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February 19, 2011 / MrsH

When Priorities Get Mixed Up

A few weeks ago, MrH went out of town for a business trip.  It was only two nights, but it’s a rarity for him to even miss dinner, let alone two dinners and two bedtimes, oh and two mornings!  I was not excited about his trip and felt worried about how I’d hold up.  I haven’t been feeling very well and my patience has been shorter than I’d like.  Well guess what?  I was a total rockstar.  I felt like supermom with wings during those few days. I was shocked and it’s taken me a while to figure out why that happened.

It was during vacation last week that things really clicked for me: when I knew I’d be stretched beyond what I could reasonably manage, I set my priorities and let go of all the rest. Imagine that!  I gave myself permission to focus on one thing and one thing only: the emotional health of our family.  To make that happen I knew I would need to focus primarily on loving my kids well.  That meant giving us permission to: leave later than usual for school, skip the laundry, run an extra load in the dishwasher rather than handwashing the pots that didn’t fit, order takeout for dinner (which I then ended up not even needing to do!), spend a few extra moments at night snuggling up, skipping baths, picking up less often (we ended up actually putting toys away just before daddy came home and the kids were so proud)…  Well, you get the picture.  I was able to allow myself to not be perfect.

Those three days were, for me, a clear demonstration of all the ways in which our family life would improve if I could let go of my perfectionism, my need and drive for things to go as they “should.”  I know, of course, about letting go of all that stuff, but it’s doing it that’s harder.  All of these things – keeping the house clean, cooking healthy meals that are within budget, having clean clothes, putting our things where they belong – are part of my responsibility as the person home with the kids.  MrH does a tremendous job at helping and supporting that in every way he can, but the reality is that on most days there’s too much to do.  In my postpartum period, people often told me I had to lower the bar a bit.  My response? “I’ve already lowered it!”  These three days have shown me that it’s time to lower my bar, and time to in fact rate all of those priorities lower than my main job, which is to love my children while ensuring that my own needs are getting met.

Now there is a plethora written about this very topic, but what I’m realizing is that my answers can’t be found in a book.  That, once again, this is something I’m going to have to really figure out on my own.  When a child asks me to play a game, do I automatically say yes?  Or do I say “you know, I’m actually reading a book right now.  How about we play that game in five minutes?”  Or “I’d really love to, but right now I’m cooking dinner.  Would you like to help me or see if your sister wants to play?”  It really depends, doesn’t it?  Sometimes the answer needs to be yes, and sometimes I need to set a limit.  It’s about treading that fine line.  Personally, I do better when there’s a more straightforward answer!

So here’s the challenge I’ve placed for myself: can I prioritize my family’s emotional health over all of those other things, consistently, for a week?  How will our interactions change?  Will it be something that’s sustainable or I go crazy by lowering the bar in other areas?  Can I remember to place my highest priority at the top of the list (i.e.: can I parent intentionally according to what I value)?

It feels pretty vulnerable to post this because it seems like such a no-brainer to want to love my kids well.  It’s one of my deepest beliefs that all parents want that, no matter how seriously they miss the mark.  But, well, it seems necessary to me to go the challenge route and push myself out of my comfort zone.  I have a vision for how I want our family to be and right now, it’s not that.  Hopefully we find ways to get closer to our vision.



Leave a Comment
  1. Sarah Bendeich / Feb 20 2011 12:25 am

    Great post! I know what you mean – I always find that things go more smoothly when my husband is away (only for short trips). I just get on with it and give the children more of my attention, and in truth, there’s one less person who needs to be cared for!

    I’m interested in your challenge and I’ll be looking out for your updates!

    • MrsH / Feb 21 2011 9:02 pm

      “I just get on with it…” I think that’s what it is for me. I push myself more when he’s not around because nobody else is going to get it done. Thanks for your encouragement!

  2. Kateisfun / Feb 21 2011 4:46 pm

    Good for you, MrsH! In my own crazy moments I often remember what my own 90-year old Nana still says, “relationships are more important than housework!” Another thought, hopefully somewhat related: I read in some parenting book last week to question yourself when you hear yourself saying “no”. The example was given of a mother discovering her child splashing in the kitchen sink, water everywhere. Instead of halting the fun, why not let the kid enjoy what is clearly very delightful, and then afterward let him help mama mop up with a towel, most likely to be perceived as another fun treat? Thanks for sharing your challenge, let us know how it goes!!

    • MrsH / Feb 21 2011 9:04 pm

      Thanks for your nana’s advice, it’s really so true. I think that’s one of the biggest gifts women can pass on to the next generation: a bit of perspective about what truly matters. I appreciate your encouragement!


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