A few days ago, Kristin and I were having lunch with Michael Hyatt (NYT Bestselling Author of Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World) and members of his team, when he said something that resonated with me. We were talking about our goal to reach weary and overwhelmed parents around the world when he said,
Parenting is one of the hardest things a person will do in life.
I couldn’t agree more. In fact, this is a truth I’ve believed for the past decade. While parenting is filled with unbelievable blessings and fulfillment, it’s plain and simply one of the hardest life choices a human being will make. There are a lot of reasons for this. First of all, you’re raising human beings who, as they grow and mature, begin to think and choose on their own. Often, they’re choosing unwisely, which is part of the problem. They’re going to be defiant and belligerent. You can count on it.
Second, parenting teaches you just how deep the human heart can go. When you’re a parent you learn to love, and love deeply. When your children are in pain, you ache for them. When they screw up, you grieve their bad decisions. When they’re lonely you feel for them, and when they’re defeated you feel helpless if you can’t do anything about it. This is all a result of love.
For us, our weariness comes from the trials we’ve gone through as the parents of children with special needs, and children whom we’ve adopted from difficult places. It’s been one of the hardest, if not the hardest, roads we’ve ever traveled. In fact, I would use the word “defeating” to describe it. Weariness is going to happen in parenting. Whether you’re a biological, foster, adoptive parent, or the parent of a child with special needs, you will experience exhaustion to the fullest. We’ve discovered some critical steps, 5 to be exact, that help us move through times of intense weariness.
- Stop what you’re doing. Take a break, even if it’s just for a few hours, or a day. You won’t find rest if you keep going, without a stop. We live in a culture that equates busyness to productivity. This even applies to parenting. The busier you are, the more productive you are. I don’t have to tell you how much of a lie this is do I? Truth is, the household chores will always be there. Our child’s special need is not going away anytime soon. We will not sleep anymore even if we try. So when then, are we continuing to push ourselves without a break. You and I, and our parenting, need a break.
- Call SOS. We need help on this journey. One of the reasons we feel isolated is that we isolate ourselves. I’ve had more conversations that I can count with parents who have suffered from isolation. Sometimes it’s a choice to stiff arm those around us whom we love, other times, it’s out of embarrassment over what we’re going through- the way our kid behaves, the dark past of our family, the trials we’ve gone through as foster parents, and so much more. Isolation is overcome when we call for help. This must be a trusted friend or confidant who understands where we are coming from and has a genuine interest in our life and our family.
- Recalibrate your life. Recalibration is the art of taking steps to reset something that has gotten off course. Picture it like a GPS that has started to give wrong directions and needs to be reset. You follow a series of steps to get it back on course. After all, you won’t get to the place you want to be if you’re off course. This is true for your life and your parenting. Stop what you’re doing, call for help and hit the reset button.
- Chart a new course. When you find yourself heading in the wrong direction, especially in parenting, the best way to fix this is to turn around and begin moving in a new direction. It’s that simple. Often times, our weariness comes from the fact that we keep moving in the same direction even if it’s wrong or not working. If I want to drive to Columbus, Ohio to see my beloved Buckeyes play football but I enter I-70 West toward St. Louis out of Indianapolis, I will never reach my destination. The only way I can fix this is to get off I-70 West, turn around, and start driving east. In other words, chart a new course. When you’re overwhelmed and worn out, and the direction you’ve been moving isn’t getting you anywhere, chart a new course.
- Breathe. As you take a break, take time to breathe. Pay attention to your breathing. This is not something we do enough of as human beings, or parents. Slowly breathe in and then exhale. Find a quiet place, even your house if your children are off at school or at camp, close your eyes, and breathe slowly.
I promise you- actively taking these steps will help you move through your weariness and find the hope you need to face another day. The reason I know is that they have helped us time after time. While you and I will never fully overcome the weariness of parenting, we can find the help we need to move through it.
So take some time today, and begin to implement these key steps into your life and your parenting. Doing this may just help you gain the fresh perspective on your children and your family that you’ve been looking for.
Have you hit a wall in your parenting? How can these steps help you break through it?