My husband used to have a medical colleague with a bad habit of complaining: When work was slow, he’d complain that he couldn’t make any money. When work was busy, he’d complain that he never saw his family.
Doug suggested that all he really needed was an attitude adjustment.
“When you’re working hard, be happy for the opportunity to make money. When your schedule’s light, be happy for the opportunity to spend more time with your family. Just flip-flop your reactions and you’ll have nothing to complain about.”
It occurs to me that a lot of wives and mothers might profit from a similar shift in thinking.
When our children are little, it’s easy to focus on the sleepless nights, the endless messes, the never-having-a-free-minute-to-call-our-own. As they grow, those earlier trials give way to hectic schedules and constant chauffeuring, then attitudes and hormones, then college tuition and car repairs, and then suddenly — in the blink of an eye — they’re grown and gone and you find yourself sitting in an empty house wishing for a do-over.
That’s why it is so important to focus not on the trials of each stage, but on the joys. Savor them, for they are fleeting. Tomorrow that chubby cheeked toddler who wakes you up three times a night will be married with children of his own.
I am so grateful that, when I was just a little girl, my mother warned me of the dangers of wishing one’s life away.
Instead of thinking, I’ll be glad when I’m old enough to wear make up or drive or date or attend college or get married or (fill in the blank), Mom advised me to just enjoy whatever stage of life I was in to the fullest.
The next stage would arrive soon enough, she assured me, but I’d miss the pleasures of the present stage if I spent my time pining for the privileges of the next.
It’s a lesson I carried with me into marriage and motherhood, and my life has been so much richer as a result.
Contentment is not something you should postpone for a more convenient time. If you are ever going to experience it, you must actively cultivate it.
Right where you are.
This involves shifting your focus off the things you can’t do in your current season of life, and instead attending with gratitude to those things you can do.
Instead of complaining about the cold all winter and the heat all summer, relish the opportunity to wear sweaters and build fires and drink hot cocoa when temperatures drop, then take joy in wearing flip-flops and eating watermelon and going swimming when the mercury peaks.
This simple solution, consistently applied, has a profound effect on overall happiness and contentment.
These serve as a reminder to do more of what I’ll miss (like cuddling with my little ones, reading them stories, and baking cookies together) and to chill out about stuff that’s relatively inconsequential (there will be time to alphabetize my home library and organize my small parts cabinets when the kids are grown and gone, if those things are even still important to me then).
Of course, your children aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit when you focus on the things you love instead of the things that irritate you — your spouse will appreciate such a shift in thinking, too.
As much as you might like to grow old together, you have no guarantee that will happen, so show him all the love and respect and appreciation you can muster while you still have him with you.
Live in a way that will leave no lingering regrets when he’s gone.
What kinds of things would/should be on your “Do It Now List?” What things might be better postponed for another season, perhaps when your nest is empty?