A study of one thousand young people in 3rd through 12th grade asked kids and teens this question:
If you were granted one wish that would change the way that your mother’s or father’s work affects your life, what would that wish be?
In a parallel study, more than 600 mothers and fathers were asked to guess what their childrens’ wish would be. So, what do you think? What would your kids want most from you?
Most parents (56%) guessed that their children would wish for more time with them. They were wrong. Only 10% of children made that wish about their mothers and 15.5% made that wish about their fathers.
So what did kids actually want?
Most children actually wished that their mothers (34%) and their fathers (27.5%) would be less stressed and tired. (Source: Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham). Another study (source: The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine) showed that the single most determining factor on how well adjusted a child turns out is the mother’s emotional health. This finding was true whether the mother worked out of the house or stayed at home.
I’ve been on the work-too-much and I’m-too-stressed treadmill myself. The irony is that you think you’re helping your kids get ahead by making sure they’re enrolled in every event and by working longer and harder to give them an advantage. What if we’re actually doing the opposite?
So what do you do about this? I’m going to share a learning that’s true of me. I don’t know whether it’s true of you. But it’s helped me so much.
I’m at my best when I’m rested. My fuse is longer. My ability to cope with curve goes balls up. My temper flares up less often. My ability to have something left over at the end of the work day increases.
I used to cheat sleep a lot. And I thought my emotions could be handled by a stronger devotional life or more counseling. But I discovered this: the better rested I was, the more gracious I became. Taking time for God, for friends, and dealing with my baggage are all important. But the single biggest variant in my ability to cope at home and at work is my rest. Four years ago, I started prioritizing eight hours sleep a night. A solid night’s sleep can often make me feel like I just got back from vacation. This year, I’m prioritizing a sabbath day. It’s hard – like you, I have more demands on my time than time available.
All of this is very spiritual actually, if you think about it. I recall God commanding that one seventh of our lives should be spent resting – something few of us ever observe. Even God observed that rhythm in creation. We just seem to fight it.
For me, more rest = less stressed and less tired. More rest = better emotional health.
So two things today:
- First, what’s your best approach to lowering stress and finding emotional health? It might not be sleep – that’s just it for me.
- Second, if you think rest might be your issue, what are you going to do in the next seven days to get better rested? Call in the parents or a friend to sit for a night so you can sleep? Get a hotel room and sleep for a night? Cut out late night tv? Start going to bed an hour earlier? Talk to your doctor about your insomnia? Share the kid load more evenly with your spouse so each of you gets a solid night’s rest every other night?
What if one of the greatest gifts you could give your family is a better rested you?