The Honest Ups & Downs of Parenting
One instagram hashtag I follow is #mybeautifulmess. When I first read it I thought, well that is me! My house and life is often a mess, but there is an element of beauty in it. And yet, when I began to scroll through the images posted with that tag, they were truly beautiful. There were images of immaculate homes, colour coordinated family outfits, children with perfect smiles as they played with adorable puppies, teenage girls twinning with their gorgeous mothers. But, where was the mess? This was just the beautiful stuff, without the mess. Was this their real life? Or was this a commercial for an interior design company? And, if I didn't believe that we are all truly a bit of a beautiful mess, this type of scrolling could make me believe that my life was less than. It could make me believe that these people really did have perfect lives and I was a pretty big mess. And, well, that doesn't feel very good at all.
Brene Brown says, Vulnerability is the Cornerstone of Confidence. That has been true of my experience. When I was in my 20's I was often concerned with how I was fitting in. What was my reputation in my community? What did others think of me? Was I good enough? But then my life started slipping away from the status quo. I wasn't getting married, I wasn't having a family, I didn't have a great job, I dated the wrong guys. I couldn't pick a home decor theme. I couldn't keep up. So I could have compromised and attempted to become someone else, to fit in. But, instead, as I entered my 30's, I chose to embrace my life. I chose to be open and honest about my needs and my struggles. And it was in this vulnerability, my confidence began to grow.
Now as a parent I am faced with the same choice. My life is super weird. Roy & I are not a traditional couple. I have never had a bridal shower or baby shower. But I have this group of kids that I have been called to lead and love. I'm a therapist so you'd think I get the whole parenting thing and that I'm super awesome at conflict resolution and I have all these creative parenting strategies. And a lot of the time I do. But if that is all I portray to my friends, I'd be lying. My life is just as much of a struggle as everyone else. I'm trying to figure out what to do with the extra fat around my belly, while still enjoying chocolate every day. My kids totally get on my nerves, and their trauma is exhausting and hurtful. So sometimes I throw all my trauma informed strategies out the window and I freak out inappropriately.
Many of us spend the first part of our adult lives becoming—stepping into the roles we take on so that they come to define our lives. But I've learned that we don't really grow up until we unbecome. I realize now that I couldn't know who I really was until everything I'd built was taken from me—until I was stripped bare and forced to figure out who I was underneath it all. I felt like one of those Russian nesting dolls. Life was trying to get to the bottom of me.
Ask a woman who she is and she'll tell you who she loves, who she serves and what she does. I am a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a career woman. The fact that we define ourselves by our roles can be an admirable thing—it's how we build a life and make a living. But it's also precarious. Roles change. Sometimes overnight. If a woman defines herself as a wife, what happens if her spouse leaves? If a woman defines herself as a mother, what happens when the kids go to college? If I am a career woman, what happens if the company folds? Placing our identity inside of ever-changing roles means that who we are can be taken from us. That is why it's so easy for women to live in fear instead of at peace. That is why we cling to our people too tightly, close our eyes to things we need to look at hard, refuse to ask questions that need to be asked. We build sand castles and then try to live inside of them, fearing the inevitable tide. - Glennon Doyle Melton
What stage of parenting are you in? Are your kids just arriving in your home as little ones, or are they on their way out as teens? Are you in a season of becoming? Are you putting on your career, buying your forever home, figuring out your traditions? Or are you closer to 40 and have you begun to unbecome? That's where I am at.
In Chapter 14 of The Call to Love I am pretty honest about some of the struggles we have had in our big modern family. Let's face it, you shouldn't be surprised, when two friends decide to invite in five kids ages 9 - 16 into their home, it's not always going to go well. But I could have pretended. I could have left this chapter out. But that wouldn't be real. And this is about our real life. The seven of us each had our expectations of what we needed from this family. We were jumping into relationships we had never experienced before and it didn't (doesn't) always go well. So there were times that I desperately wanted something for my teens and I became irrationally upset with them when they didn't live out that dream. I wanted them to do their homework and get decent grades. I wanted them to play on sports teams and not go to jail. I wanted them to date good people. I wanted them to have fun their senior year and go visit colleges. I wanted them to have it all. Sometimes it felt like I had sacrificed so much, and they were throwing it all away. Despite living in our home with all these opportunities they continued to fall into generational patterns.
So I'm not going to pretend this journey has ever been easy or that I have always handled it well. I'm not going to air all our junk out there for the general public, but I'm also not going to pretend it doesn't exist. I think there is a middle ground here where I will be open and honest about how hard and imperfect this journey has been. I will promise to be truly vulnerable to those in my life that I can look in the eye and trust with my soul. I promise that if you need to share your junk with me that I will hear your heart in the midst of that mess and help you walk out of it.
Are you ready to be honest and vulnerable? If you want to live a life of peace and confidence, you will need to become vulnerable. You will need to take a step towards embracing all of your failures as a parent and exhale as you portray them to your tribe. I'm not saying your social media becomes a big mess of dirty laundry. But let's take some time to encourage one another along this super hard journey of parenting. Because is hard. Parenting in general (forget all the trauma drama) is really tough.
Let's stop pretending we have it all together, because none of us do.
Let's come together, admitting when we have a great day and when it isn't so fun.
Let's celebrate one another and the choices we have made with our families.
Let's make a difference in the lives of these kids we were called to love.
Read Glennon Doyle Melton's full article from Oprah.com here - What to Remember When It Feels Like Your Life Is Falling Apart
To pick up Brene Brown's best selling book, Daring Greatly, check out her website here.
To watch Brene Brown's Ted Talk on The Power of Vulnerability click here.
One of my favourite Christian books, a classic in my opinion, is The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning. If you need to take yourself a bit less seriously, and you need to feel the grace and love of God, take some time and give it a read.