The Work of Parenting

I changed a baby's diaper yesterday, first one I'd changed in probably a few years at least.

We've had a slew of babies born in our church recently and I've had the privilege of hanging with some of these brand new moms and their wee ones. Ah, the joy of watching a young mom feed her infant, pat his little back until a man-sized burp explodes from his full tummy, and place him down for sweet slumber.

Ah, the greater joy of breathing a sigh of relief over the fact that that young mom is not you!

Not that I didn't love taking care of my two babies almost two decades ago. I did. But it was so much work! So exhausting and frustrating and messy and consuming.

Wait a minute. Now that I think about, not much has changed.

I no longer change diapers, but I clean messy toilets.

I no longer nurse my children 'round the clock, but I have to buy enough groceries to feed an army, and every time I look in my kitchen sink there's a new batch of dishes caked with dried on food.

I no longer push my two around in strollers, but I have to chauffeur a busy teenager no less than six times a day to her next meeting, activity or appointment (what's that all about?). And my husband and I pay for auto insurance so the other one can drive himself around - making that $100 stroller seem mighty appealing.

I don't wash load after load of spit-up rags, teeny towels or tiny little baby socks, but instead I wash huge loads of big jeans, big sweat shirts, big stinky socks and big towels that I've picked up off the bathroom floor.

And I don't wake up to the sounds of a hungry, crying baby, but instead I listen to the rantings and ravings of hormonal teens. There are no temper tantrums in the grocery store (because I don't take my kids there any more!), but there is whining at the GAP and coercing at Forever 21. I don't hurt my back putting my children in their car seats. It is my wallet that is hurting because they get in their "car seats" too often.

Now that I think about it, a sweet little baby might be a welcomed relief about now.

Parenting, at any stage, is a lot of work. And, I've come to realize, if it doesn't seem like a lot of work to you, then you're not doing it right. Raising a human being from infancy to adulthood takes energy, effort, thought, prayer, sweat, tears, and determination. Parenting is not for the fainthearted; it is a job for the brave, the hardworking, the stubborn, and the determined.

But parenting is also amazingly rewarding, fortunately at every stage.

I no longer look into plump little faces that gurgle back at me with sweet little coos, but I get to enjoy the hearty laughter of a young man who is tickled with his own wit and enjoying easy banter with his proud dad.

I no longer get the thrill of watching my daughter's sweet, chubby fingers grasp a cheerio and put it in her mouth. Instead I watch her use her long, graceful fingers and her soft, white hands to express herself during a powerful monologue on stage.

And instead of dressing my babies in hand-smocked dresses or seersucker suits, I'm proud when they dress themselves in tasteful clothes they have chosen, bought, and even washed on their own.

The work goes on, but so does the thrill.

If you're a young mom (or dad) tired from the physical exertion of lugging around heavy car seats, chasing after energetic toddlers, or disciplining terrible twos, hang in there...there's more work to come. But there are more pleasures too. Much of the work moves from the physical to the emotional and spiritual realm. But it's work all the same. And yet, there is great reward in store for the parent who is diligent and does the work.

However old your child is today, what's your favorite part of parenting? What's the hardest work for you right now; what takes your energy and determination? And what thrills your soul?

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