My wife and I were talking recently about how "busy" life feels. I get home from work around 6 during the week, by the time dinner, dishes and the kids are taken care of, it's time for bed and not much energy left for anything else (Home group study, seminary study, decompressing with each other etc...). It's not like we have 4 kids who are involved with sports while performing elder duties and other extra curricular stuff.
How do you guys do it? You have a ton of kids. Z does Friday/Saturday night concerts on a regular basis. You have regular date nights. You lead a home group. You are prepping a church plant. Doing the crazy home video workout routine. How do you balance everything, maintain sanity and joy, and keep going?
I know that children typically bring a more busy life, but why does it just feel insane? Is this normal? Are we missing something with time management? Life order or lack thereof?
ANY thoughts/time you can give would be greatly appreciated.
You are not insane. I think most young parents feel what you are feeling at some time or another. I know we certainly did and still do at times. I don’t have any magic formula, but these are simply some points that come to mind as I reflect on our life.
1. As you do, I have a rockstar, off the chart, amazing wife. She sort of holds the ship together for us. I could never do half the things that I do if Kim wasn’t as supportive and loving as she is. She has a ton of energy to manage a lot and I would be lost without her. Having her only work 5 hrs a week max has been a blessing for our family.
2. We don’t watch much T.V. I’ll catch some sports on the weekends, but during the week, generally speaking, the T.V. is off. I just feel as though my appetite for trivial things has slowly decreased over the years. It’s amazing how much you can get done if you forsake the brain-rotting, titillation box.
3. We are very intentional about doing things WITH the kids. So, I’ll never go to the store by myself, I’ll almost always take a kid or two with me. Kim usually does the same. We seek to capture whatever moments we can with the kids.
4. One of the things we have learned from another family is the idea of “special dates” with the kids individually. Once a month, of the day of the month of their birthday, the older two kids get to have a special date with Mom or Dad. So, Taylor was born on Sept. 22nd, thus on every 22nd of the month get goes out for ice cream with Dad or Mom. I find this is a great way to structure intentional time with our kids. On these dates we seek to make it spiritually meaningful in our conversation.
5. Your stage is really hard. Having a toddler and a new baby is very physically demanding. They don’t really play together and they need constant supervision. In some ways, my stage right now is easier. The older kids play together and sometimes entertain each other for long periods and the younger kids are influenced by the older kids in terms of behavior. In some ways the older kids function in small ways like parents in that they can help remind the younger ones of right and wrong, what is off limits, and how to communicate in loving ways. Laying a great foundation with the older kids really helps the younger ones in the long run.
6. As our kids get older, I’m sure we’ll limit their activities. I can say for sure that they will all play piano and maybe one other activity beyond that. Especially when they are young, I would rather have time to do activities with them as opposed to shipping them out to doing it with other influences. For example, I probably won’t put Taylor in a basketball league until he is much older. He’ll learn way better from me than he will playing “herd ball” with other little kids his age and then we get to spend intentional time together that will hopefully translate into a great relationship when he is older.
7. In the end, I think you just sort of get used to the chaos. Sometimes, we have friends come over how don’t have any kids and you can sort of tell that they are like, “How do you guys live with all this noise and madness?”. From our view, it’s just kind of how we roll. Four kids don’t come out all at once and we have grown in our ability to manage many different things simultaneously. I remember being at your stage when we lived in Nashville. We had a toddler and a new baby. As a stay at home Dad for three days a week, it was really hard for me.
In some ways, I remember feeling the most overwhelmed when we only had one new baby. The thought of staying home with him by myself was about enough to bring me to tears, but today I am taking all four of our kids on a school field trip and feeding them lunch while we are there. As a young parent the thought of doing what I am going to do today was the most horrific thing I could conceive of, but over time you get used to managing it all.
8. There certainly are times when we feel like we are losing it. At that point it is my job to have a good meeting with Kim and talk through how we can better align our lives so that we are functioning not as reactionaries to the schedule, but rather implementing structure so that our priorities can be realized. We have had many of these hard meetings over the years. Sometimes there is nothing we feel like we can cut and just have to “gut it out” for a few months. Other times, it’s simply a matter of communicating better about what is coming up in the next few weeks. We have gotten into the habit of emailing each other calendar appts. so that we can be better aligned.
9. I think your feelings of “insanity” are somewhat relative (which isn't to dismiss them). What feels insane right now might not in a few years as you grow into a different life stage and as you get more comfortable with the chaos, or learning what you can cut out to limit the chaos. You will grow over time in your ability to manage all these things. Hang in there bro. This too shall pass! In my view, in some ways, where you are right now might be as hard as it gets... er, on second thought, it will just get harder in different ways I believe, so hold on, pray, and know it will be gone soon, so cherish every moment.
Great Post. You don't know me from adam, but I like to read your stuff. Helpful thoughts for a dad with a 3 year old, 19 month old, baby due in mid-January and an adoption occuring in late 2010.
I don't even want to pretend I "manage" my life...it's more like, "If I can get at least a quarter of my weekly to-do list taken care of, my baby girl is diapered, fed, and snuggled with, my son has his homework taken care of, clean clothes, and a decent meal in his belly, my husband has plenty in his lunch box for work and his socks don't stink, and the house isn't a fire hazard, then by the Grace of the King, I'm doing pretty good!"
thanks for sharing, Zach. This is really helpful!
Z, thanks for posting this. We have a 3 year old and a 1 year old, and my wife stays home with the two of them. It's struggle, but it's good to know that we're not alone! And great advice for all of us. I truly appreciate it.
Right on Z. and rightful honoring to Super Kim! I think learning to support, affirm, encourage, enable, etc one's wife is of primary importance in managing life with kids, ministry, work, etc. I'd be equally lost without Rosie being high-capacity by God's grace in granting her a desire to grow in that way.
This came through in your post but can't be emphasized enough - we must say NO. No to the frenzied pace of activities and over-commitment and YES to quality time as a family. For me this has meant a painful process of narrowing down which relationships I'm going to pursue in a real way. One thing we do is discuss whether a social invite is for ministry or is it with that small, close group of friends we feel God has called us to. If it isn't in either of those categories, we often realize it's best to say no.
Thanks for posting. love it bro
Thanks very much for posting! My family is in this stage: 4 year old and new baby, just finishing seminary, looking for a job... Having my wife stay home from now on will have everything to do with our familial sanity.
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