Setting Priorities

Published 9:02 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Do you ever feel like a fireman, responding to a variety of crises, putting out fires in every area of your life? What about a dam engineer (Three letter kind and not the four letter kind)? The person responsible for keeping the wholes plugged up when the cracks begin? That’s what I feel like many days.

No matter that I make preparations and plans so I can prevent problems, I end up responding to events of my life and at the end of the day I see a lack of production. So is the life of a working mom. We accomplish much but sometimes very poorly done.

Do I sound like a guilt-ridden parent? Of course, aren’t we all? But a couple of weeks ago my number two son brought me back to reality. It wasn’t flying bullets that made me think, but words from a disappointed child.

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The day began normally: chaotic. But, on the top of my priority to-do list was one item to pick up for my number two son for school the next day. You got it: I forgot. Why? Because a multitude of issues arose in the afternoon at the scheduled time of pick up. I worked late and even had to arrange with my hard working husband a children exchange. When I walked in from my late night fire, number two son greets me. The alarm went off in my head. I had forgotten the item. Oops.

He accepted the apology, but with the grumbling words, “Mom, you need to get your priorities straight.”

Boy, was he right! My priorities, those things that are most important in my life. Now this doesn’t mean children have to come ahead of every work related activity or life event, although some theology of parents work that way, I do not.

Some parents put their children ahead of their marriage so much that they will not have special time together away from the kids. What they don’t get is that an unhealthy marriage is worse on their kids. Too many kids know they have the number one spot and use it for manipulation and gain. Children need to know they are loved and special but that parents have a life other than being a parent.

But, this moment reminded me that within the past year, post Katrina, my life has been filled to the brim. Time for myself comes even farther down my “to-do” list than laundry, unless you consider sorting underwear an enriching moment. Work, family, and duties have gobbled up every ounce of my time and energy. The priority goes to whoever is in the most need or the loudest. Hence, the twins get a lot of my energy!

I use to be a reader. I cannot remember my last book. It has been years. Something has changed.

We set priorities, sometimes without realizing it. They usually center around our faith, family, work, and our personal goals. “It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” said Henry David Thoreau.

With that question, we find our true life priority list. If you review your last week, what has taken precedence? What were you able to find time to do?

I find that I have not made time for many important things, like my health. Sure, I am attempting to lose pounds and eat better, but I ignored doctor’s advice a year ago. Now, my body has set new priorities. That is the way life can go. You best live your life enjoying and prioritizing the things you hold dear today because we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Our lives could hit one of those bumps that rearranges all our carefully planned details.

If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that really are important. Small stuff equals watching Dancing with the Stars. Will I really be able to carry on if I miss Jerry Springer doing the cha cha?

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness, to your health and to your future.

Make sure you invest in your marriage, along with your 401K.

Do your best when getting your education. Visit your parents, or at least call frequently. Take time to eat right and exercise. Get regular medical checkups.

Spend quality time with your children that doesn’t involve a TV set.

Remember that all priorities are not number one priorities. They come in a numbered order of their value to your life. What is at the top of your list? Or rather whom?

Appley said, “When all is said and done, it’s a question of knowing where you want to go, planning the best way to get there, and controlling events to conform to the plan.” Sounds like a great plan for contestants on the Amazing Race!

For a Christian, the Bible reminds us of what our first priority should be, “to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.” (Mark 12:30) The rest of our life should fall in place.

As for me, I have to rearrange a few activities in my life. I need to center my focus on things that are really important for me and my family. But most of all, I have to always remember to fill each day with real life and not just a busy life.

It ain’t easy.