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. 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.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think the most important things in life are?”


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