Love Your Family: How to Put Them First
Sometimes it seems like the most important rule in our culture is “the busiest person wins.” Our society calls us valuable when we accomplish something in every single moment of every day.
This makes us think we need to do the same thing in our family to be a successful mom. We need to involve our kids in sports and music. Art and public speaking. We need to go to the library. Bring them to every children’s museum. We need to never stop.
We think our kids need to become the best soccer player, the smartest student. They need to practice 5 days a week and spend hours doing homework. Our culture glorifies putting all these other things first. Putting anything but our family first.
But I say we need to stop.
We need to stop letting ourselves get sucked in to over-activity. To stop putting the world’s standards above our own. We need to stop putting everything else first. We need to simplify our lives. And we need to put our family first.
It’s time to let go of the world and live for your family. Follow these 8 steps to stop getting sucked in to “everything else” and learn how to simplify your life to put your family first.
How to Simplify and Put Your Family First
1. Say “Yes” To Things That Energize You And Your Family
Spend time together as a family. Whether it’s a relaxing day at home or a fun day trip, spend time together. Plan time just for your family. Do activities that let you grow closer. Spend quality time together to talk and work on your relationships.
Go on dates with your kids, not just your spouse. My kids love special time with me, when my attention is completely on them. I can feel the tension when we go too long without a date. Special dates don’t have to be crazy. My son loves to pack a few dinosaurs in his backpack and share a donut at the coffee shop. My daughter loves to go to Goodwill and pick out cheap knick knacks. Spend special time with each kid, to make them feel special and loved.
Rest without guilt. You need to be energized to be able to take care of your family. Or to function at all! Don’t feel guilty about taking a nap or asking for help. Taking a few minutes for yourself can help you be a better mom.
2. Take Care of Yourself
Respect yourself. As a mom, sometimes we forget we have needs as members of our families. I catch myself scraping leftover bits of scrambled eggs off my son’s plate for my breakfast. But I can make myself a real breakfast. I need real food to have the energy to make it through the day. As a mom, you still need food, water, and bathroom breaks.
Take time for your marriage. Your relationship with your spouse forms the climate that shapes your kids’ development. A frozen tundra of icy stares and the silent treatment isn’t a fruitful environment. It’s barren. It prevents growth. A healthy relationship between you and your spouse will help your kids grow. Care for your relationship, even if you feel guilty that it’s taking time away from your kids. Because it’s not. They need it.
Trust your own judgement. You know your family better than your nosy neighbor does. You know what’s best for your family. Don’t let other peoples’ opinions shape your actions. Do what you need to do for your family, even when other people look down on you for it.
3. Be Purposeful About Your Schedule
Prioritize family time. If your schedule tends to squeeze out family time, pencil it in. Treat it like any other commitment. It needs to be done.
Evaluate your activities. Look at each activity on your schedule. Does it make your family happier? If not, get rid of it. We had a family day trip planned, with snit fits galore before we even walked out the door. The baby screamed for an hour in the car and the other kids missed their naps. The trip was a flop, and we were all exhausted and snippy. The trip did more harm than good. We ignored our instincts to cancel and suffered through it because we thought we should. Take a deep look at each activity you do, even the “fun” ones. Make sure they’re helping, not hurting.
Take it slow. When you feel overwhelmed, do something small. When you accomplish something, even something tiny like putting on makeup, it can give you satisfaction and take away the overwhelmed feeling. It will help you think more clearly (instead of freaking out) and evaluate what you want to tackle and what you want to ignore.
4. Let Your Kids Be Kids
Let go of your high expectations. It’s more important for your 4-year-old to play pretend than to be able to read at a third grade level. Don’t force her to spend hours on schoolwork so you can “win” at parenting by having the smartest kid.
Don’t live through your kids. Let your kids have their own opinions. Their own likes and dislikes. If your son doesn’t like soccer, don’t make him practice four days a week. Of course there will be some things your kids don’t enjoy but need to do. But there are also plenty of activities that shouldn’t be forced. Especially things that are supposed to be fun.
Let your kids get bored. Make sure your kids have time to relax and use their imaginations. Simple things are good. Like throwing rocks and hitting things with sticks. Make sure your kids have time to do it. It’s more important than binge-visiting every museum in the state. Don’t get me wrong, we love children’s museums. But keep time for the kids to entertain themselves. You don’t have to be their constant mode of entertainment. They need down time to grow.
5. Say “No” To Things That Drain You
Say “no” to peer pressure. There are always things other people want you to do. Go to birthday parties, visit 5 different families on Christmas, organize a fundraiser. Use your own judgement and say no to the things that drain you. Never do something because someone else thinks you should, when you know it complicates your family life.
Be a quitter. Every moment is precious. Give new activities a trial period. If they don’t add anything to your life, stop doing them. Quit and be proud of it. There’s no need to waste time doing something that serves no purpose or is even harming your family life.
Remember service starts at home. Serving people outside the home is a wonderful thing to do. It can teach our kids valuable lessons and can be very rewarding. But it’s not wonderful when it takes away from your family. You serve others by serving your family first. They’re the most important “others” to take care of.
6. Don’t Burn Yourself Out
Don’t be a perfectionist. You have a to-do list full of laundry and dishes and dinner and cleaning the bathroom. But you can’t do them all in one day. It’s better to leave the laundry for tomorrow or eat dinner from the freezer. You can’t do it all. And that’s ok.
Your kids are your most important job. You’re not a maid, a chef, scheduler, or handyman. You’re a mom. The other things are extras. Don’t put them first.
Don’t try to win the race. Your mom friend might help out at the soup kitchen once a week, bring her kids to drama practice, take yoga classes, run marathons, and show off trophies from her kids’ spelling bees. You don’t see her home life. Probably because she doesn’t have one. All the activity could be killing her family’s closeness. Don’t try to copy her or race her. Slow down and enjoy the view instead.
7. Don’t Let Life Take Over
Keep an eye on your daily schedule. How have you been? “Busy.” Always busy. Every moment of every day is full of something. Be intentional about scheduling rest and down time. Otherwise a million little “busy” things will creep in and take all your time away.
Plan ahead. Meal plan before grocery shopping so you don’t have to go back to the store three times to pick up things you forgot. Stop on the bank on the way to get your oil changed. Kill two birds with one stone (not literally). Be efficient doing the chores, the things you need to do, so you have more time to do the things you want to do.
Don’t give in to stress. Oh, the stress of being perfect or meeting expectations. Stress and overwhelm paralyze you. Remember what’s really important and focus on it. Look inward at your family when you’re tempted to look around you and keep up with other people.
8. Don’t Get Sucked In
To the craziness of over-activity. The need to “go-go-go” to be good parents. Kids need love and downtime, not constant entertainment.
To the “best mom” competition. The expectations piled on you can crush you. Don’t try to be a perfect mom. It’s an impossible goal. Don’t try to be the best mom. Don’t even compare yourself to other moms. You can only see a small slice of their pie. For all you know, the rest is burnt and nasty. Keep your eyes on yourself and your family.
To the “awesomest kid” contest. You’re not sponsoring your kids, you’re raising them. Don’t force them to do fifth grade math in second grade, or triple backflips when they hate gymnastics. It’s great when your kids are naturally good at something. But don’t push them to be the best when they want to be a kid.
To social media. It wastes your time and makes you feel bad about yourself. Know when you’re in too deep and pull back. Use it for recreation, not as a habit.
Leah Rogers went to school for Cognitive Neuroscience and Behavior Analysis, and uses both in her parenting every day. She writes to help other parents implement the same tactics easily in their own lives to become the best parents they can be.