The Family First Mindset: You Can Count on Change

I was going to write post about what my family does to put family first. I wanted to tell you that every night at about five o’clock I come up from my home office, turn off my phone and computer and make an intentional choice to tune into my family through bedtimes.

That’s how I’m putting my family first right now. I then realized that over the past three years I’ve written dozens of posts giving examples of how we put our family first and the only thing they have in common is that we consciously try to make our family a priority.

The specifics of what putting our family first looks like is something that changes all the time.

One of the first things new moms ask me as a doula (or friend) is “When will they sleep through the night?” And I always answer, “They will. And then they won’t. And then they will again.”

I know this isn’t the answer that they want and they usually respond with a puzzled look, because they were looking for a final solution. They want me to tell them if they just hang on a few more weeks or a few more months their baby will start sleeping through the night.

But it’s just not true. One lesson we learn as parents is just when we figure what works for our families something is bound to change.

To return to my example of a young baby you’ll find that even after they begin sleeping through the night something will change, whether it be teething, an ear infection, or daylight savings that throws your carefully crafted sleep schedule off. Or just when you think they are settled in as toddlers you find yourself up at night soothing them after a nightmare or changing their sheets after an accident.

Sometimes I feel like those new moms. I scan blog headlines hoping I’ll find the post with the magic advice that will provide the perfect solution. Just like those early days of parenting I find that no matter how many solutions I find for my family, the only thing I can count on is change.

Over the past eight or so years putting my family first has meant different things at different times.

Sometimes putting my family first means:

  • Putting my career aside to care for my family or support my partner’s career
  • Making more homemade meals and sitting down for family dinners
  • Turning off the television
  • Moving to a family-friendly city with a slower pace and lower cost of living so we could work less and spend more time with our family

And other times putting family first has meant:

  • Finding appropriate childcare so I can help provide for the family financially (and fulfill my personal interests/talents)
  • Passing on made-from-scratch meals and instead preparing easier meals or take-out
  • Putting in a DVD
  • Spending holidays away from home so that the children can make memories with grandparents, aunts and uncles.

It really depends on the year (new baby anyone?), the month, the week . . . or even the hour.

The more we’re able to acknowledge and make peace with the eventual change and the constant push and pull that is required to keep the entire family happy and healthy, the easier it is to ease through transitions and uncover what it means to put our family first today.

Sometimes we’re surprised by what we find!

It’s a legitimate question: How do you put your family first? I enjoy hearing how different people and families answer and I enjoy finding new ideas and inspirations for my family. But I also like to remember that putting family first is a mindset, not a formal sit down dinner or a game night.

Or maybe it is – today.

Have you found this to be true? What does putting your family first mean to you today?

About Hillary

Hillary feels lucky to be able to work full-time from home and shares the homeschooling responsibilities with her partner. Together, with a little creativity, a full schedule and a lot of love, they facilitate the education of their three adorable, and sometimes very loud, children.


  1. Good article. A family first mindset is definitely something you have to be intentional about, because its so easy to get sucked out of it. But I think you’re right in saying that “family first” means different things at different times. And if you’re willing to be flexible enough to see the change when its needed, your family will be a lot better off. 🙂 For us, family first means weighing specific decisions to see if and how will benefit our family…and not caring what that looks like to people who don’t live in our house. Some decisions might not make sense when paired up with others (to people who don’t live within our four walls) but that’s not our concern. 🙂
    Amy/MamaTea’s latest post: apart from me

  2. Yes, everything does change so quickly. Sometimes I get very frustrated that my “perfect”plan is crumbling after so little time. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder about how quickly things change for every family.

    Right now, we’re putting our family first by working on not letting ministry (my husband’s a pastor) overshadow our family time. I have a ministry degree as well and we’re both passionate about it so that can be hard. We’re fairly good at guarding our alone time but struggle with not spending that time constantly talking about church.
    Steph’s latest post: What, in the next hour, are you looking forward to?

