The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
Lamentations 3:22-23

I grew up in Brazil where rice and pinto beans were a staple on every table and a pressure cooker was a staple in every kitchen. You had to know how to use one though or you’d run into trouble.

One of my Brazilian friends was in his office one day when the pressure cooker in the company kitchen blew. As the pressure built up, the little top started to hiss. Soon it started its happy spin around and around. But then happy turned to angry and–boom! Globs of beans plastered the wall and dripped from the ceiling. 

Sometimes, that’s what happens in parenting.

The pressure builds–you know how it goes, a demanding job, helping kids with online school, and just being in the same space every day ALL THE TIME–until you feel like you’re going to explode.

I’m not real proud of it but I blew under pressure plenty of times.  Unlike the pinto beans that landed all over the kitchen, the harsh words and piercing looks I handed out couldn’t be cleaned up. Instead I felt incredibly embarrassed at how I’d treated my family.

I’ve since learned that the same tips for using a real pressure cooker are great tips for handling parenting pressure too.

How do you keep a pressure cooker from exploding?

Don’t fill the pressure cooker too full.

Every pressure cooker has a “maximum line.” Go over it and the pressure cooker will likely blow.

Every parent has a maximum line too. What’s yours? 

You might be shaking your head and saying, “But that’s the problem! I’ve got too much to do!”

I hear you. But if you look at what’s on your plate (or in your pressure cooker), what’s something that could maybe go? One single dad I know drew the line at washing dishes. He made an executive decision to stick with paper products. That may not your choice but it was one thing he could do to keep his head in the parenting game.

Remember that your maximum line is different than your best friend’s, your mentor’s, your next-door neighbor’s. Be you.

I used to live next to a woman who homeschooled five kids and ran her own educational software business.
“How does she do it?” I used to ask.
Translation: Why can’t I pull it together and do more?
It took me awhile to realize that I wasn’t her; I was just me. My maximum was different than hers.

So don’t feel guilty about cutting back on previous commitments you’ve made. Let someone else take the lead planning the food drive or serving two volunteer shifts at church. Those things are all good, but if they push you over your maximum line, it’s not worth it. Know your boundaries and your kids’ and stick to them. 

DelegateStrong parents know how to delegate. Delegating not only moves responsibility off your plate, but delegating empowers the one you give it to. That’s why teaching your kids chores is so important. 

One mom rarely asked her teenager do household chores. Why? She felt bad for him and didn’t want to bother him. Never mind she was overworked, constantly adding to her own to-do list while her son was missing out on the chance to grow in responsibility. 

Obviously coaching your kids how to take on chores is an up-front investment that takes organization and time. Teaching my five-year-old boy how to clean the bathroom wasn’t fun. It took me a lot longer to scrub the tub with my little guy than to do it myself. But in the end it paid off and he learned a new skill. 

Cooking, cleaning, emptying the trash, doing the dishes, laundry–all those chores can add to the stress. So delegate!

Release the pressure in a safe way.

With a pressure cooker, you can release pressure from the pressure cooker three ways:

  1. Let it sit for a while off the stove until the pot cools down.
  2. Speed up the process by running the pressure cooker under cold water until the pressure dies down.
  3. Or–very carefully—flick the valve up and let a little steam out a little at a time. 

To keep your head in parenting, you have to find safe ways to release the pressure of parenting. Go for a run. Shovel snow. A half hour outdoors surrounded by nature can impact your perspective on life in a hurry. 

Another way to release the pressure is being in community. When I was laid up for eight months, an older woman from our church brought me a bowl of homemade soup and gave me her listening ear. That made my long days shorter and the pressure at home a little less.

We NEED community. If you want to stay sane and be healthy mentally, it’s a non-negotiable! God designed us to be in community! Sure it’ll look different with covid, but there are creative ways to make it work.

We have a fire pit in our woods, so during the spring, fall, and now winter we’ve had small groups of people around a bonfire.

Our jr high pastor, Heather Flies, recommends families partner with a “covenant family” with kids the same age. Families commit to staying safe and socially distance from others in order to hang out with each other.

And consider including grandparents into the “pod” of people you allow into your inner “social distancing” circle. Not only are many of them incredibly lonely, but you and your kids need them, their presence, the wisdom and experience they give. When it works well, family can be one of our strongest safety networks.

Clean the pressure cooker. 

After you use a pressure cooker, you have to clean it up good. Then it’s always a good idea to check the sealing ring and the “spinner” top.

Take care of yourself. Every Christmas morning for a number of years I had a sit-on-the-bed sobbing meltdown. It was my husband who finally figured out that all the sugar I was eating after Christmas baking was impacting my moods. Not to mention all the extra work I poured into making everyone else’s Christmas perfect. 

Eating well, getting sleep, and staying active helps you cope with pressure in a healthy way. 

Forget being perfect. Last year I worked hard to get ready for a speaking engagement for young moms. I shared creative ideas for kids and brought all kinds of props, objects lessons, and crafts to show. What caught their attention though was a minor point I’d slipped into my talk: Forget being perfect and aim for progress instead.

I’m not talking about being perfect in how your treat your kids and your spouse—that’s something you should always strive for. But trying to force life around you to be perfect.

I tried so hard to keep the Legos sorted and the puzzle pieces in a Ziploc bag. I tried hard to keep the carpets white and made everyone take off their shoes.

But all that just adds to the pressure of the most important job of all–just being a parent. The real gift is embracing the gift you have–a son or a daughter–and sharing and cultivating their enthusiasm for life and for God. “If I had to do it over” by humorist Erma Bombeck perfectly captures what it means to set aside being perfect.

Be still and listen to His quiet voice. My husband was out of town one weekend and a complicated parenting situation came up. I walked into a small room off the garage and begged God for help. In the stillness that followed, I heard God speak. It was like he was standing in the room with me. I’ve had that happen many times–usually not when I’m running around crazy busy. He speaks when I’m still.

“Listen to me,” he says, “and you will eat what is good…Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life.”

Isaiah 55:2-3

What happens when you’ve done all you can, and you still feel like exploding?

I mentioned earlier that “exploding” was a problem for me. I knew I wasn’t supposed to get angry and irritated, but I did–over and over again. I’d try to be more patient and fail, then try and fail all over again.

Then the MOST AMAZING THING happened. Seriously, it absolutely revolutionized my life. More on that here.

© 2020, Carol Garborg (updated from the original post October 2019)

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