Warning: parenting lends itself to pessimism. Once the euphoria of holding your precious newborn bundle evaporates, you will find infinite reasons to fret and complain.
“She never sleeps. It seems like she wants to eat every hour,” can give way to, “Her room is always such a mess,” and, “How many times does she need to be reminded to turn off lights?” Then, of course, there are so many things to worry about now: germs, colic, discipline issues, balanced diets, an unsafe world, and college tuition just to name a few.
We all agree that snuggling a newborn, hearing a baby’s giggles, and a child’s “I love you’s” are priceless treasures, but face it, we are human. The grunt work of parenting and the worries of the world get to us sometimes. I know. I have eight children. Each one of them provides a combination of joy and drudgery. I began to realize early on, however, that if I did not actively work at enjoying the good, the bad would cloud family life for me. So, I have developed a habit of coming up with antidotes–positive thoughts to counteract the poison of pessimism.
Here are some examples to give you an idea of what I am talking about.
Bad: The bathroom I just finished cleaning ten minutes ago now looks like the bathroom before it was cleaned.
Antidote: The Benedictine rule centers around God and work. Surely I’m earning graces here–at least some time off for good behavior from purgatory. St. Joseph the Worker, pray for me!
Bad: Woe is me. My favorite pair of pants are the ones I wore when I was five months pregnant and I cannot afford a new pair…at the thrift store.
Antidote: God used my body to co-create human beings with everlasting souls. Now how’s that for making big pants seem insignificant?
Bad: My sick child did not make it to the bathroom in time…again.
Antidote: I’ve got indoor plumbing and many people around the world do not. It is easier to to clean up with a bucket of hot water when you do not have dirt floors. Well, maybe not, but I’ll take my own flooring anyway. If all else fails, consider you are performing one of the chief corporal acts of mercy–to visit the sick.
Bad: Your baby keeps you up all night.
Antidote: And who says there’s never any time for prayer?
Bad: Pick any of the following.
1) You just discovered your child was playing ball in the house and broke something valuable.
2) Your child stained the carpet with red fruit punch that should never have left the kitchen.
3) You cannot find a tool your child borrowed without asking.
Antidote: After applying appropriate discipline to the guilty party, remember that Jesus, although God, was born in a manger and collected no worldly wealth. Then, give thanks to God that your child is helping you not become too attached to material possessions. Keep the latter step secret from your child lest he feel compelled to give you more to be thankful for.
Bad: The words, “He hit me,” and “No fair!” are grating on your nerves.
Antidote: You do not have small pox or leprosy. No, wait, we can do better than that. Let’s go back to the purgatory thing. Surely you are earning an early release from purgatory if you bear up patiently.
Bad: Keeping a clean home is no longer possible.
Antidote: You have a home.
Bad: Your children are driving you nuts.
Antidote: Many childless couples would love to trade places with you.
Bad: Your child does not listen and obey you.
Antidote: Neither did God’s first children.
Bad: Your child was born with some imperfection.
Antidote: He’s perfect for what God has planned for him.
Bad: I am not prepared for this job.
Antidote: God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips those He calls. Pray for the equipment then trust.
Bad: I have failed. My children have not turned out very well.
Antidote: St. Augustine did not turn out very well–at first. His mother, St. Monica prayed and prayed and prayed. She never quit. St. Augustine converted and became a doctor of the Church. Remember, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
I think you get the idea now. You may suspect me of being the Pollyanna type that sugar coats everything. I’m not. Just ask my husband. I can fall apart and fret with the best of them. But then I collect my thoughts and emotions, pray, and try to put it all in perspective.
I truly love being a mother even though I definitely do not always find it easy. If I do not come up with antidotes for my negative thinking, I will blow this whole thing called motherhood. Then, in a blink of an eye, it will all be over and I really will have something to be negative about–missing all the blessings and joy that having children had to offer.
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