Monday, February 20, 2012


Leanne Penny is a good friend of mine.  She has a knack for writing and is in the process of publishing her first book.  I feel so lucky that she wanted to share a little of herself with us today.  Enjoy.

Parenting in the Valley
by Leanne Penny

I’m the proud and busy mom of a 1 year old son and a 2.5 year old daughter.  Just before the birth of our son, as I was plowing through my third trimester, my own mother took her life after a long and hard fought battle with depression and anxiety.  Processing the pain and shock of her suicide has been a big part of my parenting journey, so when Jenni offered me the option of writing for all of you I thought long about what unique insight could add to the archives she’s already shared with us.  I would like to write about what its like parenting your way through a difficult season in your life.  I feel this important because it will to all of us at one point or another.  Be it grief, divorce, illness or something entirely other, you will find yourself parenting in the valley.  Here is what I learned that helped me hold our family together even when it seemed as though things were falling apart.

1. Seasons- When we hit a valley season in our life we can fall into the trap of thinking that our family room will always feel gray and depressing.  It won’t, life is composed of seasons, both light and dark.  This is just a chapter in your family book, a formative one yes, but not the defining one.  If you fight on, there will be others and that spirit will be what defines you.  Don’t lose hope, instead grasp it tightly, you will need it.

2.  Back to Basics- When you’re struggling, it’s okay to strip your routine and to-do list down to the essentials and just “get by” for a while.  Eat a few pizzas, let the dust build up, buy jarred baby food and do whatever you need to do to make things easier for your family.  Real pain takes real time to work through and heal from.  Graciously cut yourself as much slack as possible.  My mom died just before Christmas and I stayed in on Thanksgiving, didn’t do Christmas cards and I didn’t decorate the tree.  I took baths and read books, I didn’t do much more than take care of my daughter and breathe and I have no regrets about that.

3. Accept help- When your family is going through a tough time, typically friends and family will reach into your world to offer help.  Accept it!  Say yes to the childcare and  casseroles and allow your circle of friends to help you in practical ways.  People want to assist you, it lets them feel like they are helping you through and it takes a load off of your already burdened shoulders.

4. Take care of you- Not only do you need to give yourself grace on the cooking and housework, you have to give yourself grace inwardly too.  You won’t be able to connect and engage your kids as much as usual, this does not make you a bad parent, just a hurting parent.  Have faith that your kids will be resilient along side you and attend to them in spite of your pain.  Make peace with the fact that you won’t be functioning at optimal levels and know that you’ll need space to sift through all the new emotions you encounter.  Don’t be afraid to talk to a doctor or a counselor as you heal, seeking help doesn’t make you weak, but wise.  I benefited greatly from a insightful counselor and an antidepressant for a time.

5. Elephant Chats- There is an elephant in your living room and it must addressed.  One of the things that can break families apart is dealing with struggles separately and not corporately.  You have to talk through your reality.  Frankly with your spouse and honestly with your kids at whatever level is appropriate for them.  Don’t bury or pretend, you will be stronger for weathering the storms together.  I can tell you honestly that my aunts, uncles and cousins are a very tight knit group and it is largely to do with our commitment to bear pain together.

6. Choose Joy- Attitude is a choice.  Don’t pretend to be thrilled or giddy in the midst of your pain but don’t forget that every season has its gifts and bright spots.  After my mother died, my friends were gifts and my kids kept me grounded.  I chose to saw the small bursts of light in the midst of the darkness and as time passed I found that the light overtook the gray.

Your valley won’t define your family or your parenting.  I know that it’s easy to believe that when you’re living in it.  I had to learn how to be a mother while dealing with the suicide of my own mom and I can tell with tenacity that the mental illness of my mother does not define or frighten me.  Your family’s future depends on your resilience and I want my kids to learn resilience in the storm.  We can model this for them by engaging difficult times with honestly and perseverance.  By doing that we will equip them to weather storms they may have to face without us.  Like you, I want to shelter my kids from the pain that this world throws our way, but I’m a realist and I know that’s not an option.  So instead I am determined to teach them to push on by doing so myself, come what may.

Leanne Penny shares her story about hurting, healing and choosing joy at her blog at

Leanne R Penny

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