Finding joy in parenting (and keeping it)

I found this post-it stuck to my wardrobe door when I woke up on Sunday. It reminded me of the joys of motherhood all over again.

mother's day note

It spoke to me about my child’s heart, simply because he wrote it spontaneously and secretly. (This coming from my highly sensitive kid whom I complain about to friends as he is such a tough strong-willed child.)

I distinctly remember him asking me the day before how to spell “mother” but I didn’t notice what he was scurrying off to do.

Things are difficult at times on the parenting front and our hearts get easily burdened by worries, fears and disappointments.

I do experience my fair share of those, but I realise they weigh us down and prevent us from noticing and enjoying the good.

We can open our eyes to the good things in our lives, however small, and find joy in the midst of struggle and storms. We have the power to choose joy.

whatever is pure quote

Source

The past few months have been busy. My writing business has grown and stabilized which I’m thankful for. I’ve also been learning more in the educational therapy field I ventured into last year.

In the midst of the bustle, I kinda lost track of my goals for the year.

Some days I feel like a failure – not accomplishing much at work and also not keeping everything together on the home front. I constantly feel I’m running on a treadmill that’s been set at a faster pace that I can handle.

I wonder if I’m doing more harm than good staying home.

I wonder if I’d be more successful as a full time worker (well at least I’d be contributing more to my family’s savings?)

I wonder if I’m spread out too thinly.

(Do you ever have such negative thoughts /doubts running through your head?)

Well, here’s the thing…

When we use the world’s standard of success to measure ourselves, we will inevitably fall short.

But if we know what God has called us to do this season, and we respond with joy, trust, and hope, then we are already blessed.

When we embrace the life that God has given, instead of the one we left behind in the dust, we open the doors to greater blessing and grace.

So I consider the good things God has brought into my life.

  1. The encouragement I receive from my eldest – who seems to have a gift of affirming her dear ol’ mum with kind words and physical affection. She’s always hugging me, and saying sweet things. She’s sensitive to my moods and she knows I get stressed out on some days. (Girls are such a blessing like that!)
  2. The work (both writing and special needs teaching gigs) that I get to be involved with and learn from.
  3. The many little joys of the moment that make up motherhood, from watching the kids play well, and witnessing their little growth and milestones, to celebrating small wins after a period of struggle together.
  4. The sharing and support among girlfriends who are daily learning what it means to give our lives for our young ones, and to surrender ourselves to God.
  5. The love and understanding from the husband, who checks in on me, and allows me to vent or air my frustrations from time to time (okay almost every other day!) He’s a great trouble shooter. Just recently, he sat me down and reminded me of my focus for this year – to help and serve my family.

Oh the circumstances may be the same. Tempers will still flare, words spoken, things broken. But the attitude is different. We can choose to be more forgiving, more gracious in our words, more compassionate to ourselves, when (not if) we fail. It’s not easy, in fact…it is a daily battle.

Even though we’re still struggling to overcome certain difficulties in my child’s behaviour, I know God has a purpose for all this, and that all our struggles will not be in vain.

I know it is in our imperfection and weaknesses that His grace and love shows up.

When you know your struggles have a purpose, your days may not get easier or lighter, but you pull through them anyway. With God’s help.

Whether it’s full-time caring for the family, or working, whatever your hands have found to do, I hope you choose joy, and never let it go.

Open your eyes to see what is pure, lovely and kind.

Keep stress in check, in its place.

Find a community and ask for support when you need it. 

Try out ways to sow peace and fun into your home.

May you find joy and strength, as you cling on to the God of hope.

PS. All these thoughts from a simple post-it note from my boy. It’s funny how God chooses to encourage us. He knows all our cares indeed.

finding joy in parenting

The start of a new journey into primary school

Dear Vera,

You’re going to primary school. The other day at P1 orientation, you looked excited and hopeful as you found a spot in your class, and took in the new surroundings and new faces.

It’ll be a big day, for sure, come January next year. I know you’ll be excited, because this is the attitude you hold towards life. Full of promise, fun and hope; full of learning new things and making new friends.

Full of growing up.

I’m so grateful for you, my dear daughter. You’ve been a wonderful help at home, caring for and helping out your younger brothers when they find themselves stuck. Sometimes you take on the mummy role, which is both funny and exasperating to watch. Funny because you’re actually pretty good at bossing them around. Exasperating because you try to exert an authority which you don’t truly own.

I feel I learn so much gentleness from you; the way you console your brothers when they’re in tears sometimes puts me to shame.

I can’t count the ways that you bring joy and grace into our home – grace, that is the meaning of your name. But I know it, because I’ve received these gifts from you often.

