever walked away from God or stopped believing.  However, my faith was shaken to its core.  Regaining ground has been slow moving but at least there’s been some progress.

 

I’ve written quite a bit about guilt and how it affects parents—moms in particular.  When you’re spiritually broken and children are watching, guilt can consume you.  Somehow I’ve managed to avoid that.  Not that I haven’t struggled with it…but I haven’t allowed it to become bigger than my God.  I’m learning that even in my weakness, His strength is enough not only for me but my children as well.

 

This post is just the start of what I hope becomes a conversation piece for others…or at least helps them to know they aren’t alone.  You see, sometimes life is messy and pretending otherwise is useless.  It’s what you do with it that will be the greatest lesson your children will ever learn.

 

Mom (or dad), when you’re spiritually broken the only One who can put you together again is God.  He is also looking out for your children, especially when your tank is running on empty.  Regardless of what comes your way, no matter how far you fall and despite the scars you wear from the battle…God will see you—AND YOUR CHILDREN—through it all.

 

© 2015, Stephanie Romero