The Hardest Job for Parents

Do you want to know what’s harder than cleaning up after five kids?

Teaching five kids to clean up after themselves. Believe me, it would be so much easier just to send them all outside and do it myself but instead, I press through and (with gritted teeth and suppressed irritation) I instruct them AGAIN on how to properly sweep (including under the chairs), vacuum (even the parts of the carpet that don’t look dirty), and wipe off counters after they’ve finished making a snack.

And it’s not just that it’s annoying and repetitive. Or even that they are frustrated, and sighing, and rolling their eyes at me. That part sucks.

The hardest part is the little voice in my head that says, “Maybe you’re asking too much of them.” or “If you push too hard you’ll hurt your relationship with them.” or “They’re going to run off with a drug addict when they turn 18 if you don’t make them feel comfortable at home.”

But then I have to remind myself that if I don’t make my 12-year-old boy get the vacuum out again, plug it in and finish what he started he might never learn how to press through and finish college.

If I don’t send my 11-year-old daughter back into the house when we’re all in the car ready to leave so she can brush her teeth again PROPERLY or send my fully dressed son back into the shower because his hair still smells dirty, they may never establish the good hygiene habits that lead to a healthy body and a successful career.

If I don’t call them in from playing outside because they neglected to take out the trash or put away their laundry, they may never learn how to take care of their future homes. If I don’t pull her out of bed right after she got tucked in because she neglected to load the dishwasher and start it, she may always think that it’s not really so important to follow through on commitments and responsibilities.

When I avoid the battle, do it for them, throw up my hands and give in… I’m hurting them, not helping them.

The hard work as a parent is pressing them into their potential by keeping them accountable for doing what is right and good and kind and healthy. No matter the cost to us.

If you think you’re being a sacrificial parent by not asking your kids to do much, I would ask you to consider if you might just be avoiding the harder sacrifice. The one that requires you to correct, teach, lead, discipline, and make yourself uncomfortable for the sake of their growth.

So when that little voice in my head says, “Maybe you shouldn’t have asked her to leave your room because you asked for 30 minutes of alone time. Maybe she really needs you.” I can confidently say back to it, “Mind your own business.” Because by expecting her to honor my wishes, respect my authority, and value my personal time, I’m teaching her to honor, respect, and value herself. I’m teaching her to understand boundaries and to see that good emotional health requires solitude and time alone. I’m teaching her that standing up for herself when she sets a boundary is important.

And let’s be honest, that 30 minutes of alone time is what I need right now to maintain my sanity and write this blog.

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