"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
December 31, 2014
Nine Ways that Parenting Makes You Better
by Amy L. Stevenson

Whether you were standing at the proverbial water cooler with your fellow employees, or at a park play-date watching kids run and scream on the play equipment, you've done it. You have told the story of something awful or terribly hard that happened to you and then sighed, with relief and a smile, when someone else understood how you felt.

It's natural for us to want to commiserate about things that are tough. Maybe that is why mommy blogs, and Facebook, and Pinterest all suck us in. We want to have shared experiences. We share on all sorts of subjects.

The one I want to address now is parenting. I have noticed an awful lot of articles with lists of things that stink about parenting (for some reason we all love lists). Most talk about the everyday things that are frustrating, and sometimes they throw in that little abstract statement, "...but it's all worth it" at the end. But they don't really convey why it's worth it.

Everyone understands that those articles are an exercise in stress relief. Right? Maybe not.

I see articles with titles like, "Why I Will Never Be a Parent," and I wonder if parents are scaring off the next generation of parents with those sarcastic lists of why parenting stinks. So just to be clear to all of you non-parents:

Parents sometimes say these things because we are looking for a little validation in what can seem the mundane parts of parenting, just as you complain about annoying parts of your job or difficult schoolwork.

There are boring parts of everything in life, so please don't misinterpret parents and believe that children are a horrible vortex of stickiness, expense, and exhaustion. Many of you seem intimidated, or even terrified of being parents. It's really not that scary. 

In fact, parenting actually adds to your character in ways that are otherwise difficult to achieve. So in the interest of settling your fears, and validating the countless wonderful families out there, here are nine things that make it on the parenting-stinks-lists, and why they can actually be really good for you:

  1. Baby messes. The best way to learn to love someone is to serve them, and babies give us that opportunity without questionplus they love us back! We have the opportunity to fill another's needs when they cannot do it themselves and experience what it is to be selfless. When our parents are aging and need us to do for them what they once did for us, we will be pros!

    Add to your character: Altruism (unselfish concern for another)

  2. Questions. They believe we have all the answers! "Why do people hit each other? Why should I be honest? Why is the sky blue?" Now we get to really think about human nature, morality, and maybe even do a little research to learn something new. We can discuss philosophy, religion, and science with someone who will hang on every word!

    Add to your character: Cognizance (thinking and knowledge)

  3. Field trips and classrooms. This is when we get to see who the next generation will be. We meet the peers of our children and realize that they will be the people running the businesses, government, and senior centers when we are old.

    Now is our chance to squeeze in some mini lessons on manners: "Remember to say please when you ask for something;" "You two don't agree? Well you are going to have to find a compromise;" "Everybody watch out for your 'buddy' and keep each other safe!"

    Add to your character: Humanitarianism (contributing to the human race)

  4. Teenagers. They can have a great sense of humor beyond the knock-knock jokes of their early years and, if they trust you, they will share some experiences that will bring you a smile — sometimes accompanied by a groan.

    It's comforting for them to know you went through similar things and survived to chuckle about it later. They are deciding who they will become and we get to help guide them based on our experience as teenagers.

    Add to your character: Empathy (experiencing another's feelings)

  5. Money. It seems like a battle we can never win, but honestly, we're going to spend that money regardless of if we have children. The issue here is one of budgeting. What is the best use of our money and what do we really need? We may have to pinch our pennies tighter, but we also have little people that can't wait for us to pick them up and pinch their cheeks.

    Add to your character: Prioritizing (choosing what is most important to you)

  6. Exhaustion. We have been tired, but it won't last forever.

    Adding a new baby to our lives is like starting any new job. At first we feel exhausted and overwhelmed all the time because it is all something we have never done before. After a while we find a comfortable place and can relax a little more.

    You may say, "But I can't quit this job if it's too hard!" That's true. Sometimes our greatest triumphs come only after conquering great challenges. The reward comes because we don't quit.

    Add to your character: Perseverance (doing something even when it's hard)

  7. Loss of self. If all of my time is spent caring for children, then who am I? This is one question that I have wrestled with. I tend to think that as a parent, I have to put myself last.

    But that's not the way it is supposed to be. I can be a _______ (surfer, writer, inventor, stylist) who also loves and cares for my children. When we decide to take some time for ourselves, we will be able to find it.

    Add to your character: Multi-tasking (doing several things at once)

  8. Evil influences. Many fear the evil in the world, but rather than trying to hide from it, we get to face it. Evil cannot live in the light of day. It requires fear and secrets.

    Loving and building a generation of children who see good in the world and relate to a Heavenly Father is the best way to make evil lose its grasp. Giving one child a sense of purpose and unity with eternity gives them power to bring joy to countless others.

    Add to your character: Hope and Faith (believing that right will win in the end even when it seems impossible)

  9. Attitude. We're not talking about the pouting, or the stink-eye. Yes, there is that. What trumps all of that though, are the glimpses of our child's soul that nobody else sees.

    It comes in a moment when our children truly knows we care about what they do and how they feel. There is a connection and a sparkle in their eyes that communicates directly to our hearts. It cannot be described in writing or captured in any photograph. We hope you will see and feel it.

    Add to your character: Compassion (a loving heart)

There are many more ways that parenting is good for you and will make you a better person. So don't let those Facebook posts and articles scare you. Parenting is as much for you as it is for your children. Think of it as a growing experience and an adventure. None of us are perfect parents, but we love our kids. We do the best we can and are better for it.

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About Amy L. Stevenson

Amy Stevenson grew up in central California but ventured to Utah to receive a bachelor's degree in human development from Brigham Young University. She has been using her degree every day since then as a stay-at-home-mom to her son and three daughters.

She believes that parenting is more than telling children, "Be good!" It is about surrounding ourselves with good things, and then acting in a way that reflects the good we have found. She has always enjoyed discovering how people become who they are and has a blog where she shares clean, good, uplifting ideas and resources for children and families in hopes of helping them become their best selves.

Along with her husband and children she has lived in nine different cities in three states, which has taught her that people are good everywhere and there is something to learn from every experience. She and her family now live in Simi Valley, California -- and hope to stay there.

Amy serves as a ward missionary and teaches the gospel principles class.

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