January 24, 2011

Baby Love: Parenting Books

There are some wonderful books on parenting out there. The "What to Expect" series has great info for pregnancy and beyond. Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes..in You and Your Kids is great for tips on getting through the bad stuff. Parenting is Heart Work and Bringing Up Boys (and now Girls) are fantastic general parenting books. Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten your Mother Load is one of those "keeping it real" kind of books about the struggles moms go through. I loved this passage quoted from the book.
aka Sleepy Anxious Hysterical Mom

When Brandon and I started a family, my heart's desire was to stay home. However, since we were making obscene piles of cash, what with my teacher's salary and his youth pastor's check (sarcasm intended), I wasn't able to stay home until my second child, my daughter, was born. Thus I began a new life with an infant and a two-year old. . . all day.

Seeing how I'd begged for this and cried real tears over it, you'd think I'd be somewhat immune to the "downside" of being an SAHM. But you would be wrong. I was unprepared for the exhaustion, the drain of emotional energy, and the constancy of it all; when Brandon asked about my day once, I snapped, "Oh, me? I set limits and enforced discipline all day long. It was awesome. You?"

In my mind, Brandon was off at his fancy job, eating at restaurants, laughing casually, and kicking his feet up on his desk (he's never done the last one, but it fit with my imagined scenario). He did whatever he wanted while I was neck-deep in diapers and tantrums. I slipped into a pit of resentment in record time, keeping tally of the zillion tasks I completed with no acknowledgment.

I told Brandon once: "Do you know that I am literally keeping all these children alive? If I was not on this planet, they'd all be un-immunized, starved anarchists with overgrown fingernails who would never have haircuts or gifts for birthday parties!"

I'm sure he couldn't wait to get home every day.

As I was wallowing in self-pity, Brandon popped the imaginary bubble I'd constructed around his perfect life of freedom. He said, "Here's my side of the story. While I'm stuck in pointless meetings with imbeciles, I'm thinking of you watching the kids learn to walk, which I'm missing. While I'm filling out paperwork, getting chewed out by disgruntled parents and paying invoices, I'm wishing I was you - liberated fro the professional grind, spending time with your friends, singing our kids to sleep for naps. My career is not the picnic you've envisioned, but my solace is that I am giving our kids the gift of their mom."

Pffheeeeeeew (air out of bubble).

[Jesus said,] "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12

I withheld from Brandon the very things I wanted from him: respect, acknowledgement and gratitude. If I wanted him to notice my efforts at home, I should've started by saying, "Thanks for working so hard today." If I was hoping to receive some credit for b ringing three kids to the pediatrician for shots by myself, maybe a better place to start was, "I'm really grateful for all you do for our family."

We can't expect star treatment from our husbands without doling it out liberally ourselves. To do so is horribly unfair. We aren't competing for the prize of "who works hardest." We work differently; both tasks require gargantuan effort, and we each need the labor of the other. We are a team. It's not a contest or a war; we are on the same side.

For a season, Brandon raised the money while I raised the kids. Or course, he parented too, but while he was at the office, I was in mine - a mobile office that included parks, doctors' offices, Little Gym, the backyard, my overstuffed chair in the playroom, the library, Chick-Fil-A, the swimming pool, the kitchen, friends' houses, and the snow cone stand.

Girls, reframe the way you think about your husband's job and the time and energy it requires. He's not slamming back a scotch and water at 11am in order to make his noon tee time. He's laboring too, keeping a roof over your babies' heads and supplying the funds for their organic baby food. I know he's never clipped their fingernails once, but you haven't filled out his expense reports either. Treat him like you'd love to be treated - with appreciation, thankfulness, and compassion.

"This sums up the Law of the Prophets."


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