Pregnancy announcements, baby showers, meal trains, the tiny cries of newborns in all of the rows.
Just this past Sunday, the telltale signs of parenthood were everywhere. Parents bouncing their newborn on their hip while chasing a toddler, a few moms who walk the nervous pace between the auditorium doors and the nursery doors, waiting to hear if there’s a cry, a dad walking the hallway with a curious 6-month-old overlooking his shoulder.
But there’s nothing like that look on the face of a new mother who has just handed her newborn over to the nursery volunteer for the first time. The unease, the guilt, the exhaustion. I know it well because I’ve been there and wondered if I could go take a nap instead of listening to the sermon.
So if I could write a note to those new parents who walk in and out of Sunday services, here’s what I would say.
What a beautiful joy. You made it here to the wondrous world of being a parent.
Heads up: None of us really know what we’re doing.
Parenthood, as I’m sure you’ve heard, has no how-to book. We’re all winging it to a certain degree. Most of us hope we’re doing right by them. That in 5, 10, 20 years we’ll find out that the worst moments weren’t as bad as they could’ve been.
What a gift you have in your hands and really, the best is still ahead of you. There’s no “Just wait until…” God’s grace will equip you for each new season, even if his grace simply equips you to fall to your knees.
You will quickly learn, if you haven’t already, what it’s like to love someone so much it literally makes your heart feel like it could shatter into a million pieces.
It’s new, and it’s frightening sometimes.
You will long for a moment of rest but miss them while they sleep. You will wait for a free moment to not worry about them but then check to see if they’re breathing every 30 minutes. (A mirror under their nose if you’re looking for a neurotic pro-tip.) You will know intimately every smile, noise, cry, and laugh. You’ll know the difference between cries. (And trust me, there’s a difference.)
And you will know that being a parent is incredibly hard.
It’s hard on your body, your mind, your marriage, your routine, your schedule, your work, your everything. As much as everyone tells you to enjoy these moments, savor these days, the days are long but the years are short, and rock those babies because babies don’t keep, I’m also here to tell you this —
It’s ok to say it’s hard.
You’re not a bad parent for feeling like you’re going to lose your mind at 3 am if you don’t get some sleep. You’re not a failure for crying while you’re breastfeeding, for missing “regular life,” for wishing your baby would just let you sit and breathe for a little bit.
It’s ok to not know when you want to have sex again. It’s ok to just want a shower and silence. It’s ok to want a nap and also want to return to normalcy and see other adults.
Not long after my second was born, there was a day when I called my husband at work in tears. “I haven’t done any dishes. I haven’t cleaned anything. No laundry. The house is a mess. I’m losing my mind. He won’t let me leave him. He just wants to nurse and for me to hold him and I think I’m going to lose my mind.”
My husband, the ever-present sage of wisdom in my life reminded me of this: “This is your job right now: be with him. Feed him, hold him, take care of him. Nothing else is your job right now. Just be with him. I don’t expect anything else from you.”
Burden lifted. Crisis averted. I needed the reminder that I couldn’t do it all and that was ok.
Remind yourself of this.
It’s ok to not know how you’re going to do it. It’s ok that you don’t love it all the time. It’s ok that you want some space and sanity and sleep.
Even more so, tell someone.
Tell your spouse, your mom, your friend. Tell another mom who has had kids because she’ll know. She’ll nod and probably not say much else because she knows that advice isn’t always the need. Sometimes you just need someone to say “I get it. That’s normal.” Tell another dad because he’ll get it. He’ll know what it feels like to watch your wife change, suffer, struggle, cry, and not know how to help her because you yourself are exhausted and worn out.
Remember that Jesus showed up in this world as a baby.
He valued infancy and the value of their lives and humanity so much that he lived part of his God-man life as a dependent new born baby, as an energetic toddler. He didn’t bypass those days and show up as a 10-year-old.
These are not wasted years, dear parent. These are not throw-away days. Your baby is not part-human, part-valuable. Contribution to society doesn’t equal value so you get to model the love built into the Gospel to them right now.
Love doesn’t demand better performance. Grace doesn’t require best behavior. Sustaining a life doesn’t require them to give back.
Look at that.
The Gospel modeling itself right there in your arms.
So here’s your job, parent — love that kid. Love them by being there. Love them by taking care of yourself too. Love them by taking naps and slowing down. Love them by knowing when you can’t do it all. Love them by asking for help. Love them by taking a deep breath in the shower when you’re finally alone. Love them by going out on dates and leaving them with a trusted babysitter. Love them by paying attention — to them and yourself.
It’s ok to say it’s hard.
From one parent to all of you, we see you.
With the Lord leading you, you’ve got this!
Oh, and there’s probably spit-up on your shoulder. Just a heads up.
[Guest post by Andrea G. Burke, with permission, because we both want you to thrive!]
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” ~Deuteronomy 6: 6-7