Parenting is a journey is a phrase that I use – actually saying life is a journey is a bit of a trendy phrase.  It paints a good picture, so in this episode, I start comparing family life to a journey we took around New Zealand but then I move into talking about comparison – it is such an unhealthy trap.  Let’s learn to celebrate our journey and those of the other mums around us.

Parenting is a journey 

Peter and I have been fortunate to be able to travel.  Any holiday starts with a dream, an idea.  Our latest trip was to New Zealand with my mum and dad.  We had an idea, and then we started making plans, then we took action and made it happen, and though we had good plans we had to be flexible because the weather was unpredictable and our needs changed along the way.  We saw things we never expected – there was certainly some wow moments and then covid came along and that brought some unexpected concerns but we stuck it out together. We got home safely and were able to look back over some amazing memories.  

I don’t know about you – but can you see the analogy there with family life?  

Parenting – and family life – it starts with a dream, and with an idea.  We need to have a vision for what we want our family life to look like.

Then there was the planning stage – for a holiday that means research and learning about where we are going and making bookings.  For family life, this is about learning to be a mum and growing in the skills you need so you can do whatever you need to do.  It might be growing in communication for your marriage, growing in your parenting skills, in your relationship with your kids, in your homemaking skills, in your faith, and friendships in your community.  All these things set the stage for our family life and help prepare us for the next bit.

The action part.  Doing family life.  For our holiday it started the moment we got on that plane.  For family – it happens in two stages – first, when you get married – you become a family; and 2nd stage when you have that first baby – your family is extended!  The action starts from there on in… and you are in for a ride!!

The journey part. But as you go along – be it on our journey around New Zealand – or whether it is going through the different seasons and stages of family life – you will have to be flexible because unpredictable things will happen and needs will change.  You won’t know at the beginning how the different temperaments of your children will impact family life, or that one of your kids will have a tumor and ongoing pain issues, or that another will have learning difficulties, or social challenges, you won’t know the impact of your husband working away from home, you won’t expect there to be conflict in your church family.  Your story – or your journey will be different than mine.  But the thing that is the same – I know will be the same – is that you will have things happen in your family that you never expected when you were dreaming and planning and preparing for family life.  

The thing is though – these things that come our way – that is family life.  That is the life that we are living, and as a Christian, it is where we can meet Jesus, be used by God and honour Him in all our choices!  That is the Christian family life.

Back to our journey analogy – at the end of our journey around NZ we got home safely, still loving each other, and we looked back at our time together with great memories.  Family life kind of changes more than finishes.  Every good analogy has its limitations!!! 😉   We get to the end of that directive and teaching and coaching stages of parenting – legally around the age of 18 – and we can look back and see how we have grown as a family, we’ll have good memories, and we’ll no doubt have a few wish-that-could-have-been-different moments too – but how we handle them is as significant as the good stuff we remember.  God wants our praise no matter what happens.

 

I know that if you had the opportunity to travel New Zealand you would plan a different trip than we planned.  And this is the key takeaway from this episode.  We must know that our family and our family journey is going to be different than someone elses.  

Some roads will be straight and narrow. Some roads will be full of roadblocks, twists and turns. Some roads will be straightforward others will be full of adventure.  

 

No Comparisons

I want to warn you against the risk of comparison.  Whenever we dip into comparison it never ends well.  

Comparing ourselves with someone else damages our heart.  We lose our joy as we start to believe lies about ourselves.

It damages relationships as we start to believe lies about other people.

When we start to see the issue of comparison as lies – it changes the conversation we have with ourselves.

Comparison damages our choices which damages (or maybe that is too strong) it hurts our ability to raise our children to be healthy individuals.  This is because what we believe and feel will shape our choices.  So if you are believing you are not a good mother, that you will never be enough for your kids, that you are just a hot mess and not a good example to your kids – then that will affect the choices you make – you will either strive and push and be harsh and demanding or you will give up and be disengaged because it is all so hopeless.  Neither are very life giving – and neither will put you in a good place to be the loving parent your child needs.

