Be a Better Parent by Slowing Down

Quit claiming you're so busy as some sort of badge of honor — your kids want a loving, caring, attentive mom or dad, period

by Meg Meeker, MD | Updated 31 Oct 2017 at 11:05 AM

Mom, dad, I get it. There’s just one more thing you need to get done. Right after that one other thing, which, of course, is right after the other thing. There’s always just one … more … thing. Does it ever stop?

The truth is, no, it never stops. Which means it’s up to you to do the stopping.

Busyness is certainly nothing new, but we are living in a day when parents are wearing “busy” and “exhausted” as badges at an alarming rate, as if the quality of our parenting equals the quantity of our activity. Let me let you in on a little secret. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t!

For parents, it is true what they say: The days are long, but the years are short. The lie that "busy" tells you is, "You'll have time for it later." And then later comes, then comes again, and again, and before you know it, you look up and all the "laters" have come and gone, and in the meantime you missed out on the many everyday moments that are such a gift in the life of a parent.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dove Award-winning singer-songwriter Nichole Nordeman about her own battle with busy. Mostly known for her beautiful music, Nichole recently released her first book, "Slow Down: Embracing the Everyday Moments of Motherhood." The book was inspired by her song "Slow Down," which she wrote as a letter to her daughters about seeing them grow up too fast and not wanting to miss a single tender moment.

Here is the touching song that inspired the book:

She and I had a wonderful conversation about watching our kids grow up too quickly, the cost of being busy, making unpopular choices and what it looked like to put her career on pause at its height in order to be present for her family.

If you find yourself fighting the battle of busy and struggling to be present for the everyday moments in your life, here are four ways to challenge yourself:

1.) Make a commitment to slow yourself down. In order to do this, you will need to make some changes — either in the activities your kids are involved in or in the activities/work schedule that you have. Find one thing that you can either cut back on or completely remove that will open up time in your life for you to breathe a bit. It will be hard, but remember: Giving yourself the gift of time or your child the gift of more time with you will bring you only good.

Nothing bad comes from spending more time with your family, and giving yourself more unhurried time will dramatically improve the quality of your life. So make changes, small changes at first, and do not be afraid.

Related: Kids Don't Want Perfect Dads — They Want This

2.) Take off the badge of exhaustion. Most mothers, whether working outside the home or not, believe they are tougher, stronger and more accomplished if they live so busy that they're exhausted. If you are an exhausted mother, ask yourself, "Why do I thrive on being exhausted? What mental or emotional benefit am I getting from living so frenetically?" Then make a commitment to yourself to reject these feelings.

They are not reasonable — they are irrational and very unhealthy. Children don't want chronically busy, exhausted parents; they want present parents who like being with them. Likewise, your boss doesn't need someone who can't function well because you are so tired. He or she needs someone who can think on her feet, take care of her emotional, mental and physical health, and be there for the long haul.

3.) Be courageous enough to live differently from your peers. One of the best exercises I have done is ask myself why I do what I do. If I am contemplating taking on another project, even if it is small, I have a heart-to-heart with myself and ask why would I take this on? Often I find that I don't really have a reason other than the belief that I should do it because it would be expected of me. This is not a good reason.

Related: Moms: Just 'Be'

I have to tell myself "no" to many things, and it is critical for all moms and dads to do this. There will likely be pushback from friends and family who are accustomed to one thing from you, but if we want peace, we must learn to be comfortable with living very differently. The truth is, many of those people will actually be jealous. They may want to do exactly what we are doing but need someone to follow.

4.) Trust your instincts. The truth is, your instincts are there for a reason. They may stem from your thinking, the way you were trained to think and believe. But 99 percent of the time they protect you, and you need to listen to them. One of my biggest frustrations working with conscientious parents is their fear of listening to what their instinct tells them to do when it comes to parenting.

So let me ask you a frank question now: When it comes to your parenting, what are your instincts telling you about how you spend your time? Are they telling you that you need to pull back a little? Slow down just a bit, or erase something that you are currently doing that is making you exhausted?

I want to tell you: Listen to those inner voices. They are arising in you because you need something that you are resisting giving yourself. Do you really want to deprive yourself or your children of the common sense that your instincts are telling you to use? What keeps you from not listening to your gut?

Parents, the battle of busy is not an easy one — but it is one of the most important ones, and it must be waged and won!

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the new book, "Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need" (Regnery Publishing, 2017), as well as a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.

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