How we can find rest in the whirlwind of early parenting
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From Luke’s Journal 2022 | Rest | Vol.27 No.1
I sat with my friend as the kids perused their playmates with giggles and waves. Half-eaten sandwiches and hot chocolate stains were scattered across the table – a chaotic painting of parenthood.
As we talked about the future challenges we might face, my friend remarked, “Thankfully it doesn’t happen all at once. God gives us time to enjoy and work through each stage.”
In the following months, I appreciated the truth in this. How did we make it through the storm of sleeplessness, the initial pain of learning to breastfeed, the navigation of all sorts of advice, healthcare visits and anxieties? How can we look forward with peace knowing that everything will be ok? With every cry for help and discovery of what works, we remember the faithfulness of God.
Isaiah 41:10 says this:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
God is faithful. He knows us; all our desires, what we can handle, and how we will react. He gives us time that is enough, even when it seems to fly right by. The demands of early parenthood can be tiring, but the concept of keeping a “Sabbath” has never been so important and we know God makes a way for it because He loves to give rest to the weary.
While getting that perfect night’s sleep may not be possible with little ones, we can at least try to get some in. There is so much sleep advice available and every family will find what works for them. One big thing we have learnt is to accept and ask for help. Even an hour of someone watching the kids while we lie down or have some time to ourselves is worth it. I have often remembered, and been encouraged by these words from a past sermon: “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to get some sleep.”
Be still my mind
Every day I have my plans: wake up and get ready, get the kids ready, breakfast, pre-school drop off, groceries, laundry, dishes, prepare dinner, reply to messages, organise photos. Somewhere in the whirlwind of things to do, there is a gentle voice urging me to slow down and take a moment for rest.
It is not wrong to make plans. Being organised and prepared is a necessary part of looking after a young family. However, there is a problem when my mind is constantly looking for what to do next, and when I cannot rest my racing thoughts. What about God? God who gives rest to the weary and heavy-laden, God who deserves the best and first of my attention.
“…there is a problem when my mind is constantly looking for what to do next, and when I cannot rest my racing thoughts.”
Be still my mind. In the craziness of my daily schedule, I can pause to worship God. Just constant small time-outs to say “Thank you Lord” , to listen, hear and be refreshed in spirit. I find I get anxious when I don’t make time to pause and reset my mind. However, a simple Scripture brought to mind, or even five minutes reading a passage in the Bible can completely change my perspective on things. God’s word reminds me to cast my cares on Him, and that it is what He thinks that is most important, not what others may speak to us. God’s promises, His love and His faithfulness give rest to my anxieties and restore hope in my patterns of thought.
There is a village
Being a parent can seem lonely sometimes, but having people to support us and share the journey keeps us encouraged and refreshed. Social support networks are well known to contribute to wellbeing. As parents, these may come in the form of family, friends, parent groups, playgroups, and other child-related music, dance and sporting communities.
“When things feel overwhelming, it is good to know that others have been there before and that we are not alone.”
Whether through long-term relationships or a fleeting contact, many people have contributed to much needed moments of encouragement and we are thankful for this. We have been grateful for practical help, prayers, words of encouragement and the simple joy of seeing smiles on faces.
When things feel overwhelming, it is good to know that others have been there before and that we are not alone. What a gift God has given in friendship and fellowship.
“Peace, I am with you”
Jumping into parenthood changed many things; priorities, lifestyle, work and the way I served at church. I reflected, observed, reasoned, feared and matured as I came to understand the heart of a parent. I realised that without trusting God, there would be no end to worry because so many things are out of human control or are simply unknown possibilities. Sickness and tragedy could hit at any time, friendships could change and who knows what the future really holds?
With all these changes and uncertainties, the greatest thing that gives me rest in my parenting journey is the knowledge that God is with me. We all may at times feel judged, inadequate or simply overwhelmed. Yet, there is a peace that comes from knowing that God cares, that He knows all things even before they come to pass, and that He is always there and waiting to speak with us. We can pray about anything, knowing that our Heavenly Father loves us and is good to us.
“Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
The hymn “Be Still My Soul” has the following verse:
Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake
All now mysterious shall be bright at last
Be still, my soul, the waves and wind still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
The journey of parenthood may traverse a turbulent sea but God is able to still the waves and wind. So, we remind ourselves to rest our bodies, still our minds to hear His voice, and let His peace fill our souls.
Dr Kristen Dang Dr Kristen Dang is a GP who loves music, writing and anything artsy. She lives in Adelaide with her husband, young daughter and son.