As parents, we are spread very thin. Between school drop-off and pick-up, work, errands, cleaning, potty-training, discipline, meals, sports, you name it, it is easy to feel burnt out. And when we are feeling burnt out we find ourselves more easily annoyed, irritated, and withdrawn. We often forget to choose happiness and joy when we get consumed by pet peeves and spinning the hamster wheel of parenthood. I was recently reading How Happiness Happens by one of my favorite Christian authors, Max Lucado. He does an awesome job of reminding us that when we find ourselves in that cycle of irritation, we have the ability yo stop “squandering joy” and start giving grace.
Be Patient With One Another
When you are around the same people all the time, it is easy to get annoyed by their shortcomings, quirks, and habits. As parents, and especially as parents in a pandemic lockdown, we are around the SAME PEOPLE ALL THE TIME. And we have little to no break from them. I don’t know about you, but I often find myself rolling my eyes at every noise, habit, and even physical touch.
But, Lucado reminds us that we all have a “joy account”. Say we start the day with our joy account is at max capacity. But then we allow every little aggravation to chip away at it. Then each little nugget of joy will slowly float away until we are left with none. Joyless. And if we have no joy then we can’t possibly be happy. And if we aren’t happy we can’t possibly be the parent, spouse, and friend God intended us to be. But Paul said, “Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
Things That Steal Joy
An example of a joy-stealing, happiness-sucking spiral in my house might look something like this:
-Wake up to dirty dishes in the sink. Blame husband and feel resentful. There goes a piece of joy.
-Kids won’t listen and get dressed for school causing me to raise my voice. Bye-bye, joy nugget.
-I have to run errands while my son is at pre-school. The cashier is slow-moving so the check-out line is too long causing me to rush. And I am late picking him up. Poof. More joy is gone.
-Son keeps making an annoying, repetitive noise that irritates me to no end. I snap at him. Last ounce of joy out the window. I am a depleted grump. Don’t dare get in my way.
Reframe Pet Peeves
When I read back at my reaction to all of those events that happen, I realize I sound pretty miserable. But, Max Lucado tells me that I am in control of that reaction. I have the choice to let pet peeves, and other people or events steal my joy OR fill me with joy. Instead of getting annoyed at my husband for not doing the dishes, I can say, “He works so hard and is exhausted just like me. I’m sure he will get them next time.”
And instead of mindlessly yelling at my kids to get dressed I can stop, gather myself, look them in the eyes and grab their attention, helping them along in the routine. Instead of badgering my son all day long, for making weird noises that make me want to pull my hair out, I can give him grace. I can choose to love him and accpet his quirks instead of making him feel weird, annoying, or not good enough all because he has his own different habits.
Build Each Other Up
We are called to “encourage each other and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) By letting other people and their actions decide our happiness, we will always be let down. But when we give others grace and embrace each others’ and our own imperfections and shortcomings we allow ourselves the opportunity to give and receive love. In order to love others the way Christ loves us, we need to treat others with respect and make them feel important, not annoying or less than. “Regard one another as important.” (Philippians 2:3)
I encourage you to start today. Get rid of your pet peeves. Stop dwelling on the things that annoy and bother you and start filling your happiness cup with things you love about yourself and others. A shift of perspective and a reframing of circumstances might be all you need to move from”spread thin” to plumped up with joy. And remember, you’re not perfect either…I am sure there are things you do that irritate others too. But chances are they love you anyway!