Article Oct 8, 2018

Why you shouldn’t despise the toils of parenting

Sometimes parenting can feel a lot like the plot of the movie “Groundhog Day,” especially if your kids are little. Each day can feel like a grind as you go through the same routines. You wake the kids, dress them, feed them, and then struggle to get out the door to school or daycare or play dates, or to simply begin another day at home. And by day’s end, the same toys have made their way to the same places you picked them up from the day before.

Each day concludes just like it began. The day winds down, and you sprint to complete the whirlwind cleaning tour just in time for dinner and bedtime routines. You then focus and struggle to get the kids to bed on time, so that finally, you might enjoy an hour or two of solitude or connecting with your spouse. After all of this, you turn off the lights and prepare to do it again tomorrow.

We just want a clean house

I’ve had the toils of parenting on my mind for a while. My wife and I have two small children. We spend our days in the grind of parenting. We love our kids. We are grateful to God for them. Yet, sometimes we just want a clean house.

Recently I was reading through the book of Proverbs, even as this issue occupied most of my thoughts. During my devotion one morning, I came across a verse that spoke directly to my frustrations with the daily struggle of parenting: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Prov. 14:4). Throughout the rest of that day, and for several days following, I returned to this verse again and again.

The proverb is simple and clear. Oxen are messy creatures. Moreover, they can be quite difficult to handle. As the writer observes, the absence of these creatures naturally relieves the burden of cleaning up after them. But as the verse also indicates, this is no true blessing. It is the oxen, and their immense strength, that allows the sower to reap an abundant harvest.

The bigger picture

This simple verse held a special meaning for me as a parent. I get tired of picking up the same toys every day and making the kids try new foods and fighting to get through family devotions before bedtime. But I’m learning that parenting isn’t about those things, at least not individually.

The one who is faithful in the mundane moments of parenting reaps the reward of family.

Raising children is exhausting. It takes immense love and commitment to be faithful to do the hard work of parenting day in and day out. But children are a blessing. In fact, the Bible tells us they are a heritage and a reward (Ps. 127:3-5). What I needed was a bigger vision of parenting and family.

This verse in Proverbs is still teaching me to look past the daily grind and see the bigger picture. Just as the one who cares for the oxen reaps the harvest, so the one who is faithful in the mundane moments of parenting reaps the reward of family.

Enjoy the moment

I know my kids won’t be little forever. One day I’ll miss picking up those toys. I will eventually miss the chaotic mornings and the less-than-Instagram-worthy attempts at Bible reading and evening prayers. I don’t want to wish any of that away. In fact, it is precisely in those moments that I need to see the bigger picture and remember the reward.

Parenting is difficult, but few things on earth bring greater joy than the precious moments I experience with my children. Whether I’m tucking them into bed, or they’re sneaking into mine before the sun rises, I want to enjoy those moments. And the same goes for the times when we are cuddled together on the couch or playing a game on the living room floor or building another fort out of blankets. Such things are too precious to allow them to slip away. To do so is to miss the big pictures.

My wife and I want to love our kids well while they are little. As we raise them, we must be conscience of what we are doing. In both the best and worst moments of parenting, we are creating a family to love and enjoy for the rest of our lives. And as we do so, we are able to pass on a legacy that will shape not only their lives, but the lives of many generations to come.

A clean house might bring us delight, but without our kids it would only bring despair. Even if the grind of parenting feels like “Groundhog Day,” every Christian parent should take heart: moment by moment, we are creating a heritage that will last for generations. And by the grace of God, our reward will be a family—not just one we will enjoy here on earth, but one with whom we can spend eternity, no longer burdened by the toils of parenting, but free to enjoy as a blessing forever.

Join the ERLC in Dallas on October 11-13 for The Cross-Shaped Family. This conference is designed to equip families to see that all of our family stories are shaped by the ultimate story of our lives, the gospel. Speakers include Russell Moore, Jen Wilkin, Matt Chandler, Eric Mason, Ray Ortlund, Beth Moore, Jamie Ivey, and many more. Register today to attend!

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