To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1
God seems to like to keep us on our toes. Perhaps more accurately, He keeps us on our knees in prayer. As soon as life gets comfortable, some new event or life stage comes along to challenge us. This is especially true in our parenting and homeschooling journey.
Our children are always growing and developing. Each stage brings its own joys and hardships. The beauty and magic of babyhood are accompanied by sleep-deprivation and trying to learn how to be a mother. The wonder of toddlerhood is combined with coping with and nurturing a child’s distinct personality and strong emotions. The growing knowledge and independence of the elementary years brings the stress of dealing with the influence of the outside world. The transition to adulthood in adolescence is often accompanied by rebellion as a young person attempts to discover who he or she is meant to be. You may also be part of the sandwich generation, struggling to parent your children while also caring for elderly parents or grandparents.
Every child is different and each mother navigating a new life stage is approaching it for the first time. Even if you have several children and have muddled through a given developmental stage or taught a given subject a number of times, it is your first time doing it with this individual child at the age you are now, with other children at the ages they are now, with the life circumstances you are currently facing.
It’s not just our children that are changing. We are constantly learning new things and facing new challenges. There are seasons of plenty and those of economic need; seasons of health and those of illness; seasons of strong marital and family relationships and those of loneliness and heartache.
It can be easy to get caught in the trap of saying things will be better when our circumstances change: when a child gets older, when we get more money, when our loved one recovers from an illness. To be honest, some seasons of life do run more smoothly than others. Sometimes life is painfully hard. We can feel stuck in a long metaphorical winter, praying desperately for spring to come. But just as there are moments of joy in the midst of snow and cold, there are moments of joy even in the midst of horrible circumstances. We do ourselves and our families a disservice if we only focus on the muck. God is with us in both the good and bad days.
What are some steps you can take to embrace the season of life you are in?
Cut yourself (and others) some slack
“Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself.” – St. Francis de Sales
Whatever you are facing today, it is the first time for you. No one else is facing the exact same circumstances that you are, so don’t compare yourself to someone else. They may look like they have it all together but they have their hard days as well. Rain falls on all of us.
By the same token, if someone says something unkind or does something stupid, give them the benefit of the doubt. Most people want to be helpful and kind, but everyone is fighting their own battles (which you may know nothing about). Extend forgiveness and say a prayer for them. It will help them and you will feel better as well.
We need to cut our children some slack as well. Yes, it is our job to help mold them into responsible Christian adults, but they are learning and growing as well. Like us, they are going to make mistakes in that process. We may be farther along the road of life, but we are all travelers on this journey.
Find joy wherever you can
“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds. ” – Psalm 9:2
Every day has at least a couple moments of joy. Perhaps it was a hug from your child or the sight of a flower. Maybe it was the few moments of alone time you had while your children played together or the meme online that made you laugh. Notice these moments and thank God for them. The more that you make a conscious effort to pay attention to simple joys and express gratitude for them, the easier it will be to have a positive outlook.
Give the pain to God
“Don’t waste your suffering.” – St. Pope John Paul II
Our pain and suffering are real. Some days, weeks, months, years are so stressful; it can seem like life won’t ever get better. We can cry out to God in the midst of our pain. We can ask for help, but we can also simply give our pain to God as an offering, uniting our suffering with Christ’s suffering on the cross. We can offer our personal crosses up for the conversion of sinners or to help souls in purgatory. When we give our cross to Jesus, he helps us to carry it.
Focus on today
“Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” – Matthew 6:34
What are you worried about? Is it something that is actually going to happen today? We spend a lot of time worrying about things that may or may not happen. As homeschoolers we can get caught up in worrying about our children’s futures incessantly. What if they never learn to read? What if they never learn their times tables? What if I am totally messing up my child’s life? What if they end up homeless and it is all my fault? Instead of going down this negative rabbit hole, focus on what you can do today. Only worry about this one day.
Yes, of course, planning for the future is necessary and part of life. But, do what you can and give the rest to God. I often need to remind myself to look around at what is going on in my life right at this moment, not to look backward and ponder what I could have done differently and not to look forward and worry about the unknown. I just need to do my best today. With God helping me, I can face whatever challenges this day holds.
Both give and ask for help
“Give and it will be given to you.” – Luke 6:38
Despite what the world tells us about being superwomen, we aren’t meant to do it all on our own. Life is better when we help each other. Sometimes that means we are the giver, helping others who need it. Other times, we are the ones in need. It can be much harder to accept help. From a young age, we are taught to be self-reliant and independent. It can seem like we are failing if we ask for help. That’s not the case at all. It just means the job is too big for one person to handle. If you give generously, it is easier to accept generosity. We all need each other.
Even when it feels like it, this season of life that you are in will not last forever. Your children will learn and grow. Your family circumstances will change. Challenges will come and go. Trusting in God and taking the time to appreciate your daily blessings will go a long way toward helping you make the most of the season you are in.