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What’s Saving My Sanity Right Now

As I graduated from college, I became aware of several new roles in my life. Full-time Employee. Spouse. Home Manager.

Thanks to a university degree, pre-marital counseling, and Martha Stewart, I had a general idea of what these roles might involve.

I’ve adopted many new roles over the years, most recently adding stay-at-home-therapeutic-homeschooling-parent to the list. Again, thanks to some great resources I had a few solid hand-holds.

I have another role, though, that I never saw coming: Warden of the Family Sanity.

Mental health is a big deal.

And with daily assaults both real and imagined, maintaining an environment (both physically and relationally) that frees people to be imperfect, make mistakes, be accepted, continue to grow, have purpose, and do it all over again…all while staying well-connected to other members and the whole well…who ever thought about that? Did anyone get a course on that?

I’ve recently figured out that not only is it a thing, but it’s the thing that makes the difference between where we sometimes find ourselves as a family and the true potential of what it can be. Of what I want it to be.

What I want it to feel like and the future I hope for it.

Now that I’m taking this seriously, I have much to learn. Mainly about myself (turns out I create a lot of the problems), but also about how to help everyone else.

Here are a few things that are helping me along this new road.

Guided Action (Courses, checklists, etc.)

Why did it take me so long to invite guides into my life?

There are many things I never learned growing up. I’ve always felt stunted in a way, but this year my inadequate skills in decluttering, cleaning, menu planning, and several others have come eye-poppingly into focus.

I’m a figurer-outerer.

I love to try and see, try and tweak, and eventually find my own blissful system for things.

The problem? There’s never a blissful system. And because I’m trying to reinvent the wheel, I spend a lot of time turning in circles.

But lately I’ve been allowing others to simply tell me what to do. And it’s awesome.

I started following Marie Kondo’s KonMari method of decluttering. I’m using the system Clean Mama outlines in her book for keeping my house clean. I’m using the Calm app grow my mindfulness practice. There are several more.

Each of these things directly or indirectly contributes to my family’s mental health, but the life-saver is that I’ve let go of thinking about them.

When I have time to act, I act, and that’s it.

Surrendering my impulse to think about system-creation has been my number one life-saver this season.

Addressing Lagging Skills

One thing I’ve learned in my time working with kids and youth is that most negative behaviors boil down to either a lack of nurture or lagging skills.

Kids act out when they aren’t getting their needs met. If we’re feeding our kids and keeping them safe, these undesirable expressions often stem from unmet emotional needs.

But they also happen when a child (or teen, or adult) is being asked to do something beyond their capacity or ability level.

Maybe the situation calls for more patience than they have. Maybe the task requires too much focus. Or maybe they’re unable to express their big feelings, so they express them in aggressive words or in a physical way instead.

Kids usually get punished for the bad behavior that erupts in these scenarios. But what if they’re caught in a cycle? What if they can’t express what they’re feeling (even if we can’t understand why that might be), then get in trouble for it, and then have additional bad feelings, which then bring more punishment?

They need new skills – or growth in old ones – to get out of the cycle.

Addressing these lagging skills takes time, effort, and discomfort I often don’t want to spend. But then the episodes keep coming, leaving everyone frustrated, exhausted, and angry.

Lately I’ve been taking the time to address some lagging skills, and it’s saving my life.

Instead of continuing to expect things of my son that he just can’t give, I’m acknowledging those things, planning our days with them in mind, and giving him instruction as well as reasonable opportunities to practice and grow his stamina.

Ultimately, addressing lagging skills is healthier for everyone and home is an increasingly restful place to be. I’m loving it.

Observing My Limits

We all have limits. I don’t mean boundaries, though those are good too.

I mean limits, the line of what you can handle before you start acting like a troll.

Sometimes I feel my limits are selfish. Especially when a person is doing nothing wrong, but something about it is grating at my last nerve. I’m tempted to tell myself to suck it up and deal with it.

But I’m learning that if their “them” exceeds my limits, it’s my mental state that suffers. When I’m frazzled mentally, it isn’t long before my family bears the brunt of it.

Nobody needs mama beyond her limits. My “no” to whatever pushes me to the edge is a “yes” to my family.

Grocery Delivery

Before moving to Lebanon I’d had groceries delivered exactly once circa 2001 when an early grocery delivery start-up briefly delivered to our university town. I was intrigued enough to use the discount they offered, but poor enough as a young married college student that I never used it again.

Fast forward seventeen years and grocery delivery is saving my life.

