frustration

How Are You Coping As a Parent?

By: Katy Martin, LPC

“You know, pull ups and training potties should come with a Xanax prescription.”

This is what I texted a friend a few weeks ago while I was in the throws of potty training my almost 3 year old.

(Side note: that statement in no way is trying to make light of medication. It can be a powerful tool when prescribed and taken appropriately.)

Raising children is hard work whether you stay home full time, work part time, or work full time. No matter where you are, those kids are yours ALL THE TIME.  Sure, it sometimes sounds easy and fun (can I get an Amen for nap time!) but these small people are reliant on you all the time. And there are a lot of really wonderful moments and seasons, but it’s a 24/7 job that can also be overwhelming.

How do you react during those moments of incessant whining, crying, fighting, or boredom? Maybe it’s your sweet new baby with acid reflux. Those moments of feeling utterly useless to make your baby or child feel better. Or the seasons when it just seems impossible to get a moment to yourself. Or the questions, the millions of questions, from your toddler.

Self-care and coping are so important in these situations. You can only give what you have, right? If you’re spent, overwhelmed, at the end of your rope, you just don’t have anything else to give. Sometimes we can muster up something to get by, but why should we settle for just getting by?

Here is a self-care list I came up with to start you and I out. Maybe you could add to it. Maybe you could tailor it to your personality or to your phase of life.  Consider what this would look like in your life.

*Connect with other people your age. Regularly. Play groups, church, work, time out with friends, etc

*Reach out via text, email, phone when you need it. This is where social media is on our side. Vent to a friend instead of taking it out on your spouse or kid. Talk to you someone so you’re reminded you’re not alone.

*Take a break. Turn the TV on for your kids for a bit without feeling guilty. Put yourself in time out for a few minutes to breathe, calm down, have one complete thought. Take a shower. Go outside.

*Practice mindfulness: take deep breaths, count to 10, direct your thoughts to the present moment and not the craziness.

*Eat healthy, get your body moving, and get enough sleep.

*What do you enjoy? What energizes you? Find a way to do those things even if it looks different than before you had kids. You are still YOU.

*Don’t compare yourself to other parents. Just don’t do it. We are all different and unique. Learn from each other but own your own decision and beliefs.

*Date your spouse. Your kids need this from you.

*If you mess up, lose it, or have a bad day, just start again. Apologize to your kids if you need. Don’t beat yourself up.

*If you start to feel completely out of control or that you just can’t manage, seek out a mentor, a therapist, a friend, or pastor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or investigate your feelings. Maybe more is going on.

You’re not alone, parents. In the moment I sent that text to a friend of mine, I felt better because I invited someone into my chaos which made me feel less alone, less crazy, and I was able to laugh at the tower of antibacterial wipes on my counter and the growing pile of laundry. I’m definitely not prefect at this but we all have to start somewhere.

What are you going to start today?

Getting Pruned

by Jonathan Hart, LPC

I have a Dieffenbachia.  It’s a tropical houseplant I’ve been growing for a few years now.  When I got it, it only had 4 leaves and stood maybe a foot high.  I stopped counting the leaves a long time ago.  It now stands three to four feet high.  Maybe I should say “stood”.  I have recently learned a great deal about the plant’s nature and needs, which resulted in my cutting it almost in half.  Let me explain.

The Dieffenbachia is also known as “Dumb Cane”, apparently because of it’s poisonous sap, which will cause throat constriction and even death if ingested.  “You’re dumb if you eat this cane”, I think is what the name means.  I, personally, call it “dumb” because it will grow itself into oblivion.  If you let it go, it becomes too tall for the root system to hold upright and it falls over, uprooting itself.  In order to properly care for the plant, one must cut off a fairly significant amount of growth.  New, healthier, growth sprouts from below the cut, and the plant is sturdier and more balanced.

I must confess, pruning seems counter-intuitive.  It feels destructive to me to chop off parts of the plant that are doing well, from which new growth is continually sprouting.  It seems wasteful to simply drop those leaves and stems into the trash.  (I actually planted the severed portion to see if it will take root and propagate.  I’ll let you know what happens, maybe.)  Yet the overall health and continued success of the plant depends on this process of cutting back.

Why the horticulture lesson?  Because this seems to be a beautiful, if unsettling, analogy for the human condition.  We are all about growth.  We love to get stronger, taller, to spread more leaves and challenge new heights.  Growth is good.

