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Parent Servant

Strangers are often taken aback when they learn I have five kids (even though my Catholic, pro-life OB is constantly telling me I need to at least catch up to his 6!).

People with smaller families will often say things like, “I don’t know how you do it! My one (or two) kids take up all my time and you have 5!”

And I tend to laugh and reply with, “Oh, 5 is much easier! I have a slave labor force! I just delegate!” The English playwright, John Heywood, was absolutely right about “many hands make(ing) light work”, but my militaristic and self-centered parenting style has managed to turn the character building of chores into a required payment for services rendered.

Welcome to the next edition of “Combating Pride in Parenting.”

Let’s face it. When you have multiple children- of which all have been homeschooled over a period of 12 years or so- messes, even outright disasters, will inevitably ensue. That many people regularly at home creates clutter. And it makes sense to have those who contribute to the clutter help attempt to keep it at bay.

Unfortunately, an expectation of my children sharing in the load too often leads to resentment when I impatiently want something done right now and in the right (also known as MY) way. Add to that my incredible skill of simultaneously noticing multiple things not to my standard (while oddly failing to see those things that have been done) and you get a stressed out, frustrated mom with kids who don’t even know where to begin in accomplishing the litany of chores.

As I struggle to eliminate pride from my parenting style, I’m trying to shift my perspective from “being served” to “server”.

I have a lovely painting by an artist from the Northeast in which a mother sits holding her toddler child on her lap, exactly as many pieces of artwork depict the Madonna and Child. In this painting, however, the halo behind the mother’s head is created by the circular door of a front loading washing machine. It is my favorite piece of artwork in my home because for many years, it stood as a reminder that my sainthood should and will come from attending to the necessary (even if dull, repetitive, and seemingly unending!) needs of my family.

Over the years, the painting has slipped into the background of the house, overlooked because its place is expected. It is certainly the right time to revisit and revitalize its place as I wage war on my prideful self. This Advent, I’ve set a personal goal, to do myself, those things I see that need to be done, rather than delegate. I will quietly do those things I expect others to do for me.

My pride has wrought havoc on my life, and in particular to my approach to parenting. I’m a bit overwhelmed by how long it has taken me to acknowledge its control and seek to remove it. But perhaps another quote from Mr. Heywood will work to my advantage and see me through- “A hard beginning maketh a good ending.”

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Elizabeth Jara

Elizabeth is part-time home schooler, part-time Youth Group and Confirmation director, and full-time wife and mom of 5.

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