The fact that I have a Proverbs 31 devotion running today called Surviving Mommy Stress is actually somewhat comical.
I think when the devil got word that I was releasing a book about managing stress through Jesus, he decided to make life more stressful than ever – including in the area of parenting. With the emotional tugs and life adjustments that come with sending my daughter off to college for the first time, in addition to helping my 16 year old daughter handle the pressures and woes of high school, and watching my 13 year old son turn into a young man practically overnight, it seems that stress seems to be a daily occurrence. Not stress from serious adversities, just stress and a myriad of emotions that come from living a normal daily life and raising kids in this crazy world.
So as I read over today’s devotion, it was as if God was reminding me, through my own words, that He is the answer to the parenting anxieties I have been facing lately.
Although we read in John 16:33 that life will bring trials and troubles, we all too often forget that this verse applies to the job of child rearing too, because when we look into the eyes of our new-born babies, so tiny and precious, it’s hard to imagine that our little bundles of joy could ever bring heartache or hardship. So we tend to view John 16:33 as referring to serious problems and life changing tragedies, but it also is meant for encouragement in the small bumps in the road that occur every day, including the frustrations and stress of parenting, all of which can gradually can have an impact on our faith walk.
I recently read that 70 percent of mothers in the United States say mothering is “incredibly stressful.” And 96 percent of mothers state they are more stressed than their mothers were, blaming everything from finances, the workplace and changing parenting styles, to a lack of time, support, and a shift in cultural pressures.
But regardless of the cause – mommy stress can lead to problems, causing us to be insensitive, impatient and less loving than we want to be. Studies also showed that a mom’s ability to manage stress is a factor in her children’s happiness, and their relationship with her. So in the same way that stress has a negative impact on our lives overall, mommy stress can impact our children’s lives as well.
Below are five tips for handling mommy stress when it starts rearing its ugly head, because this is a challenge we need to take to heart:
1. Know your red flags.
Heart palpitating? Irritable? Yelling? Impatient? Acting unreasonable, even about little things? Our reactions to our stressed emotions could cause us to behave in ways that will make us cringe, causing damage to our children’s hearts, but also to our own self-confidence and the way we view ourselves as mothers. Stay in tune with the red flags of stress, and ask God to convict your heart when your stress is overflowing onto your kids, even if they are causing it.
2. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray some more.
Of course, praying should be our first line of defense against the stress of parenting. Yet let’s be honest – we don’t always do that. In fact, sometimes we have to pray for forgiveness for our actions towards our children because our stress hit the roof, and spewed frustration and anger onto everyone around us. Prayer opens the door for God’s power to walk right into our lives, clean up the mess and equip us to handle the stress of parenting in ways we won’t regret.
3. Take a time out.
Time outs are not just for kids. If you know that you are ready to explode the next time one of your offspring responds in a disrespectful way, deliberately disobeys a house rule, or does something that brings on a flood of disappointment, make the decision ahead of time to walk away and take time to calm down. A delayed, prayed over response will benefit everyone involved.
4. Go for a walk.
Exercise always helps clear the mind. But if there is no time for that, at least go outside and get a breath of fresh air. Let the sun shine on your face, and ask the Son to shine into your heart. A little sun and Son is always good for the soul.
5. Talk to other moms.
Every mom faces challenges with her kids, whether the child is one year old or twenty-one years old. Ask God to bring other moms into your life that you can share your frustrations, disappointments and struggles with, and then be real with them about the season of parenting you are going through. If you don’t have a friend to share with, consider joining a local support group at your church, or a local chapter of MOPS or Moms in Touch International.
There is no way around it, no quick-fix, and no sure cure for parenting stress. But we can survive it, if we choose to persevere in our spiritual calling of parenthood, not only because of our love for our children, but our love for God. When we remember that the job title of “Mom” was appointed to us by Him, it helps us muster up the energy to persevere, while keeping our eyes on the day when we will see the fruit of our efforts blossom.
Parenting is a blessing – but also a job that never ends. And sometimes that job feels burdensome, frustrating, unrewarding…. and very stressful. Just maybe God wants to remind you today too, that you are not working alone.
Lord, help me persevere through the hard times of parenting, and focus more on the blessings than the burdens. Help me to fully embrace my job as mom (or dad) even when it feels exhausting, hard or unrewarding. Help me to trust that You have a purpose for all we are going through, and to remember that I can find the strength in You to persevere through even the most difficult challenges with my children. Amen.
What helps you manage your parenting stress? Leave a quick parenting stress tip to enter to win a copy of my newly released book, Stressed-Less living: Finding God’s Peace In Your Chaotic World. (check back – winner announced Friday!)