It’s amazing to watch you grow. Such a privilege to be the one to guide you and teach you God’s ways. We recently had the opportunity to serve together for the community, and it gave me just a small glimpse into the future. You will have a big heart for people, and help those around you who are in need – perhaps even through creative ways.

Sometimes when things get stressful at home, I tend to get overwhelmed and sometimes lose my cool. During those times, you just try to listen and nod your head, and do your best to help. That often helps me feel better, and I’m grateful.

Yet, I know you’re just a child – still growing, still learning, continually being moulded by His unseen hands. I have to constantly remind myself not to place too-high expectations on you, not to expect you to be the perfect goody big sister. You are a wonderful one no doubt, but your name is Vera (not big sister) – a little girl who loves to learn and try new things, who loves to take on challenges with a hopeful grin, who loves a bit of drama and crazy-good-fun in her life.

Even though you cross a new milestone into primary school, you’ll still have a long way before you, and I hope you’ll run this race slow and steady, like the tortoise rather than the hare. I pray that God will strengthen your faith and character as the days go by, and that you’ll learn to walk in wisdom and grace all through your learning years (which never stops by the way).

Very often when formal schooling starts, we start to focus on performance, results and external achievements. But I pray that I’ll keep my eyes on what matters – that I’ll focus on your inside, your character, your faith in God.

I pray for His favour to be upon you in the area of friendships too, and that you’ll continue to be a blessing even as you are blessed.

I’ll miss you, my little girl, but I look forward to hearing stories from you when you come home from school each day.

Love,
Mummy

Little Lessons: To be a better mum

Successful parenting means: One, becoming who you should be. And two, staying close enough to the children for it to rub off. – Anne Ortlund, quoted in Homepreschool & Beyond

Parenthood may be causing me to grow in ways I never thought possible.

(Maybe it’s because we often find ourselves in situations where we need to think on our feet, solve problems, come up with a smorgasboard of ways to occupy the kids and keep them happy.)

Four years ago, I never thought I would be a mum-blogger or writing my own online articles.

I never thought I would be designing lanternsmaking goop , gifts with recycled scrap, or attending workshops to learn about art.

So I’ve come to this conclusion…

Our children are our biggest source of inspiration (and motivation) on this side of earth. Although I must confess, more so on good days than bad ones.

When I see them running around happily, deep in the midst of learning something, exploring something they’ve never seen before, or being loving and kind to each other, it warms me to the belly. When I watch how they progress and grow, it also inspires me to be a better person for them. I suspect they are the ones who’ve taught me to appreciate beauty, nature, and creativity more.

I am also inspired by fellow mums, dads, and fellow bloggers. The love they have for their kids. Their commitment to living and eating well as much as they want their kids to live and eat well. Plus all the tricks and tools of the trade they arm themselves with to better organise their lives and their kids’. 😉

All this talk about inspiration makes me wonder: What do we want to inspire in our children? What do we want to breathe into their little lives?

Which leads me to the next question. Have I been inspiring as a mother?

Gulp.

Am I living my life well? Have I worked hard? Am I growing as a person? Am I successful in the things I deem most important like love, faith, and the upkeeping of family ties?

More than the latest gadgets and toys, books and whizzy educational material, I think what our children need most is to see us live life with zest and faith, love and kindness. They need to see us walk the talk, and live out the values we want to them to breathe in: things like love, determination, perseverance, courage in the face of the storm, grace and forgiveness.

It’s scary knowing that we are our children’s main role models in life. Deep down, I know I desperately need to keep growing and learning from my mistakes. I’m after all a work-in-progress…

I’m starting to start a new linky every Thursday called “Little Lessons,” which could mean:

  • lessons inspired by your kids (these little guys do teach us something or two…)
  • lessons learnt from your spouse / friends
  • things you pick up from daily parenting experiences
  • things you’re learning with your children / teaching them
  • something you read, saw, or thought about

It could be a picture post, or a wordy post. It doesn’t really matter what form it takes, the main objective is to share so that we can learn and grow together. I hope you will join me this Thursday onwards.

mamawearpapashirt
<div align="center"><a href="http://www.mamawearpapashirt.com/category/little-lessons-2/" title="mamawearpapashirt" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.mamawearpapashirt.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Little-Lessons.jpg" alt="mamawearpapashirt" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

#ichoosejoy

As a twenty-first century parent, stress comes in myriad forms.

From worrying if junior is doing well in school, to missing your little one who’s just started childcare, to juggling work demands with kiddy demands while working from home.

