Loving Our Kids in the Face of Exhaustion

Enjoying Our Kids Even When We're ExhaustedEvery day, I get out of bed and do my best to be the most incredible dad, husband, business owner and man I can be.

But sometimes I fall short. Short on energy, patience, answers, compassion or time.

Lately, my struggle with exhaustion seems more tough than usual. And whatever self pity I experience is overshadowed by the guilt that I am not doing a better job as a dad.

I’m not doing anything “wrong,” per se. It’s just that I’m so overwhelmed that I feel like it’s difficult to handle even the smallest of issues.

Of course it’s not really the issue that’s the problem, I have really good kids. The problem is that my nervous system is on overload — ALL THE TIME.

Is this how you feel, too?

The question is, how do we overcome this and simply love our children? Love them in a way that says “I’m so glad you’re here and that you chose me as your dad.”

To let all of the noise fade away so we can love our children and ENJOY them.

We were watching the first episode of The Brady Bunch on Hulu today, and Mr. & Mrs. Brady were on their honeymoon, regretting yelling at their kids and being short with them. I can relate.

So, what do we do?

I’ve found the best solution is to take better care of myself so I am more equipped to handle life. Meditation and exercise serve me very well, as does being mindful. I also apologize to my boys when I make a mistake. I can’t take it back, but I can at least admit my misstep.

When I’m mindful, I stop myself from reacting and getting stressed. Instead, I look at my boys, smile and realize how much I love them.

Thank you Max and Joss for being my boys.

And remember, you are not alone …

Coping with Exhaustion

Exhaustion.

It’s something that haunts my existence constantly these days. And if you’re a fellow parent, chances are you feel the same.

The question is, how are we coping with our exhaustion? Are we treating our kids and our spouse in a way we’re happy with? Or are we constantly crabby, finding it hard not to be set off by the smallest thing.

When it takes just about every ounce of focus for us to accomplish just what needs to be done today, how do we find the time and energy to work on improving our family’s future?

I’ve become accustomed to feeling exhaustion. It’s the new normal. Problem is, I don’t see any relief in sight.

But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up.

What I’ve found is that if I continue to work on what I call my foundational balance – which consists of exercise, sleep, eating well, some form of meditation, and having an occasional date with my wife – I’m still exhausted, but my temperament is far more positive.

I’m the first tot admit that when I don’t work on my foundational balance, I’m no fun to be around.

What about you?

And remember, you are not alone …

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Acting with Kindness & Patience isn’t Always Easy …

The other day I got to thinking about how I’d like to treat my family vs. how I actually treat them. I found a disparity between the two, and realized I have some work to do if I want to give my wife and boys more of the following:

– Respect
– Love
– Understanding
– Wisdom
– Knowledge
– Belief in themselves
– Nurturing
– A feeling of being protected
– A feeling of being cared for
– Financial comfort

I share these thoughts with you because in the face of exhaustion and stress, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of what’s most important in our lives. Taking a moment to be mindful about how we treat our family can help us refocus.

The result? A happier, healthier personal (not to mention professional) life.

And remember, you are not alone …

A Fresh Look at Goals: for Parents, Kids & the Family (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about methods that help us define and develop goals.

Once you’ve clarified what they are, the next step is breaking each goal into down into manageable steps, so we can set out with a plan on how to accomplish them. This plan may need frequent adjusting. This is not only OK, but a healthy part of the process.

As we move along and things clarify, we sometimes find that part of a plan simply does not work. This is NOT to be considered failure, it is a mini-success because with the adjustment in our plan we align ourselves more closely with the end goal.

Ultimately, if we take steps on a daily basis (no matter how small) we can attain our goals. It’s important to remember that we may not reach our goals on the intended date. Some things are out of our control. And if you’re a parent, lack of time and energy are real obstacles that may hinder rapid accomplishment. Fear not, it’s still possible, as long as you become crystal clear about what you want and how you’re going to get it.

The good news is that if we do this ourselves, we wind up teaching our kids how to do it, too. It’s a winning situation for everybody.

Here’s snapshot of what my mentor, Zig Ziglar, says about the goals process. His fantastic book, See You At The Top, goes into great detail about this subject (see a full list of recommendations at the end of this article).

1)     Identify EXACTLY what I desire
2)     Spell out exactly why I’d like to reach these goals
3)     List the obstacles I need to overcome in order to get there
4)     Identify the people, groups and organizations I need to work with to get there
5)     Identify what I need to know (learn) in order to reach these goals
6)     Develop a plan of action
7)     Set a date on it. When do I expect to get there?

One additional thought. If this all seems overwhelming, that’s normal. You can’t possibly answer all of these questions all at once. If you’re just starting the process, you may not be able to answer any. But if you allow yourself to believe that you can do this, you will. If you believe that you can’t, you won’t. In other words, your perception will create your reality.