 

We must guard against comparison.  It is a blessing to see how other people do things.  I’m reminded of that meme that says we should be thankful for the toys on the floor because it means we have children playing, we should be thankful for the dishes in the sink because it means we have food to eat and so forth.  We should be thankful for the women around us who do family life differently, because it gives us an example of how we can grow.  We should be encouraged to have other women in our life and and not set ourselves up competing with them.

We need to be able to look at people on their journey – be thankful for them, be there to support them (every one needs support in some form) and be ready to learn from them.  They too are on a journey – different journey than you, different situations, different struggles – but a journey towards a healthy happy family life. 

 

Instead of Comparing

2 keys to turn unhealthy comparison into joy

  • Be thankful for what you have – your family and friends, your resources and abilities, your opportunities, your community.  
  • Be ready to be a blessing to others.  What do you have in your hand, or what strength or ability has God given you that you can use to bless your family and others?

A sure fix for comparative-itis is focusing on others and not ourselves.

 

A little phrase I used to remind myself of the different needs of each of my four kids was:  The destination is the same, the journey is different.

This applies to us as mums, and dads – as parents – as we engage in our community.  There is always going to be differences between you and your friends, you and your siblings or inlaws, you and other families at church and in your community.  The goal isn’t to be all at the same place at the same time.  The goal is the destination.

This phrase – The destination is the same, the journey is different.  For me that destination was that I would have a relationship with my kids, that they would know God, love Him and walk with Him, that they would know how to make wise choices and have the skills to live a self-governing life as they used the gifts and talents God has given them.  That’s the destination – 

EDIT:  Actually, that is not the destination – we often make it the destination but my destination as a parent must be that I know that I have taught them that.  Because our kids actually walking in that is their choice and we can’t make that happen – so we have to be careful there.

So the destination is as a parent – that I know as a parent that I know that I have introduced them to God, I’ve taught them how to have a relationship with God, I’ve taught them how to make wise choices and I’ve given them life skills.  The choice to walk in that is theirs.

So you may have a similar destination in mind – but how we get there – that will be different for each of us.  

So comparing is pointless.  That is like comparing our journey around New Zealand with my folk’s journey around Australia.  Different journeys – and they need to be seen as such.

 

Heart Focused Action Step:

Heart Focused Action Step for this week is to catch yourself when you start comparing yourself with another mum, and judging yourself as less than.  In that moment I would encourage you to find a way to love on that person, and then turn to God and be thankful for the family He has given you, and the skills and the situations He has given you – and the fact that He has never left you as you travel this parenting journey.  I’m sure your heart attitude will have a shift!

 

Thank you Gift: 

If you have enjoyed the podcast so far please give a rating and review.  I have a bonus Heart Booster with a Parenting Quiz based on 12 Parenting Skills for the Heart Focused parent, and a bonus audio dealing with knowing you need to change and yet being content within yourself.  To get this Bonus Heart Booster you need to write a Podcast review, take a screenshot of it, and send it to me and I’ll send you the download!  (available till end July 2022)

Email me:  belindaletchford [at] outlook.com
Direct Message: instagram.com/belindaletchford
Message Me: facebook.com/heartfocusparenting

Instructions on how to leave a Review here: link

 

Further Reading:

How to Create a Heart-Focused Family Vision Statement: A Family Vision Statement reflects your heart as you describe the values and purpose that describe your family. Includes a free download.

The Issue of Comparing Ourselves: Comparing ourselves with others is not helpful, instead we need to know how we can learn from others.

Perfectionism Distracts us from our Purpose: When perfectionism becomes our focus we are distracted from our purpose.  We need to renew our mind; in keeping with the Bible. (Journal pages included)

Crisis Parenting – and How to Stop Doing it:  It is easy to busy parenting without actually dealing with what is important. This is Crisis parenting versus Intentional parenting.

 

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