Editor's note: This article was originally published on Katelyn Fagan's blog, What's Up Fagans? It has been republished here with permission.
It's true: being a parent is exhausting work. This is especially true in the first few years of a child's life when they are physically very demanding and needy. They need help doing lots of things – going potty, getting dressed, eating food, making sandwiches, putting on shoes and bathing, just to name a few. And sometimes as parents we get tired of our children not being able to do more things by themselves. We are annoyed that we have to help them get dressed, even though they are physically capable. We are tired of making them food, pouring drinks and wiping hands. And I've been thinking: while teaching children independence and life skills is one of our prime goals and obligations as parents, are we too focused on teaching them to do it themselves, that we are inadvertently teaching them we shouldn't help others?
Are we weary in well doing for our children?
Sometimes I think it is easy for Christians to read scriptures and apply the messages of charity and love to strangers, to neighbors, to friends and to unbelievers, rather than to those within our own homes. It's partly because we all want to be missionaries and be good examples to others. But, if we can't even be nice to our children, if we can't treat them with respect, kindness, love, mercy, forgiveness or understanding, as we care for them each day, how are we supposed to help others fully come unto Jesus Christ? Galatians 6:9-10 (King James Version) says (emphasis mine):
"And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
If we can't bear our children's burdens, who are of our household, and are weary in well doing for them, we aren't doing good unto all men. And doing service to others outside of our homes could be seen as very hypocritical. As a previous president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said, "The most important work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes." And I sincerely believe that is true. And that is why I am bothered my behavior of late ...
My husband and I are guilty of playing "The Parent" card far too often lately. We are horrible about it at times. We just want our kids to obey us. We just want them to do what we've asked them to do, when we've asked them to do it (now!); and if they don't, we get mad, and yell and punish. We think about the commandment "Thou shalt obey thy parents" and think that this means we can be a tyrant in our own homes, the boss, and use the phrase "Because I'm the Mom [or Dad] and I said so!"
When my 3-year-old daughters are playing, I often hear them repeat phrases that I sometimes say to them "Get out of my way!" "Leave me alone!" "Give me a minute" "Hold on" or "Not right now; I'm busy."
I don't know why it is so hard to willingly and cheerfully serve my children, why I do an eye roll or sigh (often both together) when they ask for a drink of water right after I sat down; or ask me to read a book when I'm trying to read my own; or when they want to play a game but I don't; or when they ask for other forms of help.
I think for a long time I thought I was teaching my children that Mommy is a person too, that they sometimes just have to wait, that they aren't the center of the universe, that I am not their slave or servant, and that there are certain times for certain things, and some needs trump others. After all there is a time and a season to every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastics 3). And while I have found that teaching my children delayed gratification has been a major blessing in a lot of ways, it doesn't excuse my otherwise annoyed attitude toward my children's requests of me.
If another person was treating me the way I sometimes treat my children, I don't think I would like them very much.
And that's a crappy feeling.
I don't want to raise children who don't want to help. I don't want children who think service is work, a chore, a check off the to-do list. I don't want children who are selfish.
Essentially, I don't want my children following my poor example of late.
I like to keep things honest here at What's up Fagans? so I'll admit to you that I don't have all the answers. I am not perfect. And I certainly don't always follow my Savior's example. I fail. But, I continue to change. It's this constant reevaluation of myself, my life, my spirituality, that helps refine me into the person God does want me to be. So, no, I am not godly all the time. Sometimes I do the wrong things. Sometimes I come on too strong, say the wrong things (there is very little filter between my head and my mouth far too often), or let my emotions win out. I'm human.
But, that's no excuse. I need to be better for myself, for my husband, for my children, and definitely for my God. He's trusted me with them. He's expecting great things from me and from them. I don't want to be tearing them down, hurting their self-esteem, hindering their growth, limiting their eternal progression by my poor choices. I want more for all of us.
And that "us" includes my readers. I hope this post may help you and I both remember that we should not be weary in well doing for our children or our husbands. They are the people we should serve the most. They are the people we want to be with for eternity, and we want it to be a happy, enjoyable eternity.
So tell me:
How do you not weary in well doing for your children despite the demanding, repetitive and exhausting nature of raising children? I need to know!
Katelyn Fagan is a young mom of three young kids, including twin preschoolers. She is painfully aware of her own flaws, and writes to help herself, and others going through similar shortcomings, to become better and more balanced. On her blog, What's up Fagans?, you will find parenting advice, penny-pinching tips, cleaning hacks, and general help managing marriage, life and faith.