Surviving Parenthood

Surviving parenthood is simple.Why do people think it’s so difficult?

Take if from me, if you do this one thing, you will be the most prepared, peaceful, wise, Zen parent alive.   Here it is:

Redefine everything.

I’ll give you a quick 10 to get you started.

Redefine “clean.”

The Floor:  Is it navigable?  Yes = clean.  No?  Put all toys in a hamper and shove said hamper into the nearest room with a door that closes.  Bam, clean.

The Dishes: Can you see the dirty dishes over the horizon of the sink?  Are they “breaking The Plane?”   No = clean.  Yes?  Rearrange the dirty dishes so that they are no longer breaking the plane.  Bam, clean.

The Fridge:  Can you smell it?  No = clean.  Yes?  Does the smell offend you?   Throw away all Tupperwares and sippy cups.  Do not open them, as curiosity might actually kill the cat here.  Wipe down with Clorox wipes.  Bam, clean.

Your Laundry:  Is there a visible spill/stain?  No = clean.  Yes?  Can you scrape it off with your fingernail?  Can you dilute it with a wet washcloth?  Yes = clean.  No?  Can you smell it from 2 feet away (which is likely the closest you’ll come to another human)?  No = clean.  Yes?  Just wear the jeans again.  Just ooonnneee more time.

The Children’s Laundry:  Do they have pants?  Yes = clean.  No?  Do they really NEED pants today?  No = clean.  Yes?  Go swimming instead.  Bam, clean.


2. Redefine “productive.”

Did you do any 3 of the following?

Shower, brush your teeth, change into different pajamas, leave the house, get the mail, make a phone call, reply to an email, feed yourself real actual food, consider exercising.

Yes = productive.  No?  Life is hard, try again tomorrow.*

 *In seriousness, parenting is inch by inch, moment by moment, Chinese takeout by Chinese takeout.  If you nourished the body, mind, and soul of a small, helpless person that has been entrusted to your care, if you taught them about love, and that the world is a safe place for them because YOU are a safe place for them, if you played and cooed and held and disciplined and kissed and nurtured a little heart – you did a great big thing.  You are shaping healthy humans.  You are pouring LOVE into the world, because you are pouring LOVE into another person.  And that is no small thing.  Some days it will cost all you have, and that’s okay.  Spend it.  Pay it.  And don’t think twice about the dishes.


3.  Redefine “dressed.”

Men, are you wearing pants?  If so, you are dressed!  Women,  are your breasts covered?  Yes = you are dressed!  No?  Are you breastfeeding?  Yes = dressed!  No?  Put something on, out of the hamper is fine.  Bam, dressed.

4.  Redefine “date.”

You didn’t know these were dates, but they are:

Grocery shopping, watching The Office on Netflix while eating dinner leftovers at 11:30 pm, taking the kids for a walk, holding hands while driving and listening to the Frozen soundtrack, sitting beside each other in church while the kids are in the nursery for a WHOLE GLORIOUS HOUR.

5.  Redefine “privacy.”

The last time I was in the bathroom for any reason and the door was closed was 2007.  Can your neighbors see you?   No = Congratulations, you’ve achieved “privacy.”  Yes? Ces't la vie.

6.  Redefine “dignity.”

Imagine your child is throwing a holy terror fit because he is possessed by the kind of demon that only comes out by prayer and fasting.  Imagine he is screaming, kicking, gagging, sweating, and very, very red.  Now, imagine that you are in Barnes & Noble, a traditionally quiet establishment.  Imagine that you are dragging your demon out by his arm, at great risk to his tiny shoulder socket, as he flails/gags/kicks/screams behind you.  Imagine that you are visibly sweating through your clothing, and that your mommy muffin-top is poked out because you have another baby on your hip.  The small baby has his arm shoved down between your breasts, exposing your bra to the patrons of Barnes & Noble.  Don’t worry, EVERYONE IS LOOKING.  Imagine that as you drag your noisy, paralyzed demon, that you can hear the other patrons talking amongst themselves about you and your “parenting style,” and that their opinions are neither kind nor empathetic.   Now – are you embarrassed by this?  Yes?  Your pride will be the death of you.  No?  Congratulations, you have achieved Zen parenting.  Drag that demon out as calmly as Linus dragging his blue blanket.  Carry on, warrior.

