"We are building out daily lives, and our families, on the four pillars of too much: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too much speed"
If I could go back to my first pregnancy, there is a tonne of advice I would give myself. Not that I am the wisdom on parenting now, but just that I suppose a little down the line, there are some lessons I've learnt that probably would have been helpful right back at the beginning... don't go too hard on yourself; survival is enough sometimes, don't try and compete, just be content in who you are and the gifts that God has given you.
The social media world means everyone is an expert at something... we follow the beautiful home accounts and feel like our home should look more like that, and less like the local laundry. We follow fashion accounts and feel inferior somehow when we are heading out on the school run with no make-up and thrown back hair again. We follow parenting accounts and wish we had the brain space to actually think a year ahead of the game, and not just be reacting to the next two minutes!
The problem is, we look at them all, and think we have to be them all. No one can keep ALL those plates spinning all the time. No one turns out immaculate, with a spotless house, beautifully behaved children, an intact marriage and success on every turn. That isn't reality.
And yet we make it the goal for ourselves, our children and our home lives. And so we fill them up with all the stuff and activity we need to make those goals achievable.
But the one piece of practical advice I would have given my pregnant self would be this - don't buy the lie that you need to fill up your life - with stuff, with activity, with experiences. Slow down. Enjoy. Savour it all. It will fly by and all the clutter of stuff does is take your eyes off what really matters.
Children need space, they need quiet, they need slow and they need to learn to be bored. Because in learning to be bored, imagination flourishes, bodies are energised and children are given the space to develop without being pushed or pulled forward to the next milestone.
I sometimes wonder if the current state of our youths mental health isn't in some way linked to their overstimulation and increasing pressure - the pressure of peers through social media, the pressure of education, the pressure of hormones and emotional baggage that are part and parcel of puberty. It's so hard for parents, and their teenagers, to manoeuvre themselves through the web of pressure that seems to fall particularly hard upon our young people.
Too much stuff. Too much speed. Too much pressure. Too much activity. Too much information. Too many choices.
Just too much.
And so it seems especially vital that in these early years my children learn to say no, learn when they need space, learn to step out of the rat race (my goodness, they shouldn't even be in a rat race!) and yet so often I see their activity mimicking mine.
So first things first. I need to cut back, strip back the "too much" of my own life. And be an example that the children can follow.
Back to basics. Back to nature. Back to space and time. Back to real-life relationship and community. Back to laughing around the dinner table, and training through discipline. Back to gospel truth - grace, and patience and kindness.
Away from the "too much".