All too often we parents feel overwhelmed while raising our kids.
Our overwhelm paralyzes our parenting and we don’t accomplish all that we hope for our families. We’ve got a lot of ideas and things we want to do, but somehow another day passes without us actually implementing any of them.
Here’s a recent email that I received.
I have a young family with 4 children- daughter (7) twin sons (4) and daughter (2.5). I feel so overwhelmed that my intentions get paralyzed and I don’t take the actions I want for our family. I want to create traditions, I want to travel, I want more one on one time with my kids. I want to have family meetings and lessons but I’m too paralyzed and I’m not taking action. I’m afraid that I can’t have the family of my dreams that I want to have. If you have any advice at all, I’m all ears.
Dear Overwhelmed Momma,
Go easy on yourself.
You are in the heat of the parenting battle right now.
I know from experience that mothering four young kids is overwhelming, but let me give you some insight from the home stretch. My firstborns are heading toward adulthood and nearly 16 years has passed by so fast.
Look at this picture.
That was then.
IT’S IMPERATIVE WE TURN OUR PARENTAL WANTS INTO NEEDS
You expressed a ton of desire in your note as you mentioned the word want six different times. We all want to be the best parent we can be. Unfortunately, a want is simply a desire that doesn’t necessarily move us to action.
We can’t go through life wanting to connect with our kids or wanting to make memorable moments happen. We need to do such things because they are essential to a strong, connected family and it’s a short window that we get to make it happen.
A need differs from a want in that it requires something because it is essential or very important.
Let’s rephrase your note replacing want with need and see how that feels.
“I don’t take the actions I need to for our family. I need to create traditions, I need to travel, I need more one on one time with my kids. I need to have family meetings and lessons but I’m too paralyzed and I’m not taking action. I’m afraid that I can’t have the family of my dreams that I need to have.”
When we need to do something, instead of just want to, it makes the desired action a must instead of just a maybe.
We must make this shift in our parenting.
This is my reality today.
That’s right, I’m practically running after my firstborn sons just trying to keep up and you’ll be doing the same one day.
Not every day, every week or every month has to be fun filled or full of lessons and memories. But, Overwhelmed Mother you will soon be at a point where it will be too late to implement the things you had hoped to. The truth is you will soon find yourself parenting four teenagers who you will be grasping to connect with.
How does an overwhelmed Mom take action when she feels paralyzed by parenthood?
By parenting from the end. By envisioning that seven year old daughter as an eighteen year old walking out your door to college.
We can’t parent just for today. We must do our best to be present and in the moment, but our parenting plan needs to be focused on the end. We must think about our child heading out in to the real world soon. What do we want our young adult to be equipped with?
Design a plan to thrive instead of just survive.
1. Prioritize family meal time
Don’t worry about having family meetings yet, as your kids are young. Instead focus on gathering together for family meals and conversations around the dinner table as often as possible. Get everyone comfortable learning how your family connects and operates now so that when you transition to holding family meetings, gathering around the table and communicating feels natural.
I know it looks messy, loud and chaotic at that table of yours right now. That’s okay, do it anyway, even if you have a headache and a lot of clean up to do after. Family meals are the most powerful tradition you can instill in your home.
2. Create adventure
Traveling with a lot of little ones is difficult, not to mention expensive, so now may not be the ideal season to vacation. Plan small adventures instead. Set up the tent in your backyard or pack up a picnic lunch and head to a beautiful nearby park.
Dream and plan for bigger adventures you would like to take in the future. Think about where you would like to go together and when would be an ideal time to do that with your family dynamics. Plug that future vacation in to your family plan and prioritize it to make sure your adventure becomes reality.
3. Date your child at home
Grab one on one time with each child by letting them stay up alone with you just 1/2 hour longer than their siblings. Play a game, read a book or share a special treat together. Just this simple time will make each child feel special and build your relationship.
4. Make a 5 year plan for your family
It’s important to visualize the road ahead so that you don’t just drift and end up off course not doing any of the things you had hoped to do. It’s too difficult to thrive in a busy household without a plan.
In five years, your oldest will be knocking on the door of teenagehood. Make the most of these middle years as you will soon find her pulling away in middle and high school and it will be too late to incorporate all the little things you had wanted to. Don’t let this truth paralyze you, but motivate you to action instead.
By visualizing the end of your full time parenting role, you can absolutely cultivate the family of your dreams by acting on one desire at a time.
The dust bunnies, the piled up dirty dishes and all the things that appear as urgent today can be put off. Those things can wait, but your children cannot.
Blessings from the home stretch,