Q: I know it may be wishful thinking, but I am SO ready for the calendar to change and put this year in the past. At the same time, I'm worried about how the stress of 2020 has affected me. Do you have any advice for handling whatever comes in 2021?
Jim: We're all running as fast as we can, and it's not easy to slow down. Pandemic aside, society rewards us for being on the go all day, every day. Working a job, building a strong marriage and raising a family are hard work. Some days keeping up with all that life demands of us is the best we can do.
A season of busyness is one thing. But it's no way to live. We miss out on the richness of the world around us when we're overcommitted and stressed out. The problem isn't just that we have busy schedules — it's that we have busy hearts and busy minds. We're so anxious and stressed out that we never notice the beauty or the fragrance of life. A hectic pace may seem good for your bank account, but rest and quiet are good for your soul.
That's why sometimes the best thing to do is — nothing at all. Peace and quiet aren't very easy to come by when you're busy. But they're worth pursuing. It's in silence that honest thoughts have a chance to rise to the surface and be heard. That's why you have "eureka" moments when you're lying in bed at night or driving alone. Ideas have a chance to percolate and show up unexpectedly when your mind is free to wander.
Get away from technology whenever you can. Take a stroll through the neighborhood. Be intentional about creating opportunities to enjoy some peace and quiet. Because sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all.
Q: I'm a young dad who's struggling to be a good husband and father. But no matter what I do, my wife tells me I'm not pulling my weight. If you ask me, I'm trying — I play with the kids when I can. But she expects me to do things I don't know how to do and never thought of doing — like getting meals and changing diapers. What should I do?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: As in every area of married life, the key is open communication. Many couples never talk to each other about their parenting expectations — or the fears and struggles they're facing as they do their best to care for a child.
You and your wife need to sit down and discuss this issue calmly and rationally. Get a babysitter and go out for the evening, away from the kids and the pressures of household chores. Share dinner together at a nice restaurant. When you're both relaxed, express your frustrations respectfully but candidly. At the same time, let her know that you're eager and willing to learn what needs to be done at home and with your children so that you can jump in and do those tasks when you see they're needed. If you're unsure how do certain things, ask her to help you out with some basic training and instruction. She'll probably appreciate this more than you realize.
Whatever approach you take, it's vital that you and your wife learn how to function as a team. Babies thrive best with the love and care of both parents. Child-care skills can be learned — and you might just find it opens up a whole new world of connection with your kids AND your wife.
Our staff counselors would love to help you unpack this further; call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.