In April of 2004, I became a mom. Fast-forward nearly seventeen years, and I hardly recognize myself. I’ve learned so much! Sixteen-plus years of parenting has taught me far more than any of my formal education did. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
- SLOW DOWN. As you count down to the day your firstborn leaves for college, you start to consider the moments you could have maximized with him. “Time flies” is not the cliche you think it is. Never underestimate the value of the moments, hours, and days you have with your children while they are still living at home.
- Be intentional when they’re little. Those early years together are crucial, yet many parents sail right through them thinking they have many more years to come. Never underestimate the value of building a strong foundation and cultivating the type of relationship you want to have with your children in those early years.
- Pay attention when they want to talk. When they’re little, the endless chatter can wear on you. The series of questions and the “whys” and “hows” can require a great deal of your attention. Trust me, they ask fewer questions as they get older, and sometimes it takes immense effort to know what’s going on in their heads when they’re older. Listen to them; value their conversation. Get to know them.
- Take care of YOU first. I don’t mean this selfishly. Do not underestimate the value in prioritizing yourself. There’s a good reason we are told to put on our own oxygen mask first; if we pass out due to lack of oxygen, how will we help the person next to us? The same goes for self-care. Move consistently, eat nutritiously, rest abundantly. Children need it. Parents do too. Yet, we parents often lack it. It takes discipline and teamwork as parents to make this happen, but consistency is essential when it comes to parenting. Even when it’s tough, do what it takes to be as consistent with your self-care as possible.
- Wake up earlier than them. It may not always be possible, but if you can make a habit of getting up an hour before everyone else in the house, it will change your life. A little quiet in the morning goes a long way. Use the time to meditate, journal, read, enjoy some stillness or even exercise before the kids wake up. You’ll be a few steps ahead before they’re even awake.
- Date your spouse. Having a romantic dinner alone with your spouse is one of the best things you can do for your kids. Watch how it improves your relationship with your spouse. A solid home life is built on the stability of the parents’ relationship and overall well-being. Your stability is their security.
- Don’t overcommit yourself. If you find you’ve taken on too much and are struggling to prioritize yours or your family’s needs, consider letting some of those commitments go. Life requires us to constantly reassess our goals and the trajectory necessary to accomplish them. Don’t be afraid to switch your course. You’d be surprised how much better you will feel to narrow your sphere of focus.
- Ask for help when you need it. Many parents have already successfully traversed this road you’re currently on. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek the wisdom and advice of others who have been there before.
- Teach your children to work and the value of a solid work ethic. By all means, this will not only help them when they are older, but as they grow, children can prove to be VERY helpful in assisting around the house. Maximize on that, my friends.
- Your greatest impact to the world begins in your home. Parenting is a long and faithful job. It is an everyday practice of small steps. So much of the future rests on your shoulders as parents. We are raising the next generation of leaders, and I promise you, our impact will be felt for years to come. Your parenting hat is your finest hat you wear.
Parenting has taught me what it means to be busy. I am sixteen years deep into this parenting project, and I’m still busy — but in all the best ways. We are in a season of intense academic work and preparation for our oldest. We are homeschool parents, and he’s taking a college entrance exam this weekend. I can honestly say I’ve never been more urgent on the parenting front than I am not that my firstborn is preparing for college.
So many of you are parents to young children. You’ve got so many years ahead of you. Maximize the moments, friends. Keep chipping away. Slow down. Be intentional. Keep the momentum going in raising these little humans. The formula for closeness between a parent and child doesn’t really change as the child gets older. With time, sacrifice, hard work, and inconvenient hours come the desired deep roots that grow through the process.
You are doing incredible work through your parenting. Keep it up.