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, back talk, whining, homework assignments, craziness at work, discipline problems–until you feel like you’re going to blow.

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? 

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.

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

So don’t feel guilty about cutting back on what you’ve taken on. Let someone else take the lead planning the school book fair. Have kids choose a single sport or a musical instrument to learn instead of doing both. Say no to hockey for a season; your son will survive (even if he’s in line to make Pee Wee A this year). Keep the kids home for a family night devotional instead of running them to church mid-week. 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. 

I know one mom who rarely had her teenager do household chores. Why? “My son is just so busy with school.” She herself was overworked, constantly adding to her own to-do list while her son was missing out on the chance to learn how to grow in responsibility. 

Obviously coaching your kids how to take on chores is an up-front investment that takes time. Teaching your six-year-old boy how to clean the bathroom isn’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. 

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. Rake the leaves. A half hour outdoors surrounded by nature can impact your perspective on life in a hurry. 

Look for an older mom who can mentor you, maybe not in a formal way but someone you can ask questions of. Find another dad you can talk with.

When my son was little, my mom lived far away in South America. I’d never heard of a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) or a ECFE group. I wish I had. What saved me was a close-knit small group from church. We shared fun times, sad times and deeply spiritual times. They were the ones who helped me when pressures built up.  

When I was laid up for eight months, an older woman from our church visited me once a week. She brought along a bowl of homemade soup and her listening ear. Just having someone near made my long days shorter and the pressure at home a little less.

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. I tried hard to have company over and have my house look great while doing it.

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…and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Until next week then!

2019 © Carol Garborg

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