feeling overwhelmed

5 Things I Wish I Knew in My 30s and 40s

My friend George plopped into his chair, slumped his shoulders, and closed his eyes. “I’m feeling overwhelmed,” he said. “If someone else wants a piece of me I’ll probably collapse like one of those Jenga towers when you pull out the last block that’s holding everything up.”

“Word,” I said, trying unsuccessfully to sound cool.

He wasn’t done. “I always feel like I’m on demand,” George continued. “I’m working my rear end off. I have three kids in elementary school. I’m pulled in a million directions. I’m not even 40 yet and I feel like life is running right over me.”

George sipped his coffee and sighed. “You’ve been there. So what have you got for me?”

I’m no expert, but I have been there. In fact, what I didn’t know in my 30s and 40s almost cost my wife and me our marriage.

So I shared my thoughts with George regarding how dads often get overwhelmed because we make the wrong things the priority. [Tweet This] Here are 5 things I wish I knew in my 30s and 40s.

1. Family must come first:

In other words, don’t give your family your leftovers. Family is our first responsibility and must be our primary commitment. Everything else is there to support our first love; family works best if it has our complete attention and our unwavering commitment.

2. I don’t need to have it all right now:

When I think of how much money we spent on eating out and buy new cars unnecessarily, it blows my mind. Those two items alone would have paid off our mortgage by now. Most of the stuff we stretched ourselves to purchase does nothing to improve life over the long haul. The added pressure only makes things worse.

3. My career does not define me:

Climbing one more rung up the ladder, corporate or otherwise, is of little consequence compared to my calling to love, enjoy, nurture, and encourage my family. What I do is not who I am. Who I am is a husband and a dad.

4. My children will never be this age ever again:

A friend was struggling with two high-energy kids and some tension in his marriage. Things were hard and he couldn’t see life ever being any different. But the kids were born, graduated from high school and gone in a few months shy of twenty years! “What happened?” he said when he was 46, “I think I missed too much!”

5. The strongest advantage I can give my kids is loving their mother:

We want all the advantages for our children, and rightly so. So we spring for tutoring, we get involved with elite sports, we lean on them to be exceptional, and we work extra hours and weekends putting your marriage on the backburner. Achievement is good, and it’s fine to want the children to excel. But the best advantage we can offer is to love their mother with commitment, faithfulness, kindness, devotion, and creativity. It’s the only edge your family really needs.

Sound Off

What do you do when you are feeling overwhelmed?

Derek Maul

Derek Maul is the author of five books, a nationally recognized men’s resource, a committed encourager, and a pilgrim in progress. He divides his time between writing and traveling to speak about the fully engaged life.

  • Ben Williams

    Great article, I will make an effort to remember these 5 things any time I start to worry or feel drained. Thank you.

  • Mike Launikitis

    Hi Derek. What priority does God fit in here?

    • Derek Maul

      Hi, Mike – I believe God must be involved as the subtext – the ever-present undercurrent – in all these areas. I couldn’t adequately invest myself in family, or loving my wife, or anything else outside of that relationship…

  • CJ

    Been there, done that and it didn’t work out. I did put my family first. I was the dad that coached his kids in their sports teams and was there for every single school and extra-curricular activity, was there on the weekends, was there in the evenings. I was the dad that loved his wife so much that she couldn’t handle it and disconnected and had the affair. I was the one that put God first and made sure our family went to church every week, was involved in the church at every level (which is where my wife found her affair partner, too, mind you). I never looked to climb that stupid God-foresaken career ladder — but I should have because I was not the provider I should have been and it put more strain on my wife to be more of a bread-winner than I ever liked (not out of a power thing but just because of circumstances and my job field that never allowed me to earn what I needed to to provide for my family).

    So when I look over your list and can honestly say in my whole heart that I did all those things and my life is still a flipping train wreck and I ask God what the heck happened as I don’t have the relationship with my children that I’d like, my marriage is disconnected and my wife is barely in it (even as we go to Christian couples and individual counseling weekly).

    Call me jaded, call me skeptical, and no, there is no correct formula that even if you invest all your heart, mind, soul, time and resources to trying to love and be there for your wife and children and everything else that is supposedly “the right thing to do” in life (church, school, athletics, etc.), it doesn’t guarantee you a D#$% thing!!!!


      I’m sorry for your struggles. What I can tell you is that you can only control what you do. Sometimes we make all the right decisions and still lose. No matter what path you took my guess is that she would have cheated. You continue to walk the road your on. Make sure every day that you can look at yourself in the mirror with a clear conscience knowing you put your family first and that you set the example for your children of how a man should be. Stay strong brother.

  • Arden Ballard

    Boy, do I need to remind myself of this… I travel a lot with work on the weekends and always want to keep advancing in my career. This is another APD article I’ll print off and use as wallpaper to remind myself to enjoy the “now”!

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