Even with a clear game plan in mind, raising kids properly is one of life's richest challenges. It is not uncommon for a mother, particularly, to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of her parental assignment. In many homes, she is the primary protector for each child's health, education, intellect, personality, character, and emotional stability. As such, she must serve as physician, nurse, psychologist, teacher, minister, cook, and policeman. Since in many cases she is with the children longer each day than her husband, she is the chief disciplinarian and main giver of security and love.
The reality is that she and her husband will not know whether or not she is handling these matters properly until it is too late to change her methodology. Furthermore, Mom's responsibilities extend far beyond her children. She must also meet her obligations to her husband, her church, her relatives, her friends, and often times, her employer. Each of these areas demands her best effort, and the conscientious mother often finds herself racing through the day in a breathless attempt to be all things to all people.
Most healthy individuals can tolerate encircling pressures as long as each responsibility can be kept under relative control. Hard work and diligence are personally rewarding, provided anxiety and frustration are kept at a minimum. However, much greater self-control is needed when a threatening problem develops in one of the critical areas.
That is, if a child becomes very ill, marital problems erupt, or Mom is unjustly criticized in the neighborhood, then the other routine tasks become more difficult to accomplish. Certainly, there are occasions in the life of every mother when she looks in the mirror and asks, "How can I make it through this day?"
Here are five simple suggestions designed to help her answer that exasperated question.
1. Reserve some time for yourself. It is important for a mother to put herself on the priority list, too. At least once a week she should play tennis, go bowling or shopping, stop by the gym, or simply "waste" an occasional afternoon. It is unhealthy for anyone to work all the time, and the entire family will profit from her periodic recreation.
Even more important is the protection and maintenance of romance in her marriage. A husband and wife should have a date every week or two, leaving the children at home and forgetting the day's problems for an evening. If the family's finances seemingly prohibit such activities, I suggest that other expenditures be re-examined. I believe that money spent on togetherness will yield many more benefits than an additional piece of furniture or a newer automobile. A woman finds life much more enjoyable if she knows she is the sweetheart, and not just the wife, of her husband.
2. Don't struggle with things you can't change. The first principle of mental health is to learn to accept the inevitable. To do otherwise is to run with the brakes on. Too many people make themselves unhappy over insignificant irritants which should be ignored. In these cases, contentment is no more stable than the weakest link in the chain of circumstances surrounding their lives. All but one of the conditions in a particular woman's life might be perfect: she has good health, a devoted husband, happy children, plenty of food, warmth and shelter, and a personal challenge. Nevertheless, she might be miserable because she doesn't like her mother-in-law. This one negative element can be allowed to overshadow all the good fortune surrounding her.
Life has enough crises in it without magnifying our troubles during good times, yet peace of mind is often surrendered for such insignificant causes. I wonder how many women are discontented today because they don't have something which either wasn't invented or wasn't fashionable just fifty years ago. Men and women should recognize that dissatisfaction with life can become nothing more than a bad habit—a costly attitude that can rob them of life's pleasures.
3. Don't deal with big problems late at night. Fatigue does strange things to human perception. After a hard day, the simplest tasks may appear insurmountable. All problems seem more unsolvable at night, and the decisions that are reached then may be more emotional than rational. When couples discuss finances or other family problems in the wee hours, they are asking for trouble. Their tolerance to frustration is low, often leading to fights which should never have occurred. Tension and hostility can be avoided by simply delaying important topics until morning. A good night's sleep and a rich cup of coffee can go a long way toward defusing the problem.
4. Try making a list. When the work load gets particularly heavy there is comfort to be found in making a list of the duties to be performed. The advantages of writing down one's responsibilities are threefold: (1) You know you won't forget anything. (2) You guarantee that the most important jobs will get done first. Thus, if you don't get finished by the end of the day, you will have at least done the items that were most critical. (3) You leave a record of accomplishments by crossing tasks off the list as they are completed.
5. Seek divine assistance. The concepts of marriage and parenthood were not human inventions. God, in his infinite wisdom, created and ordained the family as the basic unit of procreation and companionship. The solutions to the problems of modern parenthood can be found through the power of prayer and personal appeal to the Creator. Indeed, I believe parents should commit themselves to daily prayer and supplication on behalf of their children. The task is too scary on our own, and there is not enough knowledge in the books to guarantee the outcome of our parenting duties. We desperately need divine help with the job!
From Dr. Dobson's book The New Dare to Discipline.