When Parenting is Hard

I’m writing this post 10,000 feet in the air as I fly up to beautiful Oregon to attend the Come Away Retreat at Rockaway Beach.

I’ll be speaking in a breakout session entitled ‘Fearless Parenting’ which is ironic because it has been an unusually trying month of struggles and disappointments for me in that area.

Because I have been parenting for 24 years and homeschooling now for 20 years, I am asked more and more frequently to speak on these topics and to share any wisdom that I have gained through my many years as a Christian, homeschool mom.

Perhaps it is just me, but I thought that with age and wisdom would come more of a sense of ease with my parenting. Not so.  I’m certainly more wise than when I began, but I have in no way perfected the art of parenting.

Parenting Failures

One evening last week, after a long day of homeschooling during the day and back-to-back meetings in the evening, I flopped on my bed hoping to catch an episode of Downton Abbey before crashing for the night. This is my guilty pleasure on the evenings when my husband is out of town on business.

I was still rummaging around trying to find my pajamas when there was a gentle knock on the bedroom door. My 16-year old daughter needed to talk. We snuggled up under the down comforter and chatted about some fears and doubts that she was dealing with. Some of these doubts stemmed from what she felt was a lack of solid education in certain subjects.

Already worn thin from a month of my own insecurities with my homeschooling ability, the conversation was painfully convicting.

Thankfully, this daughter gushes with grace, but knowing that it was me that had caused her distress was quickly becoming overwhelming to my already fragile soul.

An hour later, finally alone and in my pajamas, I prayed.

When You Can’t ‘Fix’ Things

I so desperately wanted to feel happy. I searched my mind for a way to ‘fix’ things, to justify the gaps in her education? How could I dance around the painful fact that my daughter felt (and was likely right) that I had let her down in this area?

There was no relief. As I poured out my thoughts and feelings to God, I did feel a peace.   Yes, God was hearing me, but it He was not offering a way out of my convictions.  Through prayer and drawing near to God I was able to settle down and accept that, despite the fact that I have been homeschooling for such a long time, am a homeschool blogger and speaker, I still fail – big. Ouch.

Parenting is hard.

No matter how much we desire to be good parents, no matter how much experience we have, no matter how long we have walked with God seeking wisdom, we will fail.  I don’t like that.

Condemnation creeps in and taunts me, “How can you speak on homeschooling and parenting, when your own homeschool is such a failure!”

And then this.  God knew and saw the choices I was making as a homeschool parent. He knew the gaps that were forming in my daughter’s education. He has brought me to this painful and humbling place for a purpose. As I allow my heart to be convicted and broken, God begins to heal.

Condemnation (which is not from God.) flees and hope prevails. Despite the pain of this refining process, this letting go of my pride and selfishness, God assures me that it is for my good and the good of my family.

How about you, dear mama? Are you weary? Are you convicted (like me) about your parenting, your homeschooling, your choices?

You are not alone. God is with you. Allow the refiner’s fire to clean the dross from your life and accept the forgiveness and grace that Jesus to freely offers.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28


An InLinkz Link-up

Marianne Sunderland

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  1. Oh, Marianne. I feel your pain. You are a precious lady and gifted mother. I am certain there are areas where I am falling short and it will come forth from one of my own sometime in their teens. However, I do believe that in humbling yourself before your daughter, you taught her such a rich lesson: that we will mess up and sometimes in high stakes areas, but God is gracious to set things right if we only accept the spiritual nudge in the right direction, rather than working to save our pride and image and blaming others for our shortcomings. Education is more than the covering or mastering of subjects, and who really chooses all the right things? She will have stings like this in her own parenting and from your example, she will go to the Lord humbly and ask for direction and redemption.

    I have children with similar issues and it is utterly exhausting. Today I went to the doctor thinking I had a UTI (rare for me, except after childbirth), but it wasn’t that–just stress causing psychosomatic symptoms. I felt like an idiot, to put it mildly. Special needs children are so beautiful and special, but they are also very draining and we are left fighting for health, leaving other things undone or done under our expectations for ourselves. I submit to you that God knows and he will redeem any brokenness for his glory! Bless you, dear sister in Christ.

    • Marianne Sunderland says:

      Thank you Christine. I am so touched by all of these comments, I hardly know what to say. Thank you. 🙂

  2. That was very thought-provoking. I need to mull over it some more, but I have to say I don’t think I have ever read a homeschool blog article like it, so I wanted to thank you for bringing that subject up and being real and vulnerable about it.

  3. Marianne – this was just what I needed today. I had a conversation with my 17 year old daughter that was rather similar to yours not too long ago. My family is in a season of difficult transition and I feel that I have let certain things (like accountability) fall to the wayside. This post is a reminder that all situations can be redeemed. I also believe that God will help us fill in the gaps in our children’s education. I so appreciate your authenticity and reminder of God’s grace.

  4. Ingrid Fiedler says:

    Dear Marianne,
    If you were perfect, she would never know each persons real need for Christ. Imagine the life of a child of a perfect mother, sounds horrible to me.: an impossible standard to live up to, no permission to fail themselves, yuck. I’ll take broken and real over perfect and fake anytime.

  5. Dear Marianne,
    Oh yes, I can empathize with this post! Parenting is hard at all stages, but I’ve found the years with teens and older children by far the most difficult emotionally and spiritually. The issues older children wrestle with and the decisions facing them at this point in their lives bear so much weight. We’ve had the grief of one of our nine children rejecting the Lord, and oh, how much I feel my failures to him! (Did we emphasize academics too much? He is succeeding wildly in his field, gaining the world, but losing his soul. Did he, caught in the middle of our large family, not get enough attention? How is it that I taught him to read and do chemistry, but failed to teach him to love the Lord? And on and on the questions go in my brain.) But in the midst of everything the Lord has been faithfully present, reminding me that I am not able to save any of our children. Only He can do that. He has been giving hope and strength to continue.

    What I would say to you about worrying about the gaps, is that all of our children will have gaps in their preparation for future studies and for life. But if we have helped them gain a love for learning and the ability to learn on their own, they will usually do fine. We’ve seen this to be true for our children. (The oldest three have finished college. The next two are still in college, and we have three other teens and one pre-teen.)

    Thank you for writing with honesty. Sometimes we feel like we should only put on the happy and successful face on the outside, when the reality is that all of us fail. I love your final paragraphs. God works through our failures to humble us and make us even more dependent on Him. To Him be the glory.

    Struggling as a mom along with you,

  6. This was so needed in my life. I have been so convicted and yet had no idea where to turn. My oldest daughter took yo school like a duck to water, and then. And then my secon daughter struggled and turned out to be dyslexic. And then my next child, oldest son, was diagnosed with Asperger’s. My next child, youngest son, just hates school with every fiber. I feel like I was going 60 miles an hour with my oldest and hit a brick wall with the next three. And I still have three under them. I am completely adrift. Second daughter is asking for a “curriculum to follow” like oldest daughter does, but I know she can’t handle it academically and don’t want to tell her that. I’m just….at a loss.
    Thank you for this reminder to go to God.

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