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 a Jenga tower.” He wasn’t done. “I always feel like I’m on demand. 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 that. Family works best if it has our complete attention and unwavering commitment.
2. I don’t need to have it all right now.Most of the stuff we stretch ourselves to purchase does nothing to improve life over the long haul.
When I think of how much money we spent on eating out and buying new cars unnecessarily, it blows my mind. If we hadn’t done that, we would have paid off our mortgage by now. Most of the stuff we stretch 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 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 20 years! “What happened?” he said when he was 46. “I think I missed too much!”
5. The best gift I can give my kids is having a good relationship with their mother.
We all want to give a good life to 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. Achievement is good, and it’s fine to want the children to excel. But the best advantage we can offer is to love and respect their mother. It’s the only edge your family really needs. And if you aren’t married to your kids’ mom, the best gift you can give is to have a good relationship with her. Work on it.
Sound off: What do you do when you are feeling overwhelmed?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think are the most important things in life?”