Are you caught in the comparison trap, constantly measuring what happens in your family against others? That is not helpful and it needs to stop. This week I’m talking about living by our priorities as a parent – we can’t do it all, let’s just be honest – and instead of having that false expectation we have to work out what is important and put our best efforts into that! I really want parents to create a fulfilling family life – and for that to happen you have to let some things go and hold tight onto other things. Let’s talk this issue some more…
You can’t do it all – No-one can – So Stop Comparing
When we see a mum doing well with her life – we make an assumption – We ask ourselves, “How does she do it all because we assume she is doing it all!”
Then we go ahead and judge ourselves as slack or lacking. We tell ourselves, she can do it all, why can’t I? She’s got it together, I don’t!
This is “stinkin’ thinkin’”. It isn’t based on truth. The truth is: No-one can do it all. We all have to choose what is important to me and do that well.
Living by your priorities in parenting
As I look back over my years of parenting and homeschooling, I can list a few things that I ‘let go’ for the sake of my priorities. But remember, what I let go and what you should let go are two completely different things.
Not only do we have different priorities, we have different circumstances and different capacities. We should be inspired or encouraged by others, not copying others.
So here are some of the things I let go so I could focus on what my family needed at the time.
I let go home baked goodies. This may not sound like a biggie, but I enjoy cooking, and I envisaged my kids enjoying home baked cookies. Like many of these assumptions we make they are built on what we imagine as ideal, but sometimes life shakes up our ideals. When Naomi was sick, home baking went out the window. Josh and Jess developed a taste for store-bought biscuits. When I realised they reached for a store bought choc chip cookie, instead of homemade ones I was horrified! But really it is not important – just my pride! So for a season of life, I let go home baked goodies.
I let go fancy cooking. Like I said, I enjoy cooking. I enjoy trying new recipes. But with the pressures of family life, little kids, sick kid, hubby who worked away from home – simple, tried and true were the types of recipes I looked for. I had to weigh up the time it took for me to cook a new recipe with the other things I could be doing. I chose other things. Like I said, the things I let go may not be the things you let go – I had a friend who cooked for her relaxation, she is even able to relax and refresh if her kids are in the kitchen with her! She increased her cooking as she added children to her family, I decreased.
I let go of women’s Bible study but I kept my prayer triplet. One was more flexible than the other, one fitted my lifestyle at the time easier than the other. I couldn’t do them both, I made a choice. But I really missed the Bible study – for the first few years of homeschooling that was the one thing that I missed.
I let go of a perfect home. I love homemaking. Before kids I read, even studied, the art of homemaking. But once kids came along, once we started homeschooling, I decided I had this much time to give to my home, and in that time I would train my children to look after the home. The rest happens when and if I had more time. I knew my windows weren’t as clean as they used to be, my cupboards needed sorting, and there were cobwebs on cobwebs in some places in my house (and still are!) But – the bits that were important to me, they were maintained daily, weekly or monthly – as I needed. We have a purpose for our home, and I make sure that the home is kept in such a way to meet that purpose – it doesn’t look like the ideal I once had, and was even able to maintain. Life changes and brings changes with it.
I let go of sewing. Initially when we first started homeschooling, Nomi was still having pain issues, Daniel was a baby and Pete worked away from home. There was no time for sewing. And yet I need a creative project – creativity is what rejuvenates me. I didn’t intentionally give sewing a miss, I simply didn’t have time for it, my creative time and energies were focused on teaching my young children: creating games, art activities, and teaching interesting things to them in interesting ways. A little further down the track I picked up scrapbooking – I wasn’t giving so much to the lesson planning and there was time and energy left for another creative pursuit. But I couldn’t do both sewing and scrapbooking. I had to make a choice. Later on I picked up writing. I could have picked up sewing. But I made a choice. I do have time to do the things that I love, I just can’t do them all – I have to make a choice.
I let go of possibilities. Opportunities are always knocking at the door. I could do this, I could do that. If only. Someone needs to do it – it could be me! But there are seasons in my life and I have decided, very intentionally, to live within those seasons. I can only take on so much – and sometimes I have taken on too much – and my priorities suffer. That all being said, there are many opportunities that I have picked up – but always keeping in mind how that is affecting my family and my responsibilities within the family.
Creating a fulfilling family life
So though I have let go of some things I have also gained much. In fact, my life did not suffer by letting those things go. We still ate well, I had friendships with women who loved and encouraged me, my home often welcomed people in and God opened doors for me to encourage others through all my seasons of motherhood.
I see this idea of ‘letting things go’ very much as a seasonal thing. I let something go so I can focus on something else. It isn’t about letting it go and being left with nothing. I let one thing slide, so I can focus on something else.
What I choose to focus on is based on what was important – what was important to me, what was important to Peter, what was important to the direction we wanted for our family. My choices had to be based on what was reality – how much time and energy did I have, and what could be done with what I had and where I was at. Stinkin’Thinkin’ disregards reality – making us think we can have everything all the time, and if we don’t something is wrong with us.
Each season is different – each season has its opportunities and limitations. Each season has its purpose.
We have to know what our purpose and goals are, and how we are going to walk towards them. And we have to have the confidence that what we want in life, is important enough to make sacrifices for in our life.
The little maxim that goes: When I say Yes to one thing, I’m saying No to something else – is so true. I have had to choose what I say yes to. I haven’t said yes to everything, some things have had to be put aside for another day. I certainly didn’t do it all (no one can) instead I made a choice to do what needed to be done, and I gave my all to do that well.
