I don’t know about you, but for me, everything feels so bloody hard at the moment.
Lockdown, governmental madness (unless you’re in NZ, lucky you), WFH, shorter days, longer nights and no end in sight.
But, but, but, but. BUT.
Like my old rugby coach used to say, if you look at the opposition in front of you, you’re not going to hit the gap, you’re going to get tackled. If you look for the gap, there’s much more chance you’ll get through it.
That’s the thing with parenting, it’s a struggle all the time, whether we’re in a pandemic or not. And the struggles you choose will literally change your life and your kids’ lives.
If you choose not to struggle to get them to learn good table manners (a struggle we’ve been having for years, pretty much every mealtime), then later you’ll struggle to go out for celebratory family meals without feeling embarrassed. Embarrassed by the children you’re there to celebrate. And they’ll struggle in social situations, may well opt out or not be invited back. And that’s just table manners.
If you choose to struggle with rapidly climbing up the career while your kids are little, you’re choosing to put more time in at work and less at home. Later, you’ll find yourself struggling to build a deep relationship with your children. If you do it the other way around, you’ll have a great relationship, but may struggle to save enough for retirement and for the material things your, and their, heart’s desire.
Choose your struggles. And when you’re choosing, don’t just think about today and tomorrow, think years down the line for your children as adults, for you, old and grey.
I’ve said it before. It’s a key message in the talks I give to dads, and mums. Everything costs something. The amazing life experience of having kids comes at the cost of your sleep, time and money. The cost of being fit and healthy is not giving into all your desires and eating less ice-cream.
But, but, but, here’s the thing with parenting. It’s the longest game. It changes. No way could I have done a side project like this in the first few years of either of my sons’ lives. 0–3 are full-on years. If you have a second child when the first is three, that’s six intense years. I chose to struggle at parenting and not struggle so much at career or personal projects. Now though, my kids are more self sufficient (9 & 11), I can see more gaps opening up. Gaps that mean I can pour more of myself into work and into this — my personal project, a bit of self care, things that help me be a better man and things me and my kids can do together that we all love. Not everything I have, that would undermine what I’ve done in the past. But much more than before.
So when you’re choosing what to struggle at, remember life will change over time too. If you’re not sure how, ask someone who’s a few years ahead of you in the parenting game.
But, but, but. Yes, there’s struggle, but there are always moments of love, joy, connection and magic. Cuddles, kisses, laughs, your kid falling asleep on you (as my 9-year-old did last night, it was wonderful). And moments when you surprise yourself with how well you handle hard things. Choose the struggle, but don’t obsess over the work, look for the good times, look for the gaps.
This post was previously published on Medium.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: iStock