It's often remarked how hard a job parenting can be. There are differing opinions all over, from 'Being a SAHM is the hardest job in the world' to the more career oriented 'SAHM's lack ambition and are setting a bad example' school of thought.
Modern day motherhood seems to be suffused with guilt, no matter what you do, someone will judge you. Stay at home - don't you want to teach your kids about work ethic? Work - why have kids just to dump them on other people?
Others think it's awful to dress your kids in second hand clothing, or put them in a play pen while you get 5 minutes peace.
There are others still, who condemn women who don't nurse, without wondering for a second what their story is - without having walked a mile in their shoes.
Then there are the different parenting approaches - strict routine vs baby-led, co-sleep vs cot, etc, etc. Are you stimulating your child enough? Do you have them signed up for this or that play group, or class?
Why do women do this? To ourselves, and to each other? Aren't most of us just trying our best, in the circumstances God has saw fit to place us in? Does it really matter if a harassed mummy with a new baby and an older child, drops off her eldest at kindergarten and has her hair unbrushed and sweats on? Does it matter if your house isn't always immaculate? Is it the end of the world if children get a bit mucky in the course of the day?
Yes, parenting can be hard. It's intense. It's constant. It's unpredictable. Sometimes it seems that the very times you need a little break, for the pace to slow down just a little, are the very times your kids want to be full of mischief and mayhem.
But parenting is also fun, and immensely rewarding. It is, probably more than any other path in life, the living out of 'the little way'. It is a job without pay, but rich in rewards.
Lately I've been wondering what past generations would make of 'the stresses of modern parenting'. Did women worry about these things when they had to wash and mangle laundry by hand, or when they had to shop for groceries almost daily? Were they concerned with whether or not little Jimmy took music lessons, when they sometimes had to pawn someones Sunday shoe's to pay the rent?
My point is not to say that the times we are living in aren't hard, or that they don't contain their own, unique challenges. I just think a little perspective is needed. Most (western) women today have more in material goods and opportunity than ever before. The opportunities for our sons' and daughters' have the potential to be greater still.
We are blessed in this day and age with so much. Sometimes I think we need to step back, put the 'stuff' and the schedules aside, and realise that many of these modern day stresses are of our own perception, and our own making.
We need to trust God, and ourselves, and get on with the job of loving and raising our families, in whatever way works for us. We need to support, and listen, and learn from one another. We need to avoid judging others, or being overly-rigid in our own approach.
Above all, we need to laugh, and love, and count our blessings.