During the years when life flew by with nary a second thought, I had to force myself to stop and take stock of what I was doing with my time. Often I was so busy that I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I found it essential every so often to take a look from 50,000 feet up to gain perspective on how I was using my time.
As a mom of five wonderful children under seven years old, I found myself inundated with things pulling for my attention—five little ones, the doorbell, the laundry, the phone. At any point in time, I felt that I had to choose between a minimum of eight to ten things—all urgent. Add that to the fact that my husband was a perfectionist (though he loosened up) and it was literally a recipe for disaster.
One of my mantras as a young mom was: Will this thing I am about to do matter ten years from now?
So many times (though not as often as I’d liked), that thought changed my direction. Thinking about whether what I was about to do would matter in ten years brought me to the place of freeing myself up from own expectations—and maybe my husband’s as well.
But how can we do that? Here’s what helped me and what I recommend to other busy moms:
- Get your husband on board. When we married, my husband was very much a perfectionist. I was a little overwhelmed trying to keep everything to his standards. That continued up until we had babies #3, #4, and #5 within 16 months (yes, we had twins). At that point, we had to communicate a lot about what needed to be done and had to work together to do it. In the same way, I had to be open to him about my desire to prioritize time with the children over making sure everything in the household was in perfect order.
Ease up on your standards. Once you have your husband in agreement, decide what the non-negotiables are as far as housework. For us, it was keeping things picked up, not necessarily white glove clean. It also meant planning the deep cleaning on only one day a week, and just doing some quick wipe downs or vacuuming on a limited basis in between. This helped me to not see every speck of dirt as screaming for my attention.
Group your activities. This may sound like a no-brainer, but don’t let yourself get in the habit of running errands every day of the week. This interferes with making sure you have the time to spend with your children. Again, things that often seem urgent are actually not that important. Have a few set days and list your errands to be completed on those days rather than running out every time you think of something. Laundry was another area that seemed to get out of control pretty quick. When dirty clothes seemed to monopolize every day of the week, I chose to “group” this activity. I let laundry build up and only did loads on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. My loads were bigger, but having set days to devote to laundry freed me up the rest of the week.
Be present in the moment. This is something we hear a lot in today’s world. With the addition of new technologies, social media, and cable TV, we all have to discipline ourselves to leave the technology alone when we are spending time with our family members. Family needs to know that they are more important than Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Even though my husband and I are now empty nesters and have tons of time together, I still find myself with my phone in hand as we are driving in the car. That’s something I will regret someday.
Later in life we become more aware of the regrets in our lives. Are you going to say at the end of it all, “I just wish I had dusted more often”, or, “I wish I had made gourmet meals for dinner every night”, or, “I wish I would have worked longer hours”, even though the intent was to do them “for your family”?
My dad has said to me so many times in recent years that he wishes he would have taken the family on vacation more (not something we did very often). I just know that I will never regret the fact that I didn’t keep my house perfectly clean or spend my days organizing closets and running errands. But I will regret it if my kids were to ask me, “Why didn’t you have more time for me, Mom?”
We are blessed with children for only a portion of their lives, so shouldn’t they be the real priority?
Question: What has helped you keep real priorities in place? Share your answer in the comments below.