Stress also comes in the form of toddler meltdowns, of which we are thick in the middle of due to JJ’s entrance into the “age of unreasonableness” (otherwise known as the terrible twos).

Or sibling fights, which we’ve also become well-acquainted with of late.

Some days, I morph into a crazy / naggy / barking /complaining / frustrated / tired mum, or all of the above.

I wish life doesn’t have to have so much drama, but I guess we all have our fair share of bad days. Where small things can suddenly take on catastrophic proportions, and I start to act like Chicken Little.

When the day’s over, I would heave a sigh of relief, make mental notes about what went wrong and what not to do again, and snuggle under my safety blanket, praying for a good night’s sleep.

Just for that day or those few hours, I am unable to think of the joys that my family and children bring.

It’s a mental block.

What amazes me is how easily the kids seem to find joy. They bounce back to their original state of happiness, even after a massive meltdown, in a wink of an eye.

Look at JJ. Even after he’s been wailing for a good 10 minutes, if we manage to turn on the “calm down” switch through various ways like a change in environment, distraction, food (which often works on this greedy fella), he’s as happy as a lark the next minute, shouting “mommee” and waving the food bribe in my face with glee and grin.

I wish I could say the same about myself. After each meltdown episode, I feel like I need a really strong cup of latte (I don’t drink beer) and a walk in the proverbial woods. Alone.

It’s a daily clamber back to joyfulness. Parenting days have their fair share of joy and goodness and love and cuddles, but on such days, boy is it a struggle…

This is why I’m embarking on #ichoosejoy, a little picture project to remind myself that happiness is a choice we need to make daily.

And I’m inviting you to join me.

How?

1) Capture life’s everyday joyful moments on instagram.

2) Hashtag your photos #ichoosejoy, and tag me @june_yong (so I know you’re on this joy project with me).

3) You can also email me a joyful photo of your family, kids, or just the little things that bring you joy. And let me know if you would like to include a caption or quote to accompany the pic.

Why?

Because some of the happiest people I know are not those with smooth-sailing lives. They are those who deliberately choose joy and gladness in spite of their circumstances.

Because you might see some of the pics featured on the blog, or on the Facebook page! (If you’re happy for me to do that of course.)

Because it would be great to build a little joyful community. And to spread some cheer around.

If you’re wearing a happy outfit, #ichoosejoy

Your baby taking his first steps, #ichoosejoy

Brother and sister walking hand-in-hand, #ichoosejoy

Catching up with an old friend, #ichoosejoy

Each time you hashtag a picture with #ichoosejoy, be sure to do just that.

Choose joy.

And let’s watch it multiply. 😉

10 surefire ways to lose your joy

I was doing my devotion one Sunday, and came across this devotional passage on how to lose your joy. It spoke about prayerlessness, fear, self-centredness, focusing on circumstances, as some of the main culprits and joy-stealers. It also listed two of the biggest culprits: dissatisfaction and ingratitude.

It made me think. About the different ways that I allow everyday frustrations to block my joy-sensors and overwhelm me with a sense of dread and anger.

Here are my 10 surefire ways to lose your joy as a mum.

1) Compare yourself with other mums, especially those who are thinner, prettier, younger, etc etc.

2) Desire what other mums have that you don’t.

3) Don’t be thankful for the things you have. Focus instead on what you do not have. (And grumble about it to your spouse daily.)

4) Be quick to anger when your kids act up or throw tantrums.

5) Be quick to anger when your hubby forgets to do something that he promised to do.

6) Keep worrying about the future. Keep mulling over your anxieties and fears about what will happen IF… Let your fears paralyse you from doing what you really want to do.

7) Dig up the past. When you speak to your kids, use sentences that begin with “When I was your age…” and keep bringing up past grudges to use against your hubby and put him on a guilt trip.

8) Stop playing with your kids. Make sure that every minute of their time is “well-utilised”. If not, enrol them in some enrichment class or tuition or sport. (Keep telling them they need to get ahead because we “live in such a competitive society”.)

9) Compare your child to everybody else’s kid in every single way (grades, height, weight, looks). Make your child (and yourself) miserable by telling him how much he does not measure up.

10) Focus on every negative thought, every tough circumstance you find yourself in, and keep dwelling on it. Remember that your glass is always half empty.

Heh, I know I kid. But I think to some extent, we tend to fall into the trap of such negative, joy-stealing habits once in a while. If we are able to consciously and conscientiously do the opposite of all of the above, I think we’ll cope much better with life’s plentiful stresses and challenges. Wouldn’t you agree?

What are your biggest joy-stealers?

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