  3. For us, family first means thinking about how decisions will affect the whole family. We have teenagers and little kids at home right now, so sometimes the teenagers have to forgo something they would like to do because it isn’t good for the littler ones. Other times, little ones have to be left behind at Grandma’s or miss naps so that the older ones can do their thing. We try to discuss as a family how each decision affects everyone, and how we can make things fair without being equal (necessarily.)
    Jen @ anothergranolamom’s latest post: Exploring Capitol Reef National Park

  4. This made my morning! Yes! Sometimes the “right thing” to do is the opposite of yesterday’s “right thing” or something else entirely! We put family first this week by renegotiating my husband’s job. It was scary and may ultimately lead to less money and hours, but it was the right thing for his peace of mind and future growth. He was reluctant but we realize that when any member of the family is struggling, we must all pull together and find a way to make it better. If we don’t, the entire family suffers.
    Jennifer Castro’s latest post: Bully, Bullied, Bystander

  5. For my husband, daughter and I putting family first meant that I left a job that I enjoyed and was very good at to stay home. It was a tough decision, both financially and personally. And we now are in a lot of uncertain financial territory because my husband is self-employed, but we really felt like it was the right decision and because it was right it will be rewarded. So far it has been rewarding in the time I spend with my daughter and my ability to cook creatively (I worked nights, which meant my husband cooked during the week). It does have its challenges though and I am learning a new kind of patience in dealing with them. But the fact that we have created space for family feels good and right.

  6. I so agree!–Thank you for this well-written reminder!

  7. Putting my family first right now means – and this may seem counter intuitive – taking care of MY NEEDS. Allowing for time for me to study again, taking time to feed myself properly and rest enough, get surgery I’ve been waiting on for 20 years, etc. My bucket is getting empty and must be refilled!
    Kika@embracingimperfection’s latest post: Spring Planning: herb garden, eco-lawn, bug spray & nature journaling

  8. This is spot-on! It’s all about mindfulness and parenting with intention!

  9. Couldn’t be more true, nothing more certain than uncertainty! Right now I’m putting family first by thinking about how to take some of the pressure out of our day, looking at what is working and what isn’t. I’m working hard on setting a pace for our day that allows us to move through it with minimum stress and aggravation and right now that means being at home more or mixing with other homeschoolers so that I get mama time while the boys are enjoying their time, that way there is a pay off for everyone that makes all the effort worth it!
    Emmalina’s latest post: Pastel Shades

  10. This is such a good post! Having a family mindset is so important, but always keep in mind that it needs to be very flexible. Having the mindset in the back of your mind always, will help you make decisions as your family is presented with opportunities. One thing I remember doing in the years when I had several older teens at home, was to designate, based upon work and activity schedules, that one night a week was family dinner. While they were younger we tried to eat dinner every night together, but as they got older and more independent, that just wasn’t possible as everyone was always coming and going. By keeping that one day open, it helped us to still spend some time together in those last few years before they left home.
    Bernice @ The Stressed Mom’s latest post: Where did the day go!?

  11. I love the perspective that putting the family first will look different and is constantly changing. So true!

    Right now my husband is a full-time student in Seminary. What that means for us is that each semester we re-evaluate based on work/class load and figure out how to make family a priority. Right now, family dinners are when we all come together. It is so important. We also try to have a Saturday every so often that we just go to the park or do something as a family.
    We also try to remember to just have fun together. Remembering that you enjoy each other is so important. 🙂 Thanks for the post!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: Five (Free) Apps for Listening to Classical Music

  12. I do not agree that it’s ever okay to put kids in childcare to get a job so a woman can be “personally fulfilled.” If there’s a dire financial need, okay…but it’s pure selfishness to take a job away from home in order to be “fulfilled.” Instead, how about talking to God about finding fulfillment in the role of motherhood? He CAN do such miracles, after all. And, if we don’t want to devote ourselves to our children, why do we have them? They’re not supposed to be trophies.
    Tina H.’s latest post: Discipleship Deliberation: February, 2012

    • I’m sorry, but I disagree with you. There are many shades of gray and I’ve yet to meet a mother who has acted out of pure selfishness. It’s never possible to truly understand another person’s motivations or reasons behind their actions. If there’s anything this world needs — it’s supporting mothers. Judging each other based on our own convictions is a harmful practice for ourselves, our families, and our communities. I believe we need to do what is right for our family and work hard every day to find humility and compassion for others — especially when we do not understand where they are coming from.
      Hillary’s latest post: Get Karen to Haiti: Making a Healthy Difference for Mothers and Babies

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