Today, 21st-century family life is filled with many, many stresses.
There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, meals to prepare, errands to run, activities to drive the kids to, a job to go to, pressures of your career with many of you dads working 60 plus hours a week, children who seem to have endless needs and requirements, clothes to wash, places to go, relationships to attend to, marital conflict and conversations that must be had, intimacy that needs to be nurtured and takes time, responsibilities required for owning a home, caring for property, upkeep of cars, unexpected problems and trials, sickness and medical issues with our kids, floors that need vaccummed, rooms that always seemed to need picking up, text messages to read and respond to, phone calls to answer, emails to read, emails to write, complicated emotional needs with a child, the recovery from a recent birth, and a newborn needing non-stop attention and care while having other kids to attend to, children who need constant guidance, correction, encouragement, instruction, love, hugs, and training, dogs to be walked, fed, and their poo picked up! PHEW!
On top of that, many of your fathers have a wife who is homeschooling your 1,2,3,4,5,8, or 10 children with lessons to prepare, all different age groups accommodated, records to keep, books and materials ordered, etc. Then there is your church, the life of faith in community, services to attend, serving to do, meetings to attend, a spiritual life that needs the proper focus, time, attention and disciplined practice of. There are your fitness and health that needs to be attended to and somehow needs to be fit into all the other things happening in your life.
ARE YOU OVERWHELMED YET?! WOW, SO MANY THINGS.
Without wisdom, wise leadership, and simple, practical solutions for managing all of these, life will run right over you, bury you under a massive pile of stress, and the wheels will come off your family life!!
I know it’s hard to believe, but I had to live through all of this, except the smartphone, texting, and dog poo! Ours was rabbit poo! But more about that later.
In addition to all those things I listed above, I was planting a church that soon grew to 1000 people. I then planted another church while still working with the first church I planted, and 2 years after that planted my 3rd church while working at the other two. On top of that, I traveled to speak at, on average, 8-9 conferences a year, many out of state, some out of the country, being gone a week or two at a time.
Since getting an email address in 1999, I have also written over 100,000 emails, some of course very short, others long and detailed that took much thought and time. I genuinely know what busy feels like. My wife and I raised 4 children, she homeschooled all of them, with very difficult health issues of her own to deal with daily.
I share all of this to illustrate and emphasize that I lived through exactly what you are. I understand the things you are dealing with. I want to pass on to you simple, but very wise principles, suggestions, and ideas that God gave me that made all the difference and kept us from falling apart and losing our minds! I hope that you can build off of these ideas and concepts yourself in your current situation.
The Bible tells us God is not a God of disorder and confusion/chaos, but order and peace!
Proverbs 9:11 (LB) tells us that, “I, wisdom will make the hours of your day more profitable the years of your life more fruitful!”
These truths and principles gave me great help, insight, and perspective. They helped me believe that, with the wisdom, I could bring order from the chaos and through wise management, greatly reduce the stress of our lives and bring greater order and peace to our family environment. Before I share these, let me say once again, these are things the Lord used to help me. You may decide before God to do something different. I only mean these in the most helpful way possible.
1. Daddy’s’ little helpers!
Recently I was with a few of my grandchildren. They were showing me their bedroom. Scattered about the floor, like most little kids, were toys everywhere. It was early morning and their beds were not yet made. All of a sudden the dad in me kicked in. I said, “Hey kids, I have an idea. Let’s have a contest. I am going to time you. Let’s all pitch in and go as fast as we can and pick up all the toys and put them in the basket. Ready, Set, Go!!” I pushed my timer and away they went. Walla, in 2 min. 36 seconds the entire room was picked up!! I told them, “That must be a world record!” Seriously, there was tons of stuff on the floor. They did great. Then I said, “Ok, one more thing. Make your beds. Ready, set, go!” Walla, 15 seconds!!! I said again, “Way to go, great job!!” You see, kids don’t grasp that in the big scheme of things, it took very little time to bring order to the chaos. To them, it seemed daunting and they would rather play. Old grandpa led the way, and then I told them, “This helps your mommy and daddy out so much.” When my kids were little, doing this kind of thing over and over several times, with my watch timer, demonstrated to them, “Wow, helping out doesn’t have to take a ton of time, or wear me out, or keep me from other fun things. On top of that, I got to be a big help to my mom, or dad.”
2. The clothes all over the bed and floor problem!
Laundry can be a daunting task for families, starting with little kids’ clothes that can get scattered all over their room. One day while walking into my kid’s room, I noticed this. I thought, “Hmm, how can I solve this and bring order from chaos?” It hit me, “I need to simply put a little laundry basket in the corner of each kid’s room and show them how clothes can be a pretend basketball when waded up and thrown across the room to make a basket!!” After doing this several times, I told the kids, “From now on, this is where your dirty clothes go. When you take them off, put them in here and not on the floor, ok? Just toss them into your basket!” This worked.
