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Tender mercies rescue me from parenting burnout

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Oct 05, 2012

I’m giddy right now. Breathless.

Sometimes I don’t feel like “fighting the good fight.” Not that I’d ever swerve into a drive-thru and just cave into the social pressure already. I have a giant GSG logo on the back of my car, after all, and people around here know me.

Seriously, that’s not why I don’t go to the drive-thru. It’s because it’s anathema to me. I just don’t buy processed food. It is not in my repertoire. It’s a part of my far-distant past that reminds me of when I was sick and fat. Eczema and migraines and infertility and anxiety and addiction. Not a darn thing about it was good.

I know the drive-thru is a staple for most single parents. It’s how you survive the drive home from work, knowing when you get home there’s a nest full of baby birds with their mouths open.

Lately, to be honest, other parts of parenting have been burnin’ me out. Hard. Want to sell a kid some days. Give a kid away. Pay someone to take a kid. I’m a single mom with three teenagers, and a pre-teenager. Enough said?

(How did it come to this? I remember when I begged God for a baby, for five years, before lots of fertility drugs and artificial insemination and hoping and miscarriage and rollercoaster devastation and overly-scheduled sex finally got me Kincade. How could I say the word “burned out” and “kid” in the same sentence 20 years later?)

Nonetheless—here I am. Please forgive me.

And once in a while, God’s tender mercies just put the wind back in my sails.

I am driving home from a baseball game just now, and we’ve just dropped off Tennyson’s teammate. And Tennyson says to me,

“Mom, thank you SO much for feeding me so healthy, all the time. I actually really love it. I know sometimes I give you a lot of crap, and I say, ‘That’s nasty!’ But I know I’m super lucky. I know what you feed me makes me tall and strong. I love you so much.”


I’m stunned silent.

He continues: “My coach Jeff and [his son] Dallin, told me I have no idea how super-lucky I am that you feed me the way you do. Jeff said, ‘I wish my mom would have fed me like that.’ And Dallin said, ‘Yeah, me too. I wish I had THIS,’ and squeezed my bicep. And then he made his hands show HEIGHT, and said, I wish I had THIS.’ He wishes he was as tall as me.”

I’m so blissed out right now.

Thank you, Coach Earl. As if you haven’t done enough for my baby boy, you give me this, too.

Posted in: Nutrition, Parenting, Whole Food

12 thoughts on “Tender mercies rescue me from parenting burnout”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, Robyn! That is so awesome. Wish my kids would say that to me. Maybe someday they will. I will just keep on truckin’. Thanks for the motivation!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Seriously, you just brought me to tears. Thanks for sharing! Sometimes I feel like I live in my kitchen… washing, chopping, blending, cooking. Eating healthy, with 4 kids, is a big job! It’s certainly not fast and easy like fast food would be. And then there’s all the education and excitement about it that has to happen to get everyone on board for each new healthy meal that replaces something you can’t believe you used to buy.

    My oldest is 8 and I caught the first glimpse of this kind of thing last night when I was at parent/teacher conferences and her teacher told me she was shocked when my daughter graciously didn’t accept her treat for being so good in class for a certain number of days. And then she told me it made her remember back to the email I had sent her at the beginning of the year about how I didn’t love having sugar available to my kids in the classroom and if there could please be an alternative that would be great. Boy did I ever congratulate my girl! The teacher was very taken aback by it and then named off other rewards she could have instead of the candy. So, it’s sinking in!!!! Hooray!

    My 6 year old son loves all sports… and has been trying everything to see what he likes best, but then there’s always “the snack” (the poison) that comes at the end of the games. This year, he looks at it most of the time, asks me if it’s bad, and then carries it home to the trash. I love it! But I don’t make too big of a deal, just let him know that that stuff just slows your body down since it’s all processed, and doesn’t have anything good to feed your body. I tell him his body will just spend the next few hours trying to “deal” with it until it can get it out. He starting to get it too! And I love that my kids are making these decisions. They can’t be forced or it just won’t work.