We don’t seem to like the idea of pruning much, though.  First, it means experiencing pain, and nobody likes pain.  I’m sure my plant was terrified as I approached with my knife.  Second, it means understanding that not all growth is necessarily good.  There is a kind of growth inherent in humanity that turns into pride, an appearance of strength that leads to catastrophe.  I love to see new sprouts on my plant, but I was utterly dismayed when I returned home one day to find that the plant had toppled over onto its neighbor, damaging both plants in the process.

There is a kind of pain that originates in our own actions and attitudes.  I am not speaking of the pain that comes from death, natural disaster, or the predation of others upon us.  I am speaking of the kind of pain that we experience as a natural overflow or consequence of our own actions and words. These actions and words grow from attitudes and a sense of entitlement that feels like strength; in other words, from pride.

The moment we believe we have overcome a temptation, that we have succeeded in surpassing the weakness that used to trip us up, we have entered a kind of denial that we often label as growth.  “I’m better now.  I wouldn’t do that! It’s no longer a problem for me.”  Pride is the language of “I’m better than that”.

I celebrate when I see anyone overcome a temptation or weakness, but I also cringe just a little, because I fear that in the certainty of having surpassed the actual behavior or attitude, they may come to deny that the core weakness to it still exists.  It is the core weakness that will topple us, for in the moment we believe we are proof against it because we have “come so far”, we let down our guard and open ourselves up to it all over again.  None of us is as strong as we think we are.

Wise is the one who will open him- or herself to pruning when it comes, who will humbly acknowledge the truth that their heart whispers to them and reveal it to a trustworthy helper.  It hurts, it’s scary, it changes things irrevocably… and it spurs new, real, balanced growth.  Those who resist pruning head for a far more painful tumble when the overwhelming weight of “growth” tumbles them from their pot.  The damage is greater, the recovery longer, the hurt done to self and others deeper.  The very hurt we fear from the pruning is intensified and broadened.

Not all growth is real or healthy.  Often it becomes an illusion of strength or competence, while on the inside we deny the toppling sensation we feel deep down.  Better to bring it out voluntarily and deal with it sooner -to submit to the pruning knife –  than to let it continue until we fall.

The Culture of Dissatisfaction

by Jonathan Hart, LPC

My truck is not what I want it to be. It is not new, big, heavy, or powerful. Its barely worthy of the title “truck”. My house is’t the greatest, either. There are a lot of ongoing repairs or refurbishments that need to happen… sometime. My computers are old and somewhat slow. My hair is starting to turn grey, and if i’m totally honest, there isn’t as much of it as there used to be. 

Something in our culture disposes me to see things in this way. The ads with which we are saturated in video and print and pixels paint a world that is in desperate need of repair.  This I affirm.  But the ads stray into falsehood thereafter. Universally, ads point to a fix.  “If you have this item, pill, procedure, or experience, you will be satisfied.”  They hint (but never say out loud) that the product they offer will be enough forever.  They, and we, know different.  But we are buying what they are selling.

The truth is that even millions in the bank, a rich family life, and all the possessions and stuff that we could ask for are not going to be enough… for long. All things (people included) age and decay.  All things (people included) break down and die. We rightly and achingly long for something more.  


Part of living well in this world is, to quote the Man in Black from “the Princess Bride”, “Get used to disappointment”.  Well, not exactly, but close.

The fact is that the things and experiences of this life cannot permanently or consistently satisfy us. Good comes and goes. Peace comes and goes. Contentment comes and goes. We run into trouble when we try to make these things “normal” and view anything else as sub-par or defective, when we make these temporary things more important than they really are.  We run into trouble when we depend on them to give us the one thing they absolutely cannot: satisfaction.


My truck is dependable, for now. My computer is enough to do what I need it to, for the moment. My family life is really good, at the moment. My house keeps me and my family warm and dry.  All of these thing will wax and wane. There is no ultimate fix that can be had for love or money in this world.  


Our hunger for more is good. Our awareness of lack and need is actually something to hold on to and allow for rather than trying to fill it up or soothe it. It points us to the something more that is intangible, and to the only thing that will truly, ultimately satisfy: it is our longing for heaven and the perfect eternity that God has for his children.