3. The bunny has to go!!
We have owned two rabbits. One was Shadow, killed in our yard by a coyote. The other was Sugar. Sugar was my daughter’s little bunny she bought with her own money from her paper route. We got the wood chips, the cage, all the stuff needed. She loved that little bunny. My wife loves animals. She does not like to see them in cages. She read you could potty train a rabbit. Soon each time I would come home, I would see little droppings from the rabbit and it was hopping around the room. I liked the rabbit, but my goodness, I did not like the droppings and wanted the rabbit in the cage! My dear wife and I just did not agree on this. So months went by and soon each time I walked in the door all I could say was, “Where is the rabbit?” This caused much un-needed stress between us. Finally, the last straw, the rabbit loved to chew cords! It chewed through the fridge cord. Fortunately, there was enough cord left for me to simply put an adaptor on it to re-plug into the wall. I knew the rabbit had to go. Kathy and I discussed it. She agreed it was causing undue stress. I made a plan. I approached my daughter and explained the stress this little bunny was causing me and mom. I offered to buy her rabbit for about 50 bucks. She understood and agreed. We then drove together to the humane society and gave them the rabbit. Problem Solved. We managed the stress and chaos out of our lives. Some things we just need to get rid of!
4. The more you own, the more stress you will have!
What a wise observation. The more clothes you have, the more stuff you own, the more time and attention, work, responsibility and stress it creates! This is one of the great lies of our modern age. We are a consumer-driven nation, and a consumer-driven economy that equates happiness with stuff and more possessions to “enjoy”! Oh what a terrible trap this can be, and before you know it, your time is gone and your stress is through the roof. I believe there is Biblical wisdom in minimalism and the simplification of your life! Get rid of stuff!
5. Know your limitations.
Some of us like to think we can do anything. We feel almost a sense of pride that we can remodel our own house, or put in that new window, or fix that clogged drain. While there are some things we can do, there are others that it would be much wiser, much less stressful and chaotic to have a pro do instead. My friend thought he could fix his clogged basement drain. He rented a snake, brought it home and began to wind it down the drain. Soon it was stuck, I mean really stuck. He worked for a day trying to get it unstuck. Finally, he called a pro, the pro came and could not get it unstuck, then broke the news to my friend. “I will need to break all the concrete around your drain by the furnace to get it out, then pour new concrete.” Ahh, the pride of man. He knew from the start he should get a pro but thought I can do this myself and save money. Bad choice. Most of us think we can do more than we really can. I have learned it is wise to access myself accurately. To grasp what it is I can and can’t do, what it is I can and can’t handle, and to stick with my strengths, period. Whether it is thinking you can coach a little league team on the side of raising 6 kids, or watch your friends 3 kids, 3 days a week while raising and homeschooling your own 3, know your limitations and humbly admit them.
6. Learn to say No!
This is one of the great secrets to life and reducing stress and chaos. Many of us have trouble with this word because we want to please everybody in our life. Friends, family, kids, church friends, etc. The truth is we can’t live to please everyone. If you try, the stress and chaos of your life will be overwhelming and break you. I have seen so many families exhausted, weary and beat down because they didn’t say no. No, we can’t attend that reunion. No, we can’t come to your wedding. No, we can’t be to that graduation. No, we can’t have a child in ballet, another in hockey, another in basketball, another in swimming, another in football, and all you are is a professional taxi driver whose life is lost in the maze of go, go, go, go, go, go!!! Master the word No!
7. Strategic Routines!
My life is a series of strategic routines. For example, as I write this article in my garage office I have pushup bars on the floor. Every so often I simply pop down and do 20, until I have done 60. Every week when I mow I have a routine. I keep the old pair of cargo pants I wear in my garage office with earplugs in the pockets for mowing. I never, ever have to spend a second of time looking for them. I put them on in my garage office. I have the same mowing boots I wear, right by my office. I put them on, I put oil in the mower, gas in the mower, pushed the choke button 15 times, and one pull starts the mower. Takes 25 minutes. After I mow, I put the mower in the garage, grab the broom, sweep off patio and sidewalk. Hang broom back up. Unwind hose, pull to back yard, spray off all the fins of the air conditioning unit, rewind hose. Walk into office, take off cargo pants, put in a spot under the total gym, clean off sweat, put other clothes back on. I know, you are thinking “this guy is a nut case!!” I will take my nut case, ordered, strategic life of routine over the chaos and stress in the world!! Been using the same power push mower for 23 years! Every spring, I take the old plastic bag with an old spark plug and air filter to the store and buy a new one, put in the mower, and never had a starting problem. Every 7 days I cut my hair. Every day I rise at the same time and make coffee, go to the office, start the computer, read a few emails, a bit of news, and approx. 30 minutes later, start my hour prayer walk, then do my stretches, get my yogurt, etc, etc. 7 days a week, 365 a year. I simply applied this concept of strategic routines to my life, marriage, and family, as much as I could and as much as made sense. Believe it or not, Kathy and I even apply this to our physical intimacy. We have a plan and a routine and a schedule, and it has been tremendous for our marriage and relationship. We do not leave this to chance or feelings.
AND NO, I AM NOT BORED!! I GET THINGS DONE AND ACCOMPLISHED.
