There is always something to do, always someone who needs or expects something. Some of the demands come from others. After all, when a baby needs a diaper change or fed, there’s not much of an option. When a toddler falls down and has a skinned knee, a mommy kiss and bandage are necessary. When the first boyfriend dumps your daughter, you drop everything and let her vent, or take a trip to the ice cream shop. But so many of the demands come from ourselves.
We rationalize someone else is placing the demands on us. After all, how can we possibly not…(fill in the blank of anything we think we’re supposed to do but are struggling with how we can do it all)? Pressure comes from within because it’s what our moms did (or didn’t do) or is what other moms are doing (or slacking from doing). But we still have choices. We have to be the ones to set priorities, not our moms, our friends, or our children. We have to take responsibility—not just for our tasks but also for our demands.
Start with how you expect yourself to respond to (what you perceive to be) others’ demands, especially your children. “Mommy, I want milk!” “Mom, can I go over to Hannah’s house after school, pleeeeaassse?” “Mom, I really want that dress. It’s the last big dance.” “But, Mom, I need gas money. I can’t work more. With everything else, I can’t fit any more hours into my schedule!” “I know you’ve been busy, Mom, but don’t have anyone else to watch the kids this weekend, and I thought you’d want time with your grandkids.”
I’m sure you can do some rationalizing. I’ve been good at it, too. I didn’t want to raise bratty kids, so the more they begged, the less I caved. I saw so many other moms who would say “no” a dozen times, relenting on the 23rd time someone begged, teaching their kids to persevere because, eventually, they would get their way. Since I didn’t do that, I could claim I wasn’t letting my kids’ demands affect me.
When we resort to comparing ourselves to others, we’ll always find someone better or worse, allowing us to rationalize whatever we’re doing. Just because we don’t “give in” to our kids’ demands doesn’t mean we’re not letting the demands of having kids put pressure on us. Even the least needy kids are needy. Parenting comes with demands, because it is saturated with responsibilities. We don’t have to make it worse by inducing a victim-mentality on ourselves by constantly feeling overwhelmed, trapped without options. We also don’t have to make it worse by assuming we have control over it all, that we can manage and be supermom. There’s no such thing.
What we can do is be realistic about the demands that aren’t going to stop as long as we’re moms. During a particularly frustrating season of parenting for me, I knew something had to give. I couldn’t control all the demands, but I could do something about the way I responded to and even felt about them. I got into the habit of taking a deep breath and asking myself, “What demands do I think are on me right now? Who put them there? How am I going to respond?” The truth is I wanted to do my best for my girls. And I knew that I could only do that if I kept it all in perspective—not mine, but God’s. When I let him filter the demands, I almost always got a sense of peace, even in the midst of chaos. Maybe everything I thought should get done didn’t get done. But everything he wanted me to get done did.
What demands are you feeling right now? Who is putting the demands on you? Be honest with yourself. Let go of the demands that aren’t intended to overwhelm or distract you.