Reclaim meaning in what matters most: Joy in parenting (from a mother’s perspective)

Moeljono_AveaniAveani Moeljono is a writer and designer from Azusa, California. She graduated from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in 2004 with a Master of Arts in Christian Formation. She is an active leader at the Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference and is a Steering Committee member for the Women in Leadership Project. Avie is married to Ruben Agus with two sons. She enjoys music, cooking, spending times with family and friends.

We had two boys in less than four years,

and our parenting journey has been filled with so much joy, though I won’t deny that stress sometimes gets in the mix of it. Adjusting our lives to live as parents is a big learning curve. I once read in a parenting book that it would be nice if all babies were born with a manual on how to raise them. The reality is that there is no book, mentor or well-meaning friend that could have fully prepared us for this.

No manual, advice or class could have made us fully ready.

For us, parenting is a journey that is filled with much joy, but with stress in the mix of it. Stress has shown up in small ways like in potty-training mishaps, for example. But it could present in a big ways like two upcoming educational funds. Those realities challenge us to learn about how to put stress and worries in their place, so we can focus on what matters most, and to increase the joy of parenting.

Here are four ways I learned to reclaim joy in our parenting journey:

1. Make goals – one step at a time.

It seems very easy to make goals, but it’s harder to live with them. In the midst of uncertainty, stress rises quickly. Let us learn from the story of Moses that we all know very well. When Moses was born, Amram and Jochebed embark on the journey of uncertainty that is called parenting. Knowing that they could not hide baby Moses any longer, Jochebed places the baby in a basket and floats the basket into the Nile River, where the daughter of Pharaoh is taking her bath. With daring love, Jochebed lets go her baby boy into the Nile River not knowing how the daughter of Pharaoh would respond, uncertain about the future of the baby (Exodus 1-2). That is a picture of what it means to be parents. There is something profound about Jochebed’s placing Moses in that basket and into the Nile River. She was setting him up for his potential to live. This is exactly what we do every day as parents. In our home, our precious 11 month-old baby is learning how to walk. We are releasing him into the direction of his potential, though we worry over the danger of wobbling caused by the lack of balance. As we set goals in parenting, it is our act of faith to God for the direction of growth and potential of our children.

2. Realizing our short comings.

No one has it all figured out or has it all together. We often set unrealistic expectations for ourselves as parents, as well as unrealistic expectation for our children – the right school, the best behavior, well-adjusted kids. Pause for a second. Let us come back to the story of Jochebed, the mother of a great leader, Moses. When Jochebed was placing Moses into the basket, she doesn’t have everything figured out for him, but yet she does her best preparing him in his most early formative years. She’s done what she can do to prepare him to live out his true potential.

3.  Be Present.

This happens every day in our house. Our sweet three-and-a-half-year-old son always says that he likes to be around us and wants us to spend time with him. Our kids want us. They want us engaged, present and emotionally connected. Coming back to the story of Jochebed who sent her daughter Miriam to stay with Moses in the bank of Nile River. When the daughter of Pharaoh took the baby out of the basket, Miriam’s presence prompted a beautiful set up for Moses’ immediate future.

4. Build Relationships.

Worry overtakes us when we’re alone. Relate to other parents since we are all in this together. When we are sharing with others about our parenting journey, we can support and pray for each other. God will provide what we need at God’s perfect timing.

As we continue in this parenting journey, I cannot wait for this list to grow.

A wise person once said, “the days are long, but the years are short.”

We’re refusing to allow this season to be defined by worry and stress. Instead we’re choosing joy. We need to remind ourselves that our priorities begin with our choice, and then must be expressed in our goals, which is our act of faith and a constant reminder of our need to trust in God.