When my wife and I were young parents with school-aged kids, we’d often get caught up in conversations where our friends practiced a curious kind of one-upmanship. “I’m busier than you” was worn as a badge of social standing, and seemed to be something to strive for. Butwe are families first; mom and dad need to be calling the shots, not unbalanced social expectations. It begs the question, rather than making the decision to live simply, “Are you living off other people’s priorities?”
- “I drive my kids to a total of fourteen different activities during the week!”
- “We’re both practicing attorneys, our kids are in travel soccer, I’m membership chair at the Junior League, and my 10-year-old is outselling every other girl in cookie sales!”
- “Between the kids’ music lessons, dance obligations, our work schedule, and the travel soccer team, we haven’t been to church more than three times this year! And now I just volunteered to coordinate social events at our neighborhood club. I’m sure the children will get some Sunday school in next year.”
- “Its been several years since my husband and I went out on a relaxing date. But one day, after the kids are at a top college with sports scholarships, we plan to take some time for our relationship.”
They’d get breathless explaining their busy lives, and stand there with forced smiles, just daring somebody to top their impressive calendar obligations. Then, in private, they’d own up to how stressed they were, how driven by other people’s expectations, how much they longed for a simpler life.
Are you living off other people’s priorities? Think about the 5 following reasons you need to simplify and organize your life.
1. Your marriage wants you back:
We all know people who are AWOL from their own relationships. No one has asked for a divorce or left, but it’s also clear that they’re not really 100% there – not really showing up for their own life. They’re too busy “doing something.” That person may even be you. If you have disengaged from your marriage (even partially), the first positive step back is to acknowledge where you are, and to own your need to get back. Talk with your wife, tell her you want to be more present – then take steps, together, to make it happen. This is probably a good time to talk with a licensed counselor.
2. Your family needs to slow down:
When my kids were school-aged my wife and I applied a simple formula. We go to church as a family; each child must pick two (of many church choices) activities beyond worship; the kids were limited to two more commitments (piano lessons, soccer, Scouts, etc.). The faith community is first, then we make our choices. Dinner four times a week as a family was sacrosanct. Yes, this meant compromise. No, everyone didn’t get to do everything all the time. That’s the point.
3. “Quality of Life” starts at home:
Home is where everything starts. Home is the epicenter of family life. Nothing beats a relaxed family dinner with conversation and games together during the evening. Activities, and crazy busyness that take away from a quality experience of home must be questioned and must come second.
4. Time moves too fast:
When we’re overwhelmed with too much life we can become so distracted that time slips by and “rewind” is never an option. Robin Williams’ character in “Hook” showed up late or not at all for everything important in his children’s lives. “Peter, you’re missing it!” his wife pointed out. Sometimes we’re so distracted by the next moment that we forget to simply enjoy the one we’re in, with our family.
5. The best things in life are free:
So let me ask, who told you rushing around to all those activities was more important than barbecuing in the backyard with the family? Whose priority is it that relegates time together as a family three places behind travel soccer? What exactly is it that makes a new high-performance car worth the pressure it puts on your family life? The alternatives, the better choices, all turn out to be free. Family time, not just free, but priceless.
SOUND OFF: Does where you spend your time line up with what you want your priorities to be?
Derek Maul is the author of five books, a nationally recognized men’s resource, a committed encourager, and a pilgrim in progress. He divides his time between writing and traveling to speak about the fully engaged life.