You have dreams. Ambitions and goals that you want to accomplish. But then…

Children come into the picture and ruin EVERYTHING.

I’m joking of course, because children are a blessing. They bring a joy to your life that few things can. But the reality is that they do CHANGE EVERYTHING.

Dishes that used to take 3 minutes, now take 30 because your little angel can’t wait to hand you the forks and spoons.

Thinking about cleaning the living room? Expect toys to multiply in seconds.

Don’t even get me started if your child is teething. Lord help me.

Older children? You probably drive more than a traveling salesman.  Band practice, soccer practice, rehearsals… the list goes on and on.

Children change everything, and if you have a dream or goal you want to accomplish, the question is… How? How are you going to…

  • Write that book?
  • Lose the weight?
  • Date your spouse consistently?
  • Start that blog?
  • Begin that side hustle business you’ve been dreaming of?

How are you going to accomplish your goals and dreams once children come into the picture? I’m no expert and currently in the thick of figuring it out.

But here are five ways you can work on your dreams while having children.

1. Make your life easier. 

Do you want to accomplish something great while growing a family?

The first step… make life EASIER for yourself.

You wouldn’t believe how much valuable time I’ve wasted stopping my child from opening kitchen cabinets. Time and energy I could have spent elsewhere if I would have simply installed locks and gates earlier. More than just securing my child’s safety, it enabled my sanity, and sane people accomplish more.

Making life easier won’t feel easy at the start. It will likely require putting in more work than you want.  It will be difficult, but the return on creative energy and quality time cannot be overstated.

Recently this meant me building a fence. Now I’m enjoying quality time with my son outside, instead of constantly telling him to not go there and there and there. It’s amazing how much less guilt you feel working on your dreams when you’ve loved your family well.

It meant building a playroom on our porch so the toys don’t live in our living room, zapping me of all creative energy. The OCD in me just can’t think of working on anything while I live in disorder.

Whether your dream is to have that monthly date night you’ve promised for years or start a new business venture, do yourself a favor and make your life easier.

2. Build consistent structure

What can you do to make working on it (your goal, dream, ambition), repeatable  & sustainable?

Repeatable: What structure can you build within your calendar to create time and energy to work on it?

Hint… The goal doesn’t need to be a lot of time all at once. The goal could be structuring consistent time over a long period of time. You might only have 15-20 minutes a night to work on your blog, but over the span of a week, that’s 1-2 hours!

Small amounts of consistent time can bring your dreams to life. You don’t need another day. You just need a little consistency.

I’ve scheduled my life so I can have 1-2 hours a week to write. It’s not much, but it’s repeatable and sustainable.

This was only possible because I took inventory of my life and asked myself, what can I do to make working on it repeatable and sustainable?

Next step… look at your calendar and schedule a time to work on your dream and hit the recurring button.  Adjust as needed, but make it repeatable.

Sustainable:  Making consistent progress on your dreams will involve more than you. It will require you have difficult conversations with those your life intersects with. Spouse, kids, friends, boss, co-workers, and family will likely need to be included and even consulted at times.

Those closest to you should have the loudest voice.

They will be the ones who will help you see clearly how to make what you want to accomplish sustainable because they see your day-to-day.  Bottom line…

Your goals need a team. You are not enough.

Making my goals sustainable required me to have difficult conversations with family and friends about sacrificing the right amount of time and the right amount of resources to chase my dreams.

Ultimately it makes my life easier because when it gets hard to sacrifice, it isn’t a shock. It was planned. You and those involved get used to the new normal and adjust appropriately. But this is only possible when you build a consistent structure.

3. Get help

This isn’t an option. If you want to accomplish your goals AND be a good parent, you will need support. Whether that be from a spouse, friend, co-worker, or paid help… get it and make valuable use of the time.

I hear all the time that so many parents want to go back to school, date their spouse, go to the gym… but they don’t trust anyone to watch their children.

If you don’t trust anyone with your children then you have three options.

  • Choose to trust your current friends/family
  • Make new friends you’ll choose to trust
  • Move and find new friends you’ll choose to trust

Bottom line… Getting help with your children demands you begin to trust people with them. Don’t be naive. If you want a background check, get one. Get a good camera to spy on them if you feel that’s necessary.

You do what makes you feel less anxious. But choosing to trust is a must.

Finally, STOP FEELING GUILTY about asking for help! Those closest to you are for you. They love you. They want to support you and you need to trust that you aren’t a burden on them.

They may even like your kids (added bonus) But believe they are for you. Thank them profusely, and a box of donuts never hurts.

4. Play, Pause, Stop.

Some dreams you need to push the play button on and start moving. Pushing play doesn’t demand full throttle. It just means you’re moving. Making progress. Your dreams don’t require ALL or NOTHING. Very few things are like that.

Some of your dreams simply need you to take the next step and be ok with the slow progress. Find joy in the slow grind and you won’t be disappointed in the small victories.

Others dreams… you may need to pause or completely stop. Not just because you have kids but because you have character.

I’d love to write a book. Not simply because it sounds cool but because I believe I have something helpful to offer.

But… I love my wife and children more than the people I could help. That’s just the truth. My family matters more to me than you do. Sorry about that.

So for right now, the books are floating around in my mind, becoming more buried in my heart, and compiling more thoughts within my notes app.

And you know what… that’s probably better. It’s probably better when the books do come to life, that the ideas are bursting within me. It’s good that God has the time to cultivate a deep well within me before I draw it out for others.

Whatever your dream,  it’s ok to wait on building it now, because it gives God time to build it within you.

5. Get Creative with Your Sleep

Do you want to accomplish your dreams? Sleep on them and you’ll have the energy to work on them.

However, the reality is,  when children come into the picture, the first thing that usually goes is consistent sleep. At least in the way you used to do it.

Before children, you could stay up until midnight and sleep in a little later on Saturday mornings. Now… your children are likely an unwavering alarm clock. One you shouldn’t ignore.

Trying to accomplish your dreams requires you to think critically and work with passion. That’s difficult when you’re sleep deprived.

Solution… get creative with your sleep. Here are a few things I’m trying out.

A. Sleep when your kid sleeps.

I NEVER used to take naps. Until I had a newborn who would wake up several times a night. Now, if our foster daughter is sleeping on a Saturday afternoon, I’m likely joining her. Why?  Because right now I’m writing this after napping a few hours ago. Napping then, resulted in me grinding now.

B. Sleep swap 

Parents understand what a little extra sleep can do for their overall well being. There are parents in your life (maybe your spouse, a friend, or co-worker) who are in the same situation as you. Why not help each other out and offer a sleep swap?

What’s a sleep swap? Someone offers to watch your children, for a period of time, so you can sleep. In return, you do the same for them. You are likely not sleeping anyway if you have young children, so why not watch some extra kids in the process and get more sleep next time?

The key to this is to fill your exchange with rest, not productivity. No chores. No working on it. JUST REST.

My wife and I just made an arrangement for an extra hour of sleep on Saturday mornings. Next week, I’ll be watching the kids while she gets an extra hour. I bet she’ll be in a much better place to work on her dreams (whatever that looks like for her) after getting some extra shut-eye. Then next week she’ll return the favor.

C. Go to bed even earlier. 

I know. I know. But you like to watch tv. Answer… Netflix and Hulu still work at 5 am. You can always watch your favorite tv show in the morning after getting a good nights sleep.  So go to bed earlier and you’ll feel more rested.

And rested people always produce more than tired ones.