SPEAKING OF KIDS
It’s never too soon to help our kids learn to set their own goals. By this I do not mean us setting goals for them, that’s different (and also necessary).

For instance, my son Max is in kindergarten. I shouldn’t expect him to be able to answer the following: “So, what are your plans to get to college?”

But I can help him set some goals for the coming school year. Any extra-curricular activities he might want to partake in (ie: swimming or track and field…) I also like to discuss future goals with both him – from career to family plans. I do this with my 3-year old, too. It helps my boys develop their frontal lobe, which is so important in decision making and problem solving.

There are too many young adults that have not idea how to set a goal, or what to do with their lives.

OUR GOALS
I’d like to take a deeper look at the kindergarten to college analogy. ANYBODY who tried to look at this scenario as a point A to point B endeavor would be completely overwhelmed. Here’s a way it can be broken down:

Kindergarten (where I’m at) to College (the goal)
the step-by-step approach to accomplishing my goal:

– Section it off by grammar school, middle school, high school and college.
– Now break it down by grade (year): kindergarten, grade 1, etc.
– By semester
– By month
– By week
– By day
– By class

You get the idea. Each step leads us to the ultimate goal, but it’s much easier to build upon if you start from the “by class” goal. Now it’s manageable – a small enough bite that you can actually chew on it, instead of choke on it.

FAMILY GOALS
Family goals could be anything from spending more time together, taking a family vacation, helping each other get in shape, fixing up the house, etc…

Sometimes an individual’s goal becomes a family goal. For instance, my son Max wants to be a NASCAR driver.

This is his goal. But since he’s only 5, it’s my job (and my wife’s job) to help him attain it – making it a family goal.

My first step is bringing him to a kart race to gauge his interest level. Once he sees exactly what kids’ kart racing entails (this actually exists for kids his age), what does he think?

My responsibility is to help both boys set goals that are realistic and attainable (but not necessarily easy). I can’t expect Max to drive a full-sized car right now, but there are karts he can drive, or he can play a driving game on the Playstation, etc…

If we make goal setting a way of life for ourselves and our kids, we can all expect more fulfilling and less frustrating lives.

Is it easy? NO.

Have I accomplished everything? Hardly.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

It’s a long road, but the sooner we get on the better off we’ll be.

And remember, you are not alone…

For further reading & listening:

Zig Ziglar
– See You at The Top (Highly reccomended book)
– Goals (audio CD’s)

Jack Canfield
The Success Principles
(also available on audio CD)

Brian Tracy

Baby Einstein: The Target of Stupid Claims about Kids & Educational TV

I recently read two posts (see links below) on one of my favorite daddy blogs: Working Dad: An Unauthorized Guide to Parenting. The topic? Educational DVD’s for children, including Baby Einstein.

There’s a coalition called “Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood,” that believes these educational videos are not educational at all, and may actually be harmful to small children. Although the coalition mentions only a couple of children’s DVD producers, the implications are clear that no children’s educational TV is safe from this scrutiny. Which is fine, as long as common sense and intelligence lead the way.

In this case, I believe the statements made by the coalition are ridiculous, untrue, and just plain stupid.

I have seen both of my boys benefit from a LIMITED AMOUNT of television/DVD viewing. Especially programs like Thomas the Tank Engine, and other “educational” programs including Baby Einstein.

It has helped with speech, as well as learning colors and numbers. DVD’s have helped them build cognitive process by improving their ability to follow a story (sequence and succession of events). I personally find it fun, satisfying and comforting to watch these DVD’s with them. Sure, kids who learn only from DVD’s and TV do not experience the same learning advantages as kids who learn with their parents as well. I don’t need to get a grant and hold a study to make this statement — it’s common sense!

What it comes down to is this: Good parents take responsibility for their kids, and themselves. Bad parenting is bad parenting, no matter how much TV a child watches — educational or otherwise. It’s all about how good of a parent you are, how and how much you interact with your kids. If you use an educational DVD as a learning tool, great! But parents who use it as a babysitter or in leiu of personal interaction, are bad parents. How can anyone in his or her right mind think a DVD like this could be harmful?

Excuse my sarcasm, but I’d like to meet the 6-month old that was interviewed about the Baby Einstein series. I’m sure his quote of: “I find they have no educational value, at least not for me,” sounded a lot more like “gaa, poo poo, baba, dada.” Point being, adults don’t really know what’s going on in the minds of little ones when they watch TV.

