Early last week, I came across this quote: “Be the adult you want your children to be.” While I know it is not a new quote, for whatever reason, in the past seven days, I have reflected on the quote again and again. I am comfortable with the idea that my children see a host of positive character traits and qualities in me and in my spouse that I wish for them as well (e.g., ethical, caring, hard working, kind, dependable, etc). However, I also am struck by a sinking feeling when I think about how they must perceive my husband and me in our daily lives, in which we often feel frenetic, time-starved, and stressed. Our routine daily pace is quite rapid, and it accelerates still further when we try to squeeze in things that are important to us, but which do not fall neatly into the family or work buckets (e.g., friends, music, nature hikes). We muster as much energy as possible to continue to move quickly and efficiently through never-ending and always growing to-do lists in the family and work spheres, multitasking as much as possible – rarely stopping to “just be” in the moment. Even when we are embracing our friends, having fun at an event or game, delighting in our children, happily engaging in community service, or appreciating our interesting work, we almost always feel under pressure, especially on the weekend (ironically) to hurry to the next deadline. It is rare that we find ourselves able just to experience the joy of a given event, without interruption; the next things on the calendar always seem to barge into the moment and unrelentingly demand attention from us.
I cannot help but think: Is this the kind of adult I want my children to be? Or, more pointedly, is the adult I want to continue to be? NO!
It appears that I am not alone in feeling rushed (although maybe others feel more at peace with the feverish pace than I), where a 2013 Pew Research Report recently reported that 40% of working mothers and 34% of working fathers say they “always feel rushed.” The report also noted that 56% of working mothers and 50% of working fathers feel that it is “difficult” to balance the responsibilities of work and family. In addition, the Huffington Post just reported that in a recent survey that 77% of Americans feel stressed “regularly.” The economic downturn, the widely publicized tragedies and violence of the recent days and years, the challenges of gaining and keeping full-time employment, the increase in elder care responsibilities, the availability of technology which enables us to work anywhere at any time, and the anxiety that children need to start and excel earlier to ensure college acceptance, only help to feed this sense of being rushed or stressed (is your heart rate up, yet?). Moreover, in my case, part of my family’s daily staccato rhythm is likely due to the basic fact that we are a family of five, with two working parents.
No matter what the reason for the rushing, I do not want my kids to model their adulthood on this part of my husband and my lives if they do not have to do so. Instead, I wish for them a life in which they can comfortably pursue and successfully engage in work and family, friends and hobbies, and nature and exercise — or even just those things that are important to them — all free from sleep deprivation, the ongoing assault by the clock, and generalized anxiety.
“Be the adult you want your children to be.” I will attempt the Sisyphean task of revamping the way in which we approach our daily lives, but I long for better tools and firmer ground than what I have in hand and underfoot. Ironically, what I need is time to brainstorm. Perhaps, we can do that together, and save us all some time. Thoughts?
By Julie Weber – Activity Rocket’s Work-Family Expert
See Related Posts: Need Family Dinnertime?; Where Did the Fun Go in Kids Sports?, The Rocket Book Review; Co-Parenting & Still Stressed Out, Tips for Choosing the Perfect Activity, Meet Julie Weber – Activity Rocket’s Work-Family Expert