It’s not expensive anymore, and if it costs me a bit more in dollars (which it rarely does because I only buy what’s on my list), it more than makes up for it in saved logistics and stress. (No more worrying about cold food in a hot car! No more grocery shopping, putting away, and cooking, all back-to-back!)

No impulse buys, no haggling with my son, just order and be home when they deliver.

It feels like a soak in the hot tub compared to the alternative.

In fact, I save enough time to actually soak in the tub if I want to.


Each thing I’ve mentioned creates needed space and calm by removing something else.

Removing situations that push me over the edge. Removing unnecessary stress. Removing the mental strain (and ridiculous long-suffering and failure) of trying to figure everything out myself. Most of all, removing conflict that only exists because one or both parties doesn’t truly know another way.

And you know what I need to stay sane? Space. And calm.

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Sarah W

    Lagging skills! I wish someone had told me about this when my now 14yr old boy was say 5! Sadly I didn’t find out about lagging skills till he was 12! We spend the next 18 months working on building skills and this last month launched a strong freshman. It was hard work. Some days still is but knowing his behaviour might be more about missing or lagging skills than anything else is a game changer!

    • Amber Black

      Thanks for jumping in with this, Sarah. I totally agree! It’s also been helpful to see myself in terms of “lagging skills” (rather than just forever-fail). I’m so happy to hear about your son!

  2. Alicen

    Knowing your limit is key, and your feelings when you are just about there are good to know as well.
    Getting my kids to bed on time is important for me to not get beyond my limit!

  3. Audry Kessler

    Thank you so much for sharing, Amber! I will definitely check out Marie Kondo’s method and address some of my own lagging skills at your encouragement.

    • Amber Black

      Hi Audry, I’d love to hear how it goes! It is intense and thorough, and I’m not anywhere near done, but I feel like I get what she’s getting at and have made a ton of progress toward her method. Good luck!

  4. Jackie

    Hi, thanks for these great tips. What grocery delivery service do you use? I tried Amazon Fresh twice and wasn’t thrilled. Thanks!

    • Amber Black

      Hi Jackie! Well… I’m afraid I won’t be much help here as I live in Lebanon and the grocery store that delivers here isn’t in the U.S. But my friend in the states just told me she does grocery pick-up and it works similarly for her. Maybe ask around in your area and see if anyone has heard of something nearby? Sorry I can’t be more of a help!

  5. dee

    What do you do when the “lagging skills” belong to your husband?

    • Amber Black

      Dee – I laughed out loud when I read this. Because I think we all have this issue with our spouses. (And they with us!) I talked with my husband at length about this and I don’t have any easy answers for you. I think this would make a great future post, but here’s what I have for now. First, I think before asking our spouses to address their own lagging skills, it’s helpful to address any of our own that they might be asking for. For Brady and I, most often, the thing we want the other person to grow in feels impossible to them. And the other person’s standards on the matter can feel impossibly high to the other person, who often just doesn’t get what’s being asked. That’s us, anyway.

      But taking one of their requests seriously, trying to figure it out, and taking action is a great first step. I also suspect that if, while doing this, you begin to share aloud (briefly, respectfully) seeing your own “lagging skills,” and thus giving this oft-overlooked reality a name without condemning it… one can also pave the way for future discussions where lagging skills aren’t something condemnable, but just a part of life that we deal with, just as you’ve now done for their sake.

      If/when you decide to tackle the conversation directly, I suggest using LOTS of empathy. Statements like, “I know there are plenty of things I do that bug you, and just like I try and you don’t always notice I know you’ve probably tried and I haven’t noticed…” or “I know this is a lot to ask because we just see things differently and some things you notice I never think about, and maybe this is one of those things that I notice and you never think about…” might help. If not one of those, just some kind of wording that puts you in their shoes and assures them you aren’t just criticizing and condemning can be really helpful.

      Thanks for asking about this; it’s given me a lot to think about!

  6. Kate

    How did you (and the others who commented) address the lagging skills in your children. I see lagging skills (like handling big emotions-especially frustration) but don’t know how to help them…

  7. Jade

    Thank you for this. I need to let go of system building. It’s so overwhelming trying to figure it out I don’t do it at all and the chaos continues. Space and calm are the ultimate goal aren’t they?

    I really, really appreciate and respect your approach to child rearing and personal growth regarding lagging skills. Being a detective for your children and helping them grow through those skills builds so much confidence and they feel supported and listened to. When children feel respected and listened to it goes a long way to head off negative behaviours.

    Thanks for a refreshing and insightful read. 🙂

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