Thursday, September 27, 2007

The end of the "parenting honeymoon"

I’ve been thinking about the whole idea of the “parenting honeymoon” this week. What an appropriate term. It begins when you first find out you are pregnant (before morning sickness, unwanted hair, and stretch marks set in and you're still small enough to look cute in maternity clothes) and ends about the time you first realize your child’s situation does not fit neatly into the Q&A section of the parenting books. For some children, this is the first sleepless night you bring them home from the hospital. For others, it’s the first time your toddler looks at you and defiantly says, “NO!” For many, it’s the teenage years.

For me, it was the day my prayers went from, “Thank you, God, for making me such a great parent,” to “God, I am making a desperate mess of things and I am horribly unqualified for this job. HELP ME!”

Just like a few years into marriage, when I realized the honeymoon was over and I was stuck with this guy FOREVER, somewhere along the way it began to dawn on me that my kids were, well, as Beck commented the other day, flawed. James Dobson says (my paraphrase) that the personality traits that first attracted you to your spouse are the very ones that cause annoyance later on down the road. As Allie (14) would say, "Um, yeah."

The same is true for our kids. My child who is extremely artistic can’t keep a room clean to save her life. My child who is exceptionally bright struggles with grace and flexibility with others. My child who is easygoing is almost impossible to motivate. Each one has his or her own set of idiosyncrasies that, if I think about them too long, are (I'm quite convinced) specifically designed to make me go insane.

No matter where you find yourself in the parenting journey, however, I believe the end of the honeymoon can be the best thing ever to happen to your family. It was for us. The end of my marriage honeymoon meant letting go of my unrealistic expectations of my husband that kept me from appreciating and encouraging the qualities that would make him the man he was destined to become. Not the man I wanted him to be, but the man as God created him to be. I had to go back to what I believe about love: it is not a feeling, but a commitment “till death do us part.” My commitment was to the person, not to the dream.

The end of the parenting honeymoon means the end of looking at my children as I dreamed they should be, and, instead, accepting them where they are. Now. It means the end of relying on books, techniques, and comparing with other moms, and realizing I need to figure out what works for my unique family.

It also means accepting my own limits, the limits of my husband, and realizing the task of raising children is going to take a whole lot longer and require a whole lot more of me than initially anticipated. It means (by God’s grace) sticking it out and not giving up – as Ed Young says, “commitment on steroids” - when my feelings are screaming to run the other way. It is the end of “works” and the beginning of “faith.”

I want to encourage you today. I don’t know where you are, but if you haven’t had a discouraging day as a mom yet, you will. Things can look very bleak sometimes. Maybe the end of the honeymoon has left you with no hope.

But God hasn’t forgotten you. The end of the story hasn't yet been told. The end of one dream could be just the beginning of something even more beautiful.

Hang in there, and hang on to Him. You ARE going to get through this.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9

30 comments:

Kristin said...

Thank you. I needed that.

Terry said...

I really needed this today especially. One thousand times...THANK YOU!!

Jen said...

You are so right on this.....I'm taking a bible study Motherwise on Wednesday nights...and every mother goes through the same things...just different times.....bottom line no matter how hard it seems we will get though it...God will carry me across before he lets me fall.....I know this. I have started praying faithfully for my kids and husband every morning. Something I didnt do all the time before.....it feels great doing it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! This was for me today.

MrsMama said...

You always offer His hope to your readers and encouragement to us all. Thank you! Your comments are timely and helpful to me.

Jenn Lynn said...

Oh yes, many moments of "I just can't do this..." I love that WITH God's grace and strength, I can, but still now without bad days too. Thanks for being so real Katherine, I appreciate your "presence" in my life. More than you know...

Carla said...

Perfectly timed for my hungry heart and eyes. Thank you.

Marian said...

Thank you. (I could tell you where I am right now in this, but it wouldn't look very good in an open to the public comment section...)

I haven't been around with time to comment so much, but hello!

AIMEE said...

I hit the end of the parenting honeymoon this summer and I never thought I would see that day. It was very disillusioning and difficult...but now I am moving to the acceptance stage...as I am learning the totality of the Lord's acceptance of me.
Thanks for the timely message!! It's always a huge comfort to know I'm not the only one!!

Mom to 5...Daughter of the King said...

Wow, did I need this one today! I see I am not the only one!!
Another Mom to %
Tonni
www.4princessbows.com
http://hopehasreturned.blogspot.com

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Great thoughts--the rose colored glasses come off so that the true unblemished love can take root.

