Why is Parenting so Hard?
Let's all agree on something here at the start – raising children is hard work. But maybe we should qualify that a bit?
When I say, "hard" I mean it's the messy, stain your white comforter, break your great grandma's china, saw into your dining room table with a butter knife kind of hard. You know, the couldn't care less about your need for sleep, get's sick and almost instinctively tosses it's cookies on your carpet when you placed a bowl right beside them, wakes you up at an ungodly hour because they had a dream about being chased by a piece of corn kind of hard. Actually, if we were to approximate it, raising children involves a level of difficulty that probably sits right between being a 19th century coal miner and climbing Mt. Everest. Alone. Without an ice pick.
Some parents I know would put climbing Mt. Everest a distant third, but that's beside the point. The point? Few things are as physically, mentally and emotionally challenging as raising children. So why do we have children anyway? And if we have one, why do we have a second, and a third? Maybe an eighth, ninth or tenth?
I guess I can only speak for my wife and I. We have six children and a seventh is on the way. Did we have children for the tax break? Nah. No doubt there are less taxing ways to save money (see what I did there?).
Did we have children to attract attention to ourselves? Nope. If we wanted to do that we'd get a bunch of crazy tattoos or maybe a pair of those lobe stretching ear hoop things and get the distress over in a matter of minutes instead of stretching it out over a period of years (see what I did there?).
Did we have children because we don't know what causes it? Haha, nice try. You might think we're stupid for having a large family, but we're not that stupid.
It must be some weird religious conviction! That's it! Well, you might be on to something there, but that's only part of the story. I suppose you could chalk our first few babies up to conviction, but conviction is certainly not what has brought us to number 7. Actually the real reason why we have children dawned on us with child number 1, came into focus with numbers 2 through 4, and has quite frankly carried us on it's shoulders to number 7 as our "conviction" became nothing more than a flickering ember. It's beauty.
That's the best word I have for it. It's beauty. Of all the beautiful things in this world, children have nearly all of them beat. Look, I know I said a lot of hard things in the first part of this post about the challenges of raising children, but I might have been downplaying it a bit. I honestly don't have access to the words that can adequately communicate just how hard it can be. But here's the thing – no one said it would be easy. In fact, IT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE EASY!
Was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel easy for Michelangelo? Was developing the theory of general relativity easy for Einstein? Was writing each of his 4 symphonies easy for Brahms? Of course not; and none of them expected that it would be either. They KNEW that what they were undertaking was going to be stupendously difficult. Guess what – they did it anyway. Why? Because it was beautiful.
In other words, IT WAS WORTH IT. You might think that each of the achievements that I've just mentioned was the product of sheer talent. No doubt, talent had something to do with it; but what is talent without desire?
Every great endeavor is met with much opposition (and "much" in this sentence is a pregnant word.) Raising children is no different. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you're a parent and you find the work of raising children "easy," you're doing it wrong. The development of a human soul is too great and important a thing to be easy.
There, I said it, and it's worth reminding ourselves, or being reminded of it any time we begin to stoop under the sometimes crushing responsibility of being a parent. Parenting is not merely "having kids" and it's certainly not doing anything so low-minded as "rearing rug-rats." Parenting is assisting in the incomparable work of developing the most beautiful thing God ever made – a human soul.
Sure, we'll lose a bunch of sleep and money in the process. People will question our sanity (but no more than we'll question it ourselves) and we'll have end-of-our-rope moments where all we can do is plead with God for the strength to make it one more day; but let all that serve to tell us that we're doing something right, that we CARE, and that deep down we know there's something eternal to this business of raising children.
If you're anything like most parents it will happen again, you know. The moment when your patience reaches it's breaking point. When you're strength is nearly spent. When you yell at your child in a moment of weakness and later at night you lie in bed wondering if you could, quite possibly, be the worst parent in the world. In those moments, the moments when you ask yourself why you ever had kid's in the first place, just remind yourself what you're doing! Remember how crucial your role is in the life of your child! Remember who called you to the work of parenting and how He is looking to you to give this work, the work of raising a human soul, you're very best shot. God knows it's worth it.