8. Be careful in friendships, the person of many friends comes to ruin!
Friends, many friends can be very demanding, put great expectations on your life and send your stress pressure through the roof! Some of you need to re-negotiate your life and people’s expectations of you. One example: I have observed with young moms and the new demands placed on them by their friends, because they all have smartphones, and text each other throughout the day. Most young, busy moms are keeping their smartphone on them at all times tucked into the pocket of their jeans or the waistband of their yoga pants. Their other mom friends doing the same. Next thing you know, those Christian moms are texting each other and the phone is beeping, your child just spilled their milk, but you feel the need, the urge to read your friend’s text and to get back to them. You know they are probably waiting for a response in oh, 30 seconds, and have no idea you are dealing with a gallon of milk all over the floor or a screaming, fussy child. Your stress pressure, friend pleasing pressure begins to rise!!! When you multiply that times the 15 Christian sister/mom friends you have from your small group at church, boom, you cannot possibly keep up, manage the kids, home school, fix the meals, get the laundry done, and keep up on an ongoing conversation with 2,4,6,10 other mom friends during the day. It will suck you dry, and stress you out!!!!
Dads, this can be you as well in some form or another. You all got to take this bull by the horns and get it under control or man it will create so much stress and emotional chaos.
It may be as simple as a group email to all your mom friends or dad friends explaining, “Hey all, time out. I have to re-negotiate everyone’s expectations of me. I am a busy mom/dad of 3 now, or 4 now, and I can no longer get back to your texts. I love you all, over and out!!!!”
Ok, just find your way. Make a way that works for you, but don’t let others dictate and rob you of peace and order in your life.
9. Be the Boss, man!!
My daughter had just had her 5th baby. A precious little girl. It was about 2 weeks after her birth, and my daughter was up doing something. Suddenly blood everywhere. Oh man, super scary. Dad was out mowing the lawn. She yelled for the kids to get dad but he could not hear them yelling for him. Finally, they got him. They rushed mom to the hospital and had to admit her for unexpected hemorrhaging. Scared me to death as I thought I really might lose my daughter, it was touch and go for a few days. As I type this, tears fill my eyes. Wow, it was heavy. The dad in me offered to help any way I could. There was a new baby at home, with 4 other kids to care for, her husband had to go back to work, and they needed help. My wife’s health was very difficult and she could not just go up and live there. So I offered to come up each morning to arrive at 6 am for the next several weeks and help. My daughter said from the hospital bed, “Dad, are you sure you can take care of 5 kids, one being a new baby?!” I said, “Yup, I can do it as long as I can just make toast with peanut butter for breakfast, keep things simple, I can do it. I can also change and feed a baby of course with a bottle!” So back to daddyhood I went. Several days after I started coming to help, my daughter was allowed to come back home but had to take it very easy, get rest and still needed my help. Of course, this was all traumatic for the kids and getting used to the new ” Gdaddyhelp” was an adjustment. One day, I noticed when the kids came up from their room early in the morning, I hugged them and they all had morning breath! I said, “Kids, grandpa wants you to go downstairs and brush your teeth.” They said, “But grandpa we do that later.” I said, “That’s ok, I want you to go do it now.” So they went down and did it. I also told them all before they come back up to make their beds and take off their pajamas and put on some clothes. A few minutes later my daughter slowly walked downstairs to the kitchen and from the dining room I could hear one of my grandsons softly sniffling, saying to his mom, “Mommy, grandpa is being a boss man!!” O man, I almost fell off the chair laughing so hard. I tried to cover my mouth as I didn’t want to hurt feelings, but it was so funny!! Indeed I was being the boss man. That was one of my great secrets. Kids need a boss man, they need a leader telling them and showing them what to do, and helping them understand what the expectations are. This makes life so much easier and much less stressful. Fortunately for me, my daughter and son-in-law had taught their kids to do what the boss man said and we had a lot of fun while I was there.
10. TEAM, TEAM, TEAM!!
It helped me a great deal to remember that Kathy and I and the kids were all on the same team. For me, basketball is the best analogy. Here is why. In basketball, all 5 players indeed have a position and a special role. There is the shooting guard, the ball-handling guard, the power forward, the rebounding specialist forward, and the shot-blocking, scary guy in the middle, the center. Each plays a unique role and have gifts and abilities. However, each must know how to play defense well, each must know how to dribble, each has to be able to shoot the ball to some degree, each has to know how to pass, and often, when screens are set, you have to rotate off the guy you were guarding and pick up the other guy and help out!! Though Kathy and I each had pretty set roles and responsibilities, we always looked for ways to help our teammate out. Sometimes I helped dress kids, sometimes I helped take laundry downstairs, sometimes I got the groceries, often she took the kids on their paper route, or to karate 3 times a week. The kids also learned they were a vital part of the team. They would help as they got older by homeschooling a younger sibling, reading them a book, playing with them, babysitting, taking phone messages for me when people called. etc. TEAM, TEAM, TEAM, HELP OUT, HELP OUT. Look out for each other, help each other out, and man, life goes so much smoother and the stress and chaos is greatly reduced.
Please take some time to hear this message as I believe it will be a great benefit to you.
For those of you with wives homeschooling, I believe they would love this message by my wife Kathy.