Parenting with Balance

5
Parenting with Balance

Parenting with Balance

It has been on my heart for a while now to write about parenting. Each time I sat down to do so, however, I chickened out. Who was I to think I could have any wisdom or insights into parenting? Shouldn’t the parenting manifestos be left up to rockstar-superwoman-wife-mother-theologian-blogger-authors who were older and had twelve children?

Probably so, I told myself.

Probably so, I tell myself even now.

And yet, it continues to strike me over and over that there is something missing in much of the everyday conversation and especially literature about early childhood parenting that I have encountered so far.

Too often, we lack down-to-earth, yet Heaven-focused balance.

Bottle versus breast. Co-sleeping. The family bed. Baby wearing. Stay-at-home mom versus working mom. Schedules. Pacifiers. Demand feeding. Attachment parenting. Time outs. Spanking.

Which one of these words sets off an Alarm in your head?

Why?

I’ve read (and probably own, thanks to the used books section of Amazon.com) popular books about all of these topics. My husband Michael and I have connected with some ideas and passed over others. The mindset and ideas that we have implemented in our home are a mish-mash of bits and pieces of every parenting book we own.

It can be tough to stay balanced when many of these early childhood parenting books try to subtly or not-so-subtly demonize other methods and mindsets of parenting. Even among friends and family, I’ve seen that sometimes conversations about parenting become judgmental and polarized incredibly quickly.

Michael and I have definitely made plenty of young parent mistakes, had some sleepless nights, done some crying (both parents and baby), and had plenty of we’re-so-clueless-let’s-just-laugh-at-ourselves moments. Overall, however, we have been comfortable with and blessed by our parenting choices in our home.

I think that a major part of why we are happy with our parenting choices so far is that we have tailor-made all of them for our particular family. We have read many books and talked with many other parents, but all with a grain of salt. The salt being the reminder that every parent and parenting writer out there wants to raise happy and healthy children, and their is probably at least one tiny nugget of good advice that each of them can give us. It is impossible to claim otherwise–and also claim to have any balance.

Michael and I are not worried anymore about what our friends and family think. We are not worried about using one of the Alarm words above, even with friends or family who have strong Alarm word opinions. We are not worried about following one method or another to a “T,” or completely avoiding another method in order not to spoil our children for life.

That’s because our children are happy and healthy, and so are we. In the end, happiness speaks louder than words.

As Catholics, we believe that the dignity and the work of the married vocation is to lead our families and others to Heaven. It is important to remember, however, that marriage is the vocation. Beyond centering our lives on God, our marriage should be a priority for us–even above our children. Our parenting decisions should be such that they are not a source of strain in our marriage. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to have parents with a strong marriage.

We all have the same goal, but we also all come to the table with complex factors that go into what is the best, the most peaceful, the most effective way for our particular family, in a particular season or state in life, to reach that goal.Whatever parenting choices clearly lead you, your spouse, and your children to grow steadily in grace and virtue, whatever supports a strong marriage and a happy, healthy, holy home on every level–those choices are what is right for you and your family. That’s all there is to it.

Every family has a different set of needs. Just in my own experience, I know families with a wide range of circumstances that necessarily call for different methods of parenting their children, sometimes even from birth.

I know a family of five in which one spouse has been deployed for long periods of time.
I know a family in which an older child has special needs that require huge amounts of time,  money and energy.
I know a family in which both parents must work full-time, in addition to the mother attending school at night and the father working a second job on the weekends.
I know a family with triplets.

There are also many not-so-obvious situations that each family can bring to the table. Some babies come out of the womb more needy and and sensitive than others. Some parents are more high-strung than others. One spouse may be an incredibly light sleeper. Dad may work nights. A couple may find intimacy and communication especially difficult without regular time away from their children together.

All of these are examples of factors that parents should include in prayerful discernment of their parenting choices.

These past 2 1/2 years as a young mother, I have stumbled through some tough lessons, feasted on humble pie, laughed at my hilarious kids every single day, and learned little by little about real teamwork in my marriage.

I know I have many more lessons to learn and bridges to cross (and possibly babies to bear!) before this parenting adventure is done. For now, I am humbly thankful that Michael and I have simply managed not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” in making our choices so far in parenting. We have truly tried to be open to taking precious nuggets of wisdom from wherever we could. I have an imperfect, but happy little family, whose image and witness I hope points others to the Lord–as our wise and merciful God designed every family to do.

Copyright 2012 Erin Franco

Share.

About Author

Erin is a stay-at-home mom in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She has written her blog, Humble Handmaid, since 2009, and she also co-hosts a Catholic women's radio show, "Faith and Good Counsel". She writes about her adventures and spiritual reflections as a young Catholic woman, wife and mother. Erin is oft-frazzled momma to three children under five years old. She always appreciates encouraging comments, gift cards to coffee shops, and free babysitting.

5 Comments

  1. Erin, I understand completely what you are saying. I’ll admit it, there are “alarm” words for me in that list, largely because I was trying to adhere to some of the ideas at the loss of some sanity, those first few rough months of mommyhood.

    But I’m glad God brought me through it – and is bringing me through it – to a parenting method that looks closer to, “Dear God, I have no idea what the blazes I’m doing. This sweet heaven-sent blessing is driving me bat-crazy insane. Can you please do *something*?!!?!!!?”

    Or maybe that’s because I have an almost-two-year-old?

    :)

    Anyway, great post! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I think you put into words what so many people have felt. I know that we all wrestle to make the “right” choice. Sometimes it is just giving it all to God and having faith. Loved it.

  3. Great post Erin! We are in a different stage of parenting now. Preteen for my oldest (accck!) and during my research I will definitely keep in mind your wisdom in maintaining balance. And, as a Mom, you are certainly qualified to render your expert advice. The first thing I was taught in my training to be a teacher was “The parents are the experts!”

  4. Nicely done Erin! My kids are now 20, 18, and 16! Dave and I have been SOOOO blessed by them! I would have loved to have read this 18 years ago when Dave and I did our “remix” of culture and family tradition spinning it into parenting that worked for our babies but didn’t always look like the parenting we saw going on around us. Bottom line…love them and PRAY LIKE CRAZY! Blessed Mary always fills in the gaps of my motherhood!

Leave A Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.