A couple weeks ago, I was speaking to a young dad at our neighborhood pool. He confided to me that he and his wife (who also works outside the home) often joke that, now that kids have come along, it’s no longer “Friday can’t come fast enough”; it’s “Monday can’t come fast enough!” Weekends aren’t a break anymore—they’re harder than the work week!
While he was speaking in jest, he was expressing a significant reality for parents everywhere. Parenting is hard—one of the hardest jobs in existence. It’s exhausting. It can be isolating. It’s monotonous and often feels unrewarding. It can be discouraging and can even feel hopeless.
If you’re like me, you have had days as a parent that leave you feeling all of those sentiments. It is easy and natural for those sentiments to become prevailing perceptions in our minds. Thankfully, God’s Word addresses those perceptions with wonderful encouragement—truths that we can’t live and function without!
Let’s briefly look at four common perceptions of parenting that come naturally to us as parents. For each one, we’ll see how God’s truth both combats each misperception and replaces it with true reality—that the job of parenting is eternally worth all the effort! You’ll likely read nothing earth-shattering here, but I pray that these simple thoughts will be an encouragement to all of us who share in this difficult but marvelous calling as dads.
Perception #1: Parenting is Overwhelming
I saw a meme on social media recently that claimed that 90% of parenting is just longing for the next opportunity to lie down again! Parenting often seems like a constant game of dodgeball—while doing a juggling act at the same time. There is so much to remember, so much to do, so much pressure to succeed (their spiritual and physical well-being are at stake!), and it never ends.
Yes, parenting is overwhelming. And you know what? It’s actually designed to be overwhelming. The overwhelming tasks and challenges God gives us are not intended to be doable alone. They are to drive us to God’s grace. When Paul faced an overwhelming challenge, Christ simply encouraged him with the truth that his grace is sufficient. In fact, his power shines brightly through our weakness. His glory is seen through the fact that we are weak without him. Read and study 2 Cor. 12:9-10; it will encourage you.
Hebrews 4:16 is another huge encouragement for the overwhelmed parent. Jesus understands our weaknesses because, during his life on earth, he experienced them too. He faced exhaustion. He felt the limits of human strength. He had overwhelming tasks to perform. He didn’t parent, but he did lead a bunch of immature, obstinate, slow learners! The Savior that understands our weaknesses has the strength to overcome them—so pray! Draw near to the throne of grace with confidence he can help. He longs to!
Perception #2: Parenting is Mundane
It seems crazy that both the above perceptions can be so common, but it’s true. One day we’re overwhelmed by our parenting calling; the next day we’re discontent with how boring and mundane it is. The days often crawl because of the monotony of parenthood.
Our selfishness as parents really starts to show with this one. Parenting means you miss out on fun things. Parenting means 7:30pm bedtimes—and you’re stuck at home the rest of the night. Particularly for younger families, vacations aren’t fun breaks from reality; they’re just more of the same daily routine in a different setting. Parenting can just make life boring. And we don’t like that.
But it’s in the mundane that our greatest opportunities to serve our God through parenting abound! Moses instructed God’s Old Testament people to pass along their love for and relationship with God to their children in the midst of the mundane. Deut. 6:4-9 teaches us to teach and model love for God and his truth to our kids diligently in the simple daily settings of life. Life is not one constant high-velocity adventure; it’s regular normal ordinary days stacked one after the other. Your kids need to see your love for your God and your steady walk with him in the midst of the mundane. What an opportunity ordinary life gives to us dads!
Perception #3: Parenting is All-Consuming
Because the role of a parent is so constant, it is easy for it to become your life. Parenting can become so all-consuming that you can tend to ignore everything else. Your role as a parent is a central and vital calling for your life, but it is not your only calling. A sole focus on your duties as a dad will isolate you from fellowship and could even lead to idolatry—prioritizing your children at the expense of your most important relationship.
It is easy to find energy only for your parenting role and neglect other equally vital ones. You are a disciple of Jesus (Luke 9:23) with a deep need for regular time with him (Ps. 119:9–11). You’re a Spirit-empowered messenger of the gospel outside the walls of your home (Acts 1:8). You’re a church member with a responsibility to serve Christ fervently there with your gifts (1 Pet. 4:10–11; Heb. 10:24–25). You’re a husband with an equal calling before God to edify and enable the Personal Growth of your wife (Eph. 5:25–27).
Remember that the grace God provides for your parenting (see Perception #1 above) is also available for all of these other responsibilities, too! So don’t let parenting consume you at the expense of your other opportunities. God’s kingdom work is bigger than your kids. And when they see you prioritize and balance these God-given roles, they will grow too.
Perception #4: Parenting is Futile
Perhaps the ultimate discouragement for us parents is the feeling that we’re spinning our wheels and expending all this effort for naught. Both the overwhelming and the mundane nature of parenting lead us here. “What’s the use?” we might ask. The all-consuming nature of parenting responsibilities exhaust us, and it seems like we have nothing to show for it.
Why bother continuing to patiently teach and correct when there is seemingly no behavior change? Why do I bother even trying to meet the needs of my children when there are so many needs all at once with no end in sight? How is it possible to continue to bear the financial burden connected with raising children? Why can I not seem to get any traction in my relationship with my teenager? Why do I never seem to have the answers? What’s the point?!
Galatians 6:9 may seem like a trite passage to throw at this deeply emotional and discouraging perception of parenting. It sounds like a quick fix. “Just keep going; it’ll turn out alright!” But stop for a moment and look at what God is saying.
Gal. 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (ESV)
Look first of all at what God calls what you’re doing—it’s good. It’s doing good. Recognize that parenting is one of these good works to which this verse refers. Your faithful, patient, loving, thankless, long-term parenting is nothing less than obeying and serving and honoring Jesus. It has an incalculable impact on eternity. It’s eternally and immensely valuable and significant. It’s good.
The command here is not to grow weary in doing good. This would include the good work of parenting as ambassadors for God’s kingdom. Though parenting is overwhelming, mundane, and can consume so much of your energy, time, and resources, it is worth every form of daily exertion.
You will naturally be weary. But remember the grace that is abundantly and constantly sufficient. Remember that your Savior knows what you are facing and longs for you to come to him in time of need. Remember that the truth your children need to hear from you and see in you is designed to be taught in the midst of the mundane. Remember to prioritize your relationship with your God.
Each of the perceptions we’ve addressed here is alive and well in every stage of parenting, from the newborn to the college student and everything in between! But don’t you think that the one who gave you this job so that his glory may be clearly seen is highly invested in ensuring you succeed? He will give grace, and he will bring glory to himself, and your faithfulness will not go unnoticed—if you do not give up.
You’re investing in something eternally valuable, and the blessing and reward you receive for your faithfulness are eternal, too. There may be years of struggle and apparent futility ahead. But don’t let weariness take over. Run to him. Obey him. Lean on him. Know him. Love him. And teach your kids to do the same. Your God says it’s worth it, dads. And we can trust him to ensure that it is!