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What The ...? I Think I’m Good at This!!!

Mother and child

The other day a friend shared a Christian blog post written by the mother of a young child. 

It was a beautiful post. The mother wrote about how she felt horrible about how little she accomplished during the day, but then she remembered that raising her daughter was an accomplishment, and a really important one. I loved the post. It was sweet and, man, could I ever relate. 

Except that I couldn’t … anymore. 

I don’t have that learning-to-be-a-parent chaos. How does that happen to people? And when does it happen? When did I become not only the Must-Have Parent but the Can-Do Parent?

I’ve definitely had those desperate times and when my oldest was an infant I think I had more of those days than not. 

My husband deployed when our son was just a couple of weeks old and, with no family or close friends nearby, days would pass when I didn’t leave the house or see another human besides the baby. 

Days would also pass when I didn’t shower or eat anything that didn’t come with pull-back-the-corner-and-rotate-after-two-minutes directions. 

Okay, let’s be honest. I was breastfeeding then so days would pass when I didn’t even put on a shirt. It was National Geographic (emphasis on the ‘graphic’) in my house 24/7. 

Thankfully we had good blinds. 

When our second baby was born my husband was again deployed. She had horrible, ear-bursting colic that lasted right up until the day he got home so the house stayed very clean — because the sound of the vacuum was the only thing that soothed her. 

I vacuumed curtains, ceiling fan blades, behind appliances and, of course, all the floors. My house has never been so clean. But I still didn’t get out to do much besides drop my son off at preschool and, with no other adults in the house and a picky preschooler, I rarely cooked. I even ordered my groceries online, just to limit exhausting, frustrating outings. 

And then a funny thing happened. I had a third baby and instead of my life getting more chaotic, it got more organized. My house is generally clean most of the time now. (Not white glove test clean, but definitely clean enough that I’m not mortified when friends stop by without calling first.) 

I found time to take on outside work projects. I learned a whole new way of cooking and my family (even that very picky kid) now eats a mostly paleo diet, even when my husband isn’t home to join us. 

I honestly don’t know how this happened. My husband still deploys. He’s been gone for more than half of our 2-year-old’s life. My kids are still young at 9, 5 and 2. They still fight. They still make messes. They still disobey me. They still have activities and need daily chauffering. But even with another child and even more going on, it’s easier now. 

And I really don’t know why. 

Sure, I’ve read lots of parenting books and blogs. But not one held the secret to making my family work. I’ve spent lots of time trying to think up solutions, but I’ve never had an epiphany. The clouds didn’t part. God didn’t speak to me from a burning bush. Miss Cleo didn’t share any psychic secrets.  

I didn’t really do anything for this to happen. It just happened, organically. You know, the way parents have been raising kids for thousands of years, before blogs like this one or parenting books existed. 

My instincts kicked in and 95 percent of the time they’ve been right on the mark. 

If I had to pinpoint any one thing that I did, it would be that I got to know my kids and, through trial and error and lots of patience, I found solutions that worked with their awesome, unique personalities. And, as anyone who has ever been married knows, it takes time to really know someone. 

So this is my message to that blogger (and anyone else) who is covered up in dirty dishes and dog hair; who has been wearing that milk-stained t-shirt for two days; who doesn’t know what day of the week it is or the last time she saw her hairbrush: 

It. Gets. Better. 

It probably won’t ever get easy, but it will get easier. You’ll figure out what works for you and your family and then, when you do that — whatever that is — you’ll find out that you’re actually pretty good at this parenting thing, too. 

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Rebekah Sanderlin Military Parenting

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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