Know your Priorities as a Parent
Do you think you can articulate your primary purpose for this season of family life? I know this is easier for some than for others but it doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to have a full-on vision statement, mission statement, and 10-year goals.
Just think about what values you want your family to live by and be known by in this season of life.
- We wanted our family to love God, know His Word and grow in faith.
- We wanted our family to have the character traits or habits of wisdom, peace, orderliness, creativity, and integrity.
- We wanted our family home to be a place where each person had the freedom to pursue their talents and interests.
- We wanted our family and home to be a place of hospitality
- We wanted to be involved in our community as individuals and as a family
These were core values in our family – it is what defined our purpose as a family. Start to think about what is important to you and your spouse for your family. Your words may be a simple list such as faith, education, health, hospitality and service. But ask yourself why those things are important. When you know your why you will have a clear conviction to live out your values.
As our kids grew older and family life changed, how we lived out each of those values changed a little, but you would still be able to see a consistent connection to those values. These values shaped the priorities in our choices and activities – it gives us purpose – and even today as empty nesters these are the things we want in our life.
So ask yourself – what things do you think are really really important for your family to do and to be known for doing? Then check that you are making choices consistent with those things being a part of your family life.
Heart-focused Action Step
If you catch yourself comparing yourself with other mums, thinking thoughts like –
They look so great they’ve got it all together, their kids are great, their marriage is obviously great, their house is great… Then take a pause because you are likely on a slippery slope towards stinkin’thinkin’.
The truth is you are living a different life so you can never have what they have. Your circumstances, your background and journey, your personality, your husband and children, – everything is different. You can’t have their journey. And they can’t have yours!
When we compare ourselves with others we always see ourselves as less than.
We forget that we have to be living by our priorities, within our context.
You see, the only way I could let go of things that were important to me, or the only way I could delay or tweak doing things that were important to me, was that something else was more important to me.
- It was more important to me to have a home where peace reigned in our relationships and our children had time to be creative and explore than it was to do all the things.
- It was more important to me for our children to learn how to be hospitable and give to people than it was for me to put all my energies into fancy cooking and decor.
- It was more important to me for me to have time to give both quality and quantity time to my kids than it was for me to go out of the house to do things that made me happy. Giving to my kids, raising my kids, made me happy.
Like I said, these were my priorities, and my choices – you have to know your priorities and make your choices.
Once we have been so intentional in defining our priorities we have to also be intentional to deal with the envy and discontent and self-criticism that rears its ugly head when we start to look at someone elses life.
We have to stay in our own lane. We have to know that what we are doing is right for us – and be content with that.
If you can’t be content with that – that is a conversation to have with God and ask him to show you the things in your heart that are causing you to want more than you have – in whatever area of life you are thinking about.
Parent Coaching is Available
I just want to close off with a quick mention about coaching. Someone mentioned to me this week that they had assumed that coaching would be expensive but when they looked at my website they were surprised. My goal is to make help affordable to families so I hope the price for a coaching session reflects that. You start with a free Jumpstart call, which is free. Then when you are ready for a follow up call you can book a Moving Forward call which is $30aud. If you want any calls after that for either accountability, or to discuss further issues, you can book an Accountability call whenever you are ready for $20aud. All coaching is done via a Zoom call (unless you live in my home town!)
- Jumpstart – free
- Moving Forward – $30aud
- Accountability – $20aud
Anyways… thought I’d mention incase you too had assumed it would be more than that! You can find more information and the booking link here
Comparison is an easy way to stop yourself from growing.
Whenever we compare ourselves with others we see ourselves less than. Less than God sees us. Less than God created us!
We need to stop.
Instead see the opportunities that God has given you to make an impact for His kingdom and live with that in mind.
Do you struggle with comparison? Start today by seeing an opportunity God has given you to show Him to the world – and give thanks for that. It’s a start to change your mindset.
You can’t do it all – You have to Choose
When we know that our activities match up with our priorities or purpose we find the motivation to do well and push through when things are hard.
But if we see the task as mundane and just busy work – then it is pure drudgery.
This is why I was able to let go of certain activities because I could see that though they were good things, they didn’t help me achieve my priorities. (Listen to the podcast to hear what things I let go)
My choices were (and would be today) counter-cultual because our society doesn’t value the same things I do. Our peace and contentment has to come, not from having all the things, or doing all the things, it has to come from knowing that we are walking with Jesus, doing the things He wants for us.
If you face overwhelm, or feel you do things to please others – then take a pause and check each and every activity – think about why you do them, and see if they help you or hinder you in walking in your priorities for this season of life.
Sometimes we just know we have to let something go… Is there one activity you could eliminate to better focus on your priorities?
Comparisons have to Stop!
The truth is you are living a different life so you can never have what others have: your circumstances, your background and journey, your personality, your husband and children, – everything is different. You can’t have their journey. And they can’t have yours.
Check out a few other blogs/podcasts on this topic:
Parenting is a Journey and you can’t Compare: Parenting is a journey is a phrase that I use – actually saying life is a journey is a bit of a trendy phrase. It paints a good picture, so in this episode, I start comparing family life to a journey we took around New Zealand but then I move into talking about comparison – it is such an unhealthy trap. Let’s learn to celebrate our journey and those of the other mums around us.
Perfectionism distracts us from our Purpose: If we struggle with perfectionism we need to identify when it raises its head and then walk away from it – every time. It is not good for us nor for our kids. At the end of this post I have a Heart Booster Journal Page as a free download. As you use these journal prompts when you start to feel perfectionism raise it’s head you’ll be on a path to overcoming.
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