I became a father a little over four years ago. Before that, my wife and I had been married for eight years and worked together on our small business. We were used to working long days, coming and going as we pleased, and eating out at nice, quiet restaurants. We used to have a Cheerio-free backseat in our car. But now we have two kids, which practically makes me an expert at parenting.
An expert at knowing how little I actually know about it, that is.
Not having our first child until well into our marriage came with advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, we developed strong communication skills and had lots of time to discuss our hopes and strategies for parenthood. On the downside, we were pretty well set in our ways.
Eating out at nice, quiet restaurants is easy to get used to, after all.
Our first four years of parenthood were a challenging transition, as we learned how to juggle babies and the business on much less sleep than we were used to. I think we're doing ok, but I still struggle from time to time with the new season I find myself in.
Seasons. Just as the year is divided into spring, summer, fall, and winter, our lives are divided into different seasons. Our life at fifty looks a lot different than our life at twenty.
My problem is that even though I am in the new season of early fatherhood, I still act like I should be doing the same things I did in my previous season, pre-kids. How can I work the same hours and accomplish the same number of things as I did before I had kids? It’s as frustrating as it is impossible. On the flip side, it often feels like the season I'm currently in will last forever. (Any other new parents out there feeling like you'll be changing diapers FOREVER?!)
In the decade before kids, my job was to help people feeling rushed, stressed and overwhelmed. I worked long hours, did a lot of networking, made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot about business and marketing. With a lot of outside help, I was able to create a solid business that provides for my family. Now that the business is more stable than it was in the early days, I have the opportunity to put more focus on my role as a father and husband. It’s not that I’m supposed to neglect the business, it’s just that this season requires me to allocate my time a bit differently.
Because no matter who you are, or where you live, or how much money you have or don't have, the one thing we all have in common is that we only get 24 hours per day.
And when we try to pack our day like a family of five heading out on a cross-country trip in a Mini Cooper, stress is sure to follow.
Stress happens when we forget what season we are in and try to do too much.
Are you in a state of near-constant overwhelm? Are you always feeling rushed, wishing you could find a way to add a few more hours to your day? Perhaps you are trying to do things that aren't required of you during this particular season.
It would be easy if there were some obvious things you could sweep off your plate. Bad stuff. Useless stuff. Unimportant stuff. But it’s not a matter of doing things that aren’t worthwhile. My guess is that everything on your plate is good.
It’s awfully hard to let go of something that’s good.
Wanna know a secret?
Just because something is good doesn’t mean you have to do it.
Sometimes we have to say no to the good to say yes to the best.
Maybe some of those good things can be let go of now that you find yourself in a new season. And maybe some good things need to be put on the shelf until the next season. For instance, if you are seriously ill, maybe you need to give yourself permission to let go of some of your responsibilities so you can focus on getting well. If you are a parent, perhaps your career ambitions need to be downsized a bit in order to become the parent you want to be. Or maybe some of your social activities or volunteer efforts can be resumed when your kids are a little older.
Is it easy? Of course not. But neither is a life spiraling out of control, burdened by busyness and stress.
Slowly but surely, I’m learning to let go of the guilt of not working as much as I used to. I’m making a point to notice, appreciate, and savor the exciting blessings that are new to this season I now find myself in. I’m enjoying the breathing room that has been created by cleaning a few things off my plate, allowing more time for my kids, and more time for God.
And I’m realizing that as great as a quiet meal at a nice restaurant can be, it’s nothing compared to a quiet evening spent with a one-year-old eating Cheerios out of my hand.