A father with two young children asks, “Is there anything you could recommend to make my family life less awful?”
I can’t wave a wand and make it enjoyable. However, I take comfort in the knowledge that there are many people that enjoy young children.
Let’s start with some tips for maintaining your personal sanity and your marriage.
Listening to parents talk about their kids, and the scars of their own childhoods, it’s universally reported that little kids are challenging people to live alongside.
My current experience is one day out of ten is very tough. If I want to get dramatic, then I can extrapolate to 40 days a year that are awful… more than a month a year in suffering!
However, if I look deeply then it is closer to 100 hours a year, and I’m with my kids a lot.
Looking even deeper… I break it down to a couple “moments” each day where I need to resist my urge to retaliate and settle a sensation of internal panic.
Five years ago, it was closer to ten “moments” a day, and I spent far less time with the kids.
It’s important to recognize the positive trend line in our lives.
So what seems like constant bedlam (to my remembering self) is, more accurately, twenty moments a week when I need to be skillful, or simply not make the situation worse!
From the time your oldest turns two until your youngest enters first grade — it’s not about you.
If you were the prettiest girl in high school, the captain of your varsity sports team, or the highest achiever in your firm then this reality will come as a shock.
I understand that you are shocked by your situation.
I was also shocked.
We should both set a date to get over it.
Your kids are going to present you with an opportunity to become better than you are.
Take the opportunity because a self-serving attitude will become one of the key regrets of your life.
Most of the pain I felt in the early years had to do with a conflict of choice => further external validation versus doing what’s best for my family.
So I jettisoned the easy stuff – anything that cost significant time and money – went.
What has worked is redirecting the additional spending towards childcare that enables me to spend time with my spouse and alone (in nature, in silence).
You might find it tempting to let your spouse get overwhelmed – losing health, embracing addiction, breaking down mentally.
Make a pact that you won’t let each other go that far. The kids will grow up and neither of you will want to be married to that sort of person.
What You Control
What changes can I make to offer my family a better version of myself?
- Say no to non-core
- Practice not-response
I work on a small scale and life consistently gets better.
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