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I recently had the chance to interview Dr. Shannon Warden, co-author of Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Became Parents. (Make sure to read my review and enter the giveaway!) Dr. Warden is a counselor, and is a faculty member at Wake Forest University. She gracefully handles a career and motherhood as well as writing a book! Being a full-time working mom was the hardest season of my life, and I lived that season pretty resentfully. I think that’s why I was so impressed with Dr. Warden’s input in this book. When I decided on questions to ask, they mostly revolved around challenges that moms face and how to handle them. It’s sort of like a mini-counseling session.
What are the major parenting challenges parents face now that past generations didn’t experience?
SW: One thing that has changed is that more families are dual-income families, meaning that moms and dads are both working to make ends meet. This may require that parents arrange their schedules to manage childcare, and childcare can be a major time management and money management issue. Also, because both parents are working beyond their household and family “work” duties, household upkeep, getting groceries, and recreational activities end up having to be done during what may have in the past been “family time.” Having two incomes helps to pay for the costs of raising children, but it also creates other challenges.
Dads are now also even more involved than they may have been in the past. I say of Stephen (my husband) that “he is better than a lot of women and better than most men at taking care of the children.” He really is an amazing father. And, I couldn’t do all that I’m doing without his help.
I believe, too, that our society today is busier than in the past. More children are more involved with things like sports, dance, music, and educational activities earlier in life than they were in the past. Parents may feel pressure to get their children involved early so that they don’t somehow “fall behind.” We’re wise to really weigh the pros and cons of all the opportunities available to our children. Ultimately, we want to find a do-able and healthy balance for our children that doesn’t overwhelm them or put undue strain on our home life.
Technology is another difference for modern families. Children have tablets and electronic gaming systems now, which can be both a blessing and a burden. Here again, parents have to weigh the pros and cons of technology and decide how it is that technology helps and hinders home life and children’s overall development. Certainly technology has many pluses, but we have to limit it so that, for example, we and our children engage with one another through relationship-building that comes by way of talking, playing, reading, and praying together
Is there a specific parenting philosophy that you follow?
SW: Early on in my training as a professional counselor, I learned about the importance of developmental teaching and developmental parenting. This simply means that we recognize the stage of development a child is in, and then base our expectations on that reality. Often, we as parents are asking more of a child than he or she can do at that point in their development. For example, expecting a child to sit perfectly quiet for an extended period of time is unrealistic…unless of course they are asleep! Yet, parents sometimes get so frustrated with their children when they “won’t sit still.”
Developmental parenting may seem like a “no-brainer,” but I’ve certainly had unrealistic expectations at times, and many “good parents” I’ve counseled have had not-so-great-parenting moments because of expecting more of a child than what was realistic. The good news is that thinking developmentally saves us and our children a lot of undue frustration
In your book, you said that none of your children slept through the night until they were three. What advice do you have for moms about remaining your best self while exhausted?
SW: Expectations come into play here as well. All children do not sleep consistently through the night or consistently across childhood. And, so rather than feeling like a failure or that I should somehow “have the answers,” I simply embrace that “this too shall pass,” and I roll with mine and my family’s reality. I don’t hold us to an unrealistic expectation of “they should be sleeping through the night,” “what’s wrong with them,” or “what’s wrong with me?” This flexible mindset and realistic outlook keeps me from stressing so much about the issue of sleep. And, less stress equals better mental self-care.
Of course, sleep is important—for us and our kids. So, I say to other moms: “keep working on consistent bedtimes and bedtime routines, etc.” And, for us as moms, let’s make the most out of the rest time we do have. The house-cleaning can keep a while longer, and we can afford to put off folding the clothes if it means we can maybe rest a few extra minutes or sneak in an occasional nap. That goes back to us needing to maintain healthy, realistic expectations and accepting that this is our current “normal,” but it won’t always be this way
How can moms balance the need to play with and be present with their children and the need to take care of themselves?
SW: We have better energy and can be better, more focused moms when we’re making time to take care of ourselves. We might not have the same amount of time for self-care that we did before having children, but we can be creative and find ways to recharge our emotional, social, physical, and spiritual batteries. Like most other things in life, we have to work for balance. It doesn’t come easily sometimes, but balance is worth working for. And, even the smallest amounts of self-care can be just what we as busy moms need to keep moving forward!
What advice do you have for moms who want to raise Christ-followers?
SW: In all things, including parenting, we can and should work to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5) and of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2). We often generally aspire for this as Christians, but parenting should inspire us all the more to push ourselves to follow the model that God and Jesus have provided us. That doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes. Of course, we will make mistakes! But, even then, we can model for our children the importance of apology and repentance. In fact, that’s one of the best things we do for our children, is allow them to see us humble ourselves before the Lord, asking for His forgiveness, and when we wrong our children, asking them for their forgiveness.
Thankfully, God doesn’t hold us to a standard of perfection. He gives us Truth in the form of the Bible; He walks alongside us; and, He is a gracious God who gives us many, many chances in life. When we rest in that wonderful Truth, and do so consistently across time, our children will see us living out our faith, and this will increase the chances that they, too, will trust in and follow God.
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