Parenthood is the ultimate balancing act. It seems like everywhere you turn whether its online, your friends or colleagues, someone is practically yelling at you to just slow down and enjoy your children while they’re young. They grow too fast they say. And it’s true. Trust me, we know it’s true.
So what are we doing instead of enjoying these precious once-in-a-lifetime moments that prevent us from being fully present with our kiddos? I’d venture to say quite a bit and lots of it is irrelevant.
Here’s a short list of things we are likely doing instead of the most important thing (being with our kids):
- We spend a lot of our time feeling guilty for not doing everything we think we should be doing for our kids
With a billion and counting articles about how to be a better parent, it’s no wonder we feel like we might be missing the mark. There is just so much information telling us how to do things that sometimes we lose touch with ourselves. It’s like, “hey – did I forget I’m an experienced human being and probably know how to deal with my kid in this situation.” We’re so focused on “parenting” experts and their opinions that we’re forgetting that part of being a parent comes naturally! We were made for this. Of course, professionals can and do have valuable things to say but might I suggest “intentional” research instead of just stumbling across information. That way when you have a problem you can actively search answers or suggestions and not have answers or suggestions find you first.
- We spend a lot of our time reflecting on how tired we are of mundane, repetitive tasks
I’d be hard pressed to find someone who actually enjoyed doing never-ending cycles of laundry, dishes, toy clean up, and endless dinners, lunches and breakfasts for picky eaters. There’s so much routine that sometimes it sucks the fun right out of the days. Despite having these chores, it’s important to number our days. Number our days with our kids being little and just number our days as living people! When we realize that each day is short in the grand scheme of things, we start to prioritize what’s really important. Maybe the laundry can wait. Maybe you don’t need to over-prepare meals and instead focus on kids being fed. Maybe you’ll find joy inviting the kids to help you prepare. Have soap fights when doing dishes or encourage kids to play dress up with laundry. Who knows what your imagination has been hiding from you.
- We spend a lot of time comparing our lives to others
The truth is, you can never fully compare yourself to someone a) you don’t know or b) you only know through pictures on your social media accounts. It’s just not possible. Pictures, videos or titles just don’t tell us the whole picture. Success is often gazed at by those who are struggling as something that was gifted – the picture of success doesn’t show the grit, determination it took to get there. Likewise, when we try to judge or compare ourselves to someone who is down on their luck: we cannot and can never know the full extent of their struggles, no matter how much we try to label, deconstruct or understand to prevent ourselves from having the same fate. Comparing yourself to others is like comparing apples to oranges. There is no comparison and spending time doing this is taking away your time from being “with” your children.
4. We spend a lot of time stressing on finances and futures
If I was asked 5 years ago where I’d be, I’d tell you I’d graduated from my master’s program and was working 9-5 at some high-paying benefit job with lots of vacation time. Then kids came along and my “future plan” never happened. My husband and I decided that it would be best for me to stay home with the kids. So we work our own business – and do we ever work. We pick times that work for us and we stick with it. Running your own business has its pros – you can pick when you get to go to your kids’ plays or when you need to take them to a doctor’s appointment, but being an entrepreneur also means you’re “on” all-the-time. No matter what you do, saving money is a virtue and serves you well when life’s ups and downs come crashing. It’s also important to celebrate victories. Some suggest saving 10 per cent, giving 10 per cent and living on the rest. The point is, when you save, you have security for your home and family when and if money gets tight. A rule of thumb for shopping is “don’t spend money you don’t have.” There’s also lots of cool side gigs online if you need extra money as a cushion. When you start to feel more secure about your money problems, you won’t be spending so much time thinking about it, and you can be more present with your kids.
5. Spending a lot of time thinking about how others perceive us
By the time I turned 30, I had assumed that I’d magically gain some sort of confidence that rendered me totally comfortable in my own skin and not caring so much about what others think of me. Boy was I wrong. Living life to please others is draining, and it’s also something we continually have to work on. You know when your kid starts feeling self-conscious and you can’t simply understand why? They are so great in so many ways, but they sometimes focus on one thing they don’t like about themselves. Imagine you do the same thing – you nit pick yourself like crazy. You’re your hardest critic. Treat yourself with the same love you treat other people and your priorities will start to change. Boundaries and saying “no” are not mean, but part of a process of giving yourself oxygen first. When you drop “people pleasing” and trying to make others happy you can start focusing on yourself and being present.
(News flash – can someone make you happy? no. Happiness comes from within you. Why do you think you can make someone else happy? It’s not your job – they have to work on that themselves),
6. We’re dealing with some sort of trauma
Whether its financial, a family member with a health condition, a dream gone awry, someone spewing their own crap on you, you’re always dealing with something that you’d just rather not deal with. Learn to live with what you can’t control, and come to terms with the things in life you can control. You can control certain elements of your own health by choosing a healthful lifestyle. You can control your career by taking some time and thought and choosing whether you’re in it for the long haul or if it’s just a stepping stone for the next thing. You can control how you respond to crisis by being strong and showing your kids how to carry on despite heartache. Give yourself the time you need to process the trauma that’s in your life and then determine that you’re not going to be a victim to your circumstances. No one wants bad things to happen, but when we look at problems the right way, we can grow from them. Doing this will allow you to cope and it will ultimately help you be more present with your kids.
Remembering that change doesn’t happen over night, taking small steps toward being present with your kids will help you and your kids enjoy every moment you have together. Sometimes change is painful, but small action steps every day will help you (hey – it helped me!) embrace your life instead of feeling like you’re just moving through it.