    Thanks for all your inspiration! I learn so much from you! In a world where you feel like you’re the only one… there’s Robyn to keep you going strong! “The healthy’s unite, to fight the good fight!”

  3. Robyn O says:

    Ah, Shellie, there are the little gold nuggets. Grab them, put them in the bank. Because ask any mom of teens and young adults: the tough times are ahead. Less physically demanding, FAR MORE emotionally taxing. So we have to deal with the fact that every day isn’t sunshine and lollipops, but we look for little rays of sun and hang on tight. I love that your daughter makes good choices! You are awesome!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Parents everywhere….hang tough! There will be times with every child when you wonder if it’s worth it. My girls have been so great…and so difficult at times. But each one in turn has written “the letter” saying thanks for being the “mean mom” and helping them grow up healthy and avoid so many of the pitfalls of teenagerness and get to college without a bunch of baggage. Be grateful for the tender mercy moments, but don’t expect a lot of positive feedback till they are grown and out of the house:)
    You’re still doing the right thing!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Robyn, I love that you are so honest in your blog. You share the good, the bad, the ugly. Through the years of following you and your children I have always thought, “her kids will to come to realize what she has done for them one day and then thank her FOREVER!” I am so glad that day came sooner rather than later for you! The gift of health and future health that you are giving, the habits you are helping form… priceless. God bless you and your work!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for writing this. It is such an encouragement to me. I feel the same way as Shellie, like I spend most of my day in the kitchen. But I know that it is all worth it, and hopefully one day they will thank me.

  7. Thanks again for your honesty. When my kids are handed these extra “treats” and I am around they always ask me if it is healthy or not. I am always honest and try to let them make their own decisions. Sometimes they want it and end up eating maybe 1/2. Other times they have complained after eating a particular item that their tummy hurts, so I let them know it was probably what they chose to eat. It is doubly hard when grandma says “XYZ” is safe to eat….obviously, there is a disagreement here. I have learned to gently explain that not everyone believes as we do and some people make different choices. BUT as their mom, I am trying to teach them to make those healthy choices when they go off into the big blue world on their own.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Robyn, I was hoping you would have some suggestions for us. My daughter’s baby Ian was born with a diaphramatic hernia. Stomach, intestines, and spleen were in the chest cavity which caused him to not breath at birth. He was intibated and after 3days put on ecmo for 4 days. After 3 weeks they did the surgery to move stomach, intestines and spleen to the abdomen and repaired the diaphraghm.
    His liver is still housed in the embilical cord until he is a year. He is deaf and has eye issues. Ian has fought a great fight and is home now 3 weeks after 5 months in the hospital. Saying all this our concern is his possible failure to thrive because of the diagestion issues. He cannot yet suck, swallow and breath. Still on oxygen. He has a gtube. Doctors have him on breast milk and a fortifier to give him more calories and protein. He is having alot of trouble with puking and constipation. My daughter is looking for a more natural way to supplement her breast milk and releave him from constipation.
    Do you have any experience or sources to help us? Thank you in advance for any help!!

  9. This story is fantastic. It is so amazing to see these results in kids. My daughter is on an allergy-free diet, which means we had no choice but to raise her on whole foods. Now, three years in, she is taller and stronger than many of her classmates – with rosy cheeks and a clear mind. It is wonderful to see her ask for healthy smoothies instead of junk. I think kids appreciate this kind of eating more than we can know! That is why I love your story above. I think it soaks in after years and years of good practice. They eventually rise above the “stigma” of eating differently, and develop pride in themselves. Thanks Robyn for your wonderful suggestions that our family has put to use along the way!


  10. Thank you for this post. It is very inspirational. Teens are challenging but when they recognize your efforts as a mother, it really makes the day! Keep up the great work. Single-parenting is a drag but the little reminders from the teens which come, seemingly, once in a blue moon, make it all worth the struggle and burn. 🙂

  11. Anonymous says:

    needed this today, thank you.

  12. Dave says:

    Dang that was good stuff
    even teared me up and I don’t have kids
    Rock That Pyramid Robin!
    There’s an army growing aware behind you.

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