Beck said...

Today WAS a very discouraging day - I was in an awful mood, the kids were being disgusting - and I thought "THAT IS IT. I AM DONE WITH PARENTING."
Then I read this and now I feel better. Thank you, Katerine.

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

Preach on, sister.

I know I sound like a broken record when I tell you that I NEED to hear that I'm not the only one whose life, whose family is not picture perfect. It is so encouraging to read of your experiences, both past and current.

Thanks, as always!

Rhen (yestheyareallmine) said...

Very good post and very uplifting. Thank you.

Andrea said...

Uh, Katherine?
Can I just getta "A-MEN"!

Right on, girl.

Deborah said...

Thanks for the reminder to hang in there and hang on to Him. Things have been a little rugged around here.

I find myself putting pressure on myself to get up and get going after having baby #5 2 wks ago. Along w/ that I put pressure on my kids to "get their act together" as well. This only provokes bad attitudes I think.

My firstborn (dd) is 10 now and also very strong-willed. But everytime I take the time to talk to her w/ a gentle spirit, she responds in kind.

You have encouraged me again to accept my kids where they are and let go of the dream of perfection, one I too often hold out as the standard, instead of showing Christlikeness to them by loving them no matter how they act.

THank you again for your timely posts yesterday and today.
God bless!

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Thanks, Katherine. I needed that today. I think I've hit the end of the honeymoon repeatedly, if that's possible! ;-) These last 2 toddlers are really bowling me over and even though I have a teen and know how fast time flies, sometimes I wonder if I'll come out the other side in one piece! Thanks for the reminder that when I get to the end of myself, that is just where the Lord can really do His work. God bless.

kittyhox said...

Another awesome and inspiring post.

And I totally agree about attractive qualities later becoming irksome.

Mommy-fied said...

Katherine, this is a very beautiful post. Thank you.

I started writing in this comment box and I couldn't stop. I ended up writing an entire post. You can read it at http://mommyfied.wordpress.com/2007/09/28/motherhood/

Mary said...

Thank you so much for that. I really need to stop comparing myself to others and find what works for me and my family. I spent my morning blogging about how I want to be like someone else instead of making "me" the best "me" I can be. I'm feeling like a complete failure at parenthood right now and your words helped me so much.

Kendra said...

Great post!
I'd like to add that the end of my parenting honeymoon was also a time of rather severe breakage from my Mom's way of doing things and realizing that God made me the parent of my children and I need only to follow his way of doing things.
This brought about a lot of friction, but in the end, it made me stronger in my faith and convictions.

Julie@HighFive! said...

Thank you for your honesty and for sharing the wisdom you've learned. This is yet another post that has blessed me and will give me some good material to think about as I clean the family room that the kids have just trashed again!!

Susanne said...

What great encouraging words!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post (I'm a bit of lurker here). We have school holidays here at present (I live in New Zealand) and yesterday was not a good day - I was feeling sick and the kids were, well, frustrating to say the least.

I've been struggling through what you term "the end of the parenting honeymoon" - so this post was right on the mark!

Thanks!

Wilm

Barbie@ Mamaology said...

I love your encouraging post like this. Thanks for being REAL!

Brenda said...

I'm just getting to the point with my 8 year old where I am exasperated sometimes. She's such a mess! And so wonderful at the same time.
You are so right--time to figure out what works for us. Now.

Thanks for this post--it was nice to read something encouraging today!

Erna said...

Right there, right now. I was sharing with my husband the thought of asking my Mom if there was ever a day she felt like quitting or not like being a mom on a particular day. Sadly I've felt that way for a few days as I've been up against the wall of toddler independence and a loving leech sister who thinks that everyone wants to be hugged and coddled 24/7. It's definitely not easy. I threw out the "advice" articles a while ago! I need God's grace. Thanks for being so honest in your posts, you bless so many moms out there. :0)

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Katherine, This is so dead on. Thank you. My printer is going to run out of ink...I will be reading this often.

angeleyes Blue said...

I honestly don't know what I would do if I was able to take a mommy holiday. My 2 are now teens and despite their little tantrums i am loving life and my life with teens.

We are the house where all the teens hang. My 15 year old just aquired his learners permit to DRIVE MY CAR! Daddy said no on his little sportscar. I can't blame him.

Hey everyone Isn't this what we signed up for? LABOR, bundle of love, frogs in pant pockets, girl/Boy friends, school. COLLEGE?

These are the days :)

Ginger said...

Committment to the person..not the dream. I needed to hear that. Thank you.