I also find part of Baby Einstein’s response to all this offensive and insulting. “Since day one, Baby Einstein products have been about moms and babies spending meaningful moments together…” Yet ANOTHER major children’s company has left out dads. Maybe I’m being picky, but you know what? I AM A DAD. I TAKE CARE OF MY KIDS, JUST LIKE MY WIFE. I’m not off doing “manly” things, and it’s about time these major corporations respected that.

Maybe the people who make these comments should shift gears and examine the social implications of major companies who constantly exclude dads! Could that be something that affects our kids negatively? Not to mention dads? Something to think about for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood…

How about a campaign for common sense!

Your thoughts and comments are appreciated. Feel free to post them.

And remember, you are not alone…

Links to Working Dad’s original postings:
Baby Einstein – Part 1
Baby Einstein – Part 2

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What is a Wife?

I thank the Universe every day for blessing me with my wife. She far surpasses anything I ever imagined a wife could be.

If it weren’t for my wife, my life would be completely different, and quite frankly I think it would kind of suck. I would not be who I am today — plain and simple.

It’s because of my wife that I have learned to let go of my anger and heal from Crohn’s disease. Because of her, I am a professional writer. And it’s because of her that I have tried every endeavor that I was passionate about. Whether I succeeded or fell at the speed of light into failure, she supported me, believed in me and never complained or tried to stop me. Now that’s one darn good wife. And she’s cute too!

Without her strength and support, my chances of accomplishing these things would have diminished greatly.

As grateful as I am, I find it difficult these days (as a busy and exhausted dad) to take a moment — a real moment — to be together and regenerate. We don’t have any support since we moved away from home (for a job opportunity). It’s just us out here in the frozen tundra that is Wisconsin.

I’d like to make today National Bond with Your Spouse Day. Forget Valentine’s Day, let’s make today a day where the sweet smelling gift we give is not roses (or cake — yum!), but the gift of ourselves. Let’s take some time today to be grateful for our spouse and spend some quality time together.

Honey, thank you for being my wife. Thank you for all your love, support and patience with me.

I love you.

: ^ )

And remember, you are not alone…

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Out of energy. Out of time. Out of Luck?

It is almost midnight here in Wisconsin — better known lately as the frozen tundra, a place where an hour long drive to work on a sheath of ice zaps what little energy I might have.

For me the time is a relevant issue. I should be in bed, but my desire for rest is usurped by my need for some time to myself.

In one of my recent posts, The Road to Nowhere, I wrote about my belief that we have the power to create our reality. I’ve been thinking more and more about how we, mere mortals, are supposed to overcome the obstacles of exhaustion and lack of time, and somehow recreate our reality into something more positive and fulfilling.

Let’s face it — it’s a lot easier to write about changing one’s reality than actually doing it. Of course one could argue that writing about it is one of the elements in the manifestation process. But where do we fit in the time to take meaningful steps for change when we work all day, then come home to play with our kids, feed them and get them to bed? For me, when all is said and done it’s about 10 pm, and by this time of night I’m burnt out — how about you?

And yeah, there’s that thing about it already being 10 pm. The day is just about done unless you want to stay up late, which will have you feeling burnt out tomorrow. So you’ve got to decide the burnout factor. What’s your burnout tolerance? Mine is pretty high, so I’m able to get little things done at night — maybe an hour or two of productive work (and the occasional game of internet poker) before I lay down to the comfort of my bed.

This is one of the most frustrating problems I have ever faced. I often feel like I’m making no progress at all. If I look forward, it appears that nothing’s really happening. It just seems like what no matter what I do, I’m spinning my wheels and wasting what little time I have.

But if I look back into the past, I can clearly track the arc of progress I’ve made in my life. I remember going through really awful times, some of them life threatening, feeling that same “motionless” sensation. Or worse, literally sliding further and further downward into an ugly, negative place. But things did change. Although at the time there didn’t appear to be any change occurring until a new reality manifested.

The other day I was feeling exceptionally down and my 4-year old son noticed. He asked me why I was so sad. Then he told me:

“Don’t give up dad. You can’t give up. You just have to keep trying and do your best…”

And he’s right. This is the message I’d like to share with you. We’re only failures if we give up — so don’t! All we can do is our best each day, keeping in mind that which we’d like to create. It could take years, but it is possible.

If you take enough micro-steps they add up to a step. If you keep your momentum going (even if it falters at times) a step will turn into many steps. If you do your part, one day you’ll look back and see that you overcame what seems insurmountable today.

I think it’s also so important that we ask the Universe (God, Buddha, or however we refer to the power that is “bigger” than us) for help. There’s no shame in asking for help, and I have found the Universe is glad to give it.

Thank you Universe!

If you would like to read more of my thoughts about creating your own reality, please click: Anything is Possible; The Magic Quarter: Creating your own reality; and The Road to Nowhere: It’s not too late to recreate your reality.

And remember, you are not alone.

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