Patti Maguire Armstrong shares 5 strategies to help you regain your parenting serenity.
My husband and I are the parents of ten children; two joined the family as teens from Kenya, first one and then the other three years later. At one point, we had five teenagers, all them boys.
Some people think Wow! -- but don’t. Any of the “Wows” come from God. Our piece was learning to get our head out of the sand and say “yes” to him. Only then was he able to take us on a wonderful journey.
On paper, however, you would not have picked us for the job. Our organization and stress management skills were mid-range. Yet, with prayer and a lot of recalibrating, we made it through. Our youngest graduated from high school this past spring, our oldest is 37, and we have 9 going on 10 grandchildren.
Along the way, sometimes we were tired, angry, and overwhelmed, but never for so long that we did not get back on the path of faith, family, and fun. Although I sometimes feel that I am an expert on what not to do, I also feel qualified to share ideas on how not get overwhelmed. Here are a few.
- Remember, this too, shall pass
You already know this but we all need to remind ourselves occasionally. In the meantime, evaluate the darkness and stress. What is causing it? Do I feel stuck in a rut? Is it my spouse upsetting me or is it the kids? How can I get help?
Do not ignore real problems where you might need to see a therapist or doctor or priest, but for the daily moments, take a breath, talk to God, find a quiet space or moment (30 seconds might have to do) and lay it on the heart of Jesus and the Mary. Remember Mary, our heavenly mother understands stressful situations. But she did not live forever in the manager of Bethlehem, and Jesus did not remain on the cross and rose from the dead. That too did pass.
- Look for the First Aid Station
First aid stations give you balm and band-aids. They are not hospitals, but patch you up and send you on your way. It could be sitting at the mall play area so the kids can run around while you just sit awhile or meeting a friend at the park or going for a walk. Have your spouse or perhaps a babysitter take over at home while you take a breather. My best breathers were always spent at Church before the Blessed Sacrament.
You really are not alone and this really is not forever.
- Give Up
My life is pretty calm these days, so it almost seems like all those stressful moments never happened. But they did, and they were not easy at the time. One of my biggest mistakes was not taking a moment to let go and let God.
I have become a very big fan of surrendering everything to Our Lord and repeating prayer mantras such as: “Oh Jesus, I put all my trust in your, take care of everything.”
- Offer Up the Leftovers
With the stress that remains that you need to step over to get through the day, offer it up. Offering it back to God in union with the suffering of Jesus Christ gives it value, much like a prayer. It’s important to be realistic and not let the days’ troubles create a state of agitation. This is how we grow. Ask God for grace to get through the tasks He’s laid upon you and give back to Him as an offering any suffering that comes from it.
- God Meant This for Us
Looking back, I see that life is full of lessons. Learning happens best through experiences and they are not always the ones of our choosing. But are they the ones of God’s choosing?
In The Heart of Perfection: How the Saints Taught Me to Trade my Dream of Perfection for God's, author Colleen Carroll Campbell, a journalist and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, explains how she found comfort in the saints who, like her, struggled with perfectionism. She linked Christian teachings and the psychology of perfection through insights from the saints and her own experiences.
My favorite insight from her book taken from St. Ignatius spirituality is that we should consider the value in our situation. “Desolation times can be useful,” she wrote “If you pay attention to where they come, the forms they take and your response to them, these dry seasons can help you spot weaknesses in yourself that you might never otherwise discover — weak points that God and the devil have seen all along.”
The devil uses our weak points to try to drag us down, but God reveals them to us. Those moments of feeling overwhelmed will indeed pass, and in the process, He will help us to grow stronger.
Copyright 2020 Patti Maguire Armstrong
Image: August de Richelieu (2020), Pexels
About the Author
Patti Maguire Armstrong is the mother of 10, and has a B.A. in social work and M.A. in public administration. Her newest book is Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to Heaven. Others include Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and the Amazing Grace Series. Follow her at @PattiArmstrong and read her blog at PattiMaguireArmstrong.com.