7.  Redefine “dinner.”

You didn’t know the following things were dinner but they are:

A packet of peanut butter crackers and a glass of milk, cereal, assorted nuts, “pizza” (hotdog buns topped with pasta sauce and shredded cheddar cheese in the toaster oven), baby carrots and pickles, a milkshake from Sonic, a generous helping of Wheat Thins, Pop-tarts, granola bars and bananas.

8.  Redefine “sleep.”

Here is a simple equation to help you determine whether or not you are receiving enough sleep:

Begin with your number of children. Add six. Raise to the 4th power. Divide by the number of pets in your home. Multiply by zero. Add 1.

Are you getting at least one (non-consecutive) hour of sleep?  Yes = rested.  No?  Feign serious injury, get admitted to the hospital, and sleep for several uninterrupted hours.  Pay your exorbitant medical bills and get back to your regularly scheduled programming.

9.  Redefine "worth."

You probably thought that you were very enlightened and mature and deep, and didn’t measure your worth by your home, appearance, productivity, job, or general likeability and good-naturedness.  But you did.  Even the Buddha, the Dali Lama, Mother Teresa, and the Virgin Mary did.  When you have children you are forced to look that reality in the face, and are confronted with what you’re going to do about it.   Here is the answer:  You must RECKON WITH AND APPROPRIATE the reality that your worth is not in any of those things.  Your worth is in you because you are a person.  Because you have life and breath in you.  Because you were created in the image of God and are loved by Him (scandalous!).  There is no other measure - there could be no lesser measure, and there could be no greater one.

It’s strange that people without children so often feel that their lives are less complete because they haven’t experienced parenthood.  There are so many posts out there saying, “You matter too!”  And at the exact same time, on stage left, parents feel like their lives aren’t worth as much because all they do is raise children.  There are so many posts saying “You matter, too!”

This is evidence that finding your worth anywhere except for inside of your given-to-you-by-your-Creator-life, is hollow.  You can take a deep breath - there's nothing to earn and nothing to prove.    You are lovely, valuable, enough.

10.  Redefine “love.”

I don’t know how it is true that you can love fully before kids, and then add more fullness when you have them.  I don’t understand the math of heaven, adding fullness to fullness and growing it.   I know that people that do not have children love fully and sacrificially and that their insides twist and flip inside out and they have WHOLE, COMPLETE, INFINITE LOVE.  I know that.  I also know that I have never loved anything on this planet like I love my children.   I can’t figure out how that works, but I believe that it’s true.  Dear mother, you will have to redefine love.  It might not be right away.  It might not be in the hospital.  You might not cry when you hold that new baby that looks like a stranger to you.  But sometime, maybe a week or two in, you will be rocking and soothing in the middle of the night and you will not want to stop.  You SHOULD want to stop, to go back to sleep, but you won’t.  You will want to sit and stare at her forever.  You will never want to blink again.  You will feel fierce and angry at anyone who would ever leave a baby - hurt a baby, neglect or abuse a baby.  Something in you will break like a dam and you will think, “OH.  THIS IS MOTHER-LOVE.”  And you will never, ever, ever, ever be the same again.  I cannot explain that.  I just know that it is.  The love will break you.  You will hurt more, worry more, cry more, despair more.  You will want more, yearn more, scratch and claw more, PRAY MORE.  You will consider the possibility of God more.  I do not know the mechanics of this.  How could love that is already maxed out, grow?  But whatever you think love is, hold on tight.  Because you’re about to be flooded and drowned and smashed and buried in love.   And it is good.

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For more from Kate on parenthood, read:

Life, inch by inch We Keep Our Children's Secrets Sunday Confessions The posts in the "Surviving Parenthood" tag

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