Remember the days when, before having kids, you would observe a toddler throwing a tantrum and think to yourself, “My kid will never act like that.” Or you would witness a mom bribing her kid to put his shoes on and get in the car, and you would think, “I won’t be that mom. My kid will obey me without bribes.” And then, maybe a few years later, you have your own baby, and suddenly all the things you thought you knew about parenting flew out the window. Suddenly, you are that mom with the fit-throwing toddler, and you find yourself offering her candy to calm her down. Everything you thought you would be as a parent seems laughable now. It’s all you can do just to keep getting up and raising the kids day after day, knowing that you know NOTHING about what you’re doing.
Parenting doesn’t seem hard until you’re doing it. And then, it can be overwhelming, confusing, challenging, frustrating, and maddening. But it is also heartwarming, joyful, educational, beautiful, and hilarious. It can be easy to lose the big picture of parenting when you are in the thick of the everyday minutiae of it all. Or maybe you haven’t even thought about what the big picture is . . . you just decided it was time to have kids because it was the next step in your life plan.
At some point in your parenting journey, you will need to take a step back and figure out your “big picture” for your family. Why did you have children? What do you want to accomplish in them by being a mother? What are your ultimate goals for parenting them? And what will it take to get you there? Knowing the answers to these questions will come in very handy when you’re at your wit’s end (again), and you’re wondering whose bright idea was it to have all these kids in the first place?! Sometimes, we as parents need to keep parenting in perspective by remembering the big picture.
How to See Parenting in Big Picture Perspective
Start with Your Big Picture Perspective
Take a few quiet moments and write down who you want your kids to become and what kind of mother you want to be to them. Make it a pretty broad statement and dig deep about the kind of human beings you want to launch into this world eventually. For example, these are my personal big picture perspectives:
For my kids: “I want my children to grow into kind, capable, responsible adults. I want my children to foster emotionally healthy, flourishing relationships with their friends, family, and eventually a spouse. For my children, I want them to build a career they love with a healthy respect for work/life balance. I want my children to ask questions, think outside the box, and seek truth in all things. Above all, I want my children to know God and follow Him in all they do.”
For myself: “I want to be a mom who practices kindness and grace. I want to be slow to anger and quick to love. A mom who teaches respect, compassion, and responsibility. I want to be patient. I want my children to trust me with their secrets and hurts, fears and successes.”
Find the Teachable Moments
Using your big picture parenting perspective goals, try to find the teachable moments each day to help you achieve those goals. For instance, one day, my son came home from school and told me that there was a boy in his class with only one arm. He said that other kids in the class didn’t talk to him. I asked him why he thought they wouldn’t talk to him. He responded, “Because he’s different.”
I used this moment to gently reinforce our family’s belief that just because someone looks different on the outside doesn’t mean they are different on the inside. So first, I talked him through the feelings the little boy was probably feeling: loneliness, shame, unease, sadness, and we talked about why he might be feeling that way. Then I encouraged my son to befriend the new student and encourage others to do the same. And he did.
I want to teach my kids compassion and kindness, among a great many other things. So I tried to use that teachable moment to help my son empathize with another young man in a way he may not have thought of until we talked about it. Finding the teachable moments every day can help you take those tiny steps toward your big-picture parenting perspective goals.
Take a Step Back
While the big picture parenting goals you’ve written down are probably well thought out and absolutely situated for your beliefs, that may not always be the case. You may want to take a step back and revisit these goals now and then. Perhaps you want to add something to them that you hadn’t thought of before. Or maybe you decided that you missed the mark and need to revise your goals a bit. Do it! Parenting is a GIANT learning experience! You will change your perspective constantly as your child grows and as you grow as a parent. Revise and edit as much as you need!
Give Yourself Grace
Spoiler alert: you’re going to mess up. You’re going to miss the mark. You’re going to fail, and you’re going to falter. This is the reality of being a parent. You will fail to find a teachable moment because you’re just too tired to give a you-know-what some days. There will be days you will want to throw your big picture goals in the trash and sell the kids on eBay. Every parent has these moments, and it’s okay. Give yourself grace.
Parenting is the hardest job you will ever have. It has the most riding on it, too. We parents feel so much pressure to do it all right, all the time. But that’s never going to happen. We will all have bad days, lazy days, sad and angry days. In those days, give yourself grace, take a minute to re-focus on your big picture parenting perspective goals, and keep going.
Enjoy the Little Moments
I know we are talking about big-picture parenting here, but we can’t always be in a mindset of our overarching goals for raising our children. We have to be in the little moments with our kids too. Having our big-picture parenting goals written out is wonderful for helping us to recenter and refocus when all the everyday, mundane, little frustrations of parenting get us flustered. But don’t forget to enjoy all the sweet little moments as well. This is where you find the magic in raising children. It’s where you make the memories. So while knowing and working toward your goals is important, it’s just as important to enjoy exactly where you are with your kids right now.
Get Away for a Weekend
This may seem like an odd tip, but I promise it’s important! Sometimes you just need to get away from your kids for a couple of days to remember why you had them in the first place. I am lucky enough to have in-laws who love taking my kids for the weekend. I am so grateful to hand them off sometimes because I desperately need the time to myself. During those kid-free weekends, I can take that step back and really think about where I am in my big picture parenting goals. What do I need to do better? What am I doing well so far? How can I be a better mama?
Having some time to myself allows me to reflect and recharge. It also gives me a chance to miss my kids! So don’t be afraid to take some time away from your sweet babies. It will make you a better parent in the long run!
It is important to take some time to write out your big picture parenting goals, especially when you feel yourself getting lost in your everyday life. When you find yourself burned out or yelling at your kids or getting frustrated about the little things, you know it’s time to remember the big picture. You only have so much time to raise these little humans. So make sure you’ve thought about who you want them to be and how you can help them get there.