We all have them. If we didn’t, nothing would ever get done. Priorities are how you arrange your life. When I was in college, my biggest priority was my next exam or project that was due. I have been teaching my daughter, the first thing she must do when she gets home from school, is finish the homework that is due the next day, before working on the diorama that isnt’ due until the end of next week.
Priorities bring some sort of order to our lives. The things that take precedence over others and must be completed first or get your attention before anything else. When I was younger, work was my priority. I didn’t have much of a love life, so work was what I had. In my college years, my priority was getting the highest grades I could. When I got married, that was kind of a tricky balancing act. I am very fortunate in that my wonderful husband understands the necessity for education and that sometimes, my studies would be more demanding of my time. He never made me feel guilty for spending too much time at the library or studying for mid-terms or boards.
When I became a mother, my children’s well-being and happiness became my priority. So much so, that I put my career on the shelf to devote myself 100% to their upbringing. I wanted to know my children and for them to know me and learn their values and morals from us and not someone who’s only investment in their lives was the $7 an hour they were being paid to watch after them. Family is my first priority, my children, my husband, my extended family. (I do understand that not everyone is able financially to stay home with their children, or want to do it. I do not condemn anyone’s personal choice in that matter, as we are all different.)
Family is my priority because in the end, they are what matters most. I may lose my home, my car, everything I own, but if I have my family, I’ll be fine. They may annoy me, drive me insane, make me laugh til I cry, or just flat cry, but they are what matters, above all. Period.
Other people have other priorities. Sometimes we may think they’re out of whack. For some, it’s a clean house. For them to feel good, their homes must be spotless and Better Homes and Gardens ready at all times. Others, it’s their jobs and climbing the corporate ladder. Or maybe it’s buying the next, greatest tech gadget or newer, bigger, better home. Material things do not equal happiness. It’s just stuff. Your house/car/media room may be the cleanest, biggest, newest, bestest on the block. But if your family is suffering or unhappy, what’s the point? In the end, what they want is you, not the junk you can buy for them.
I had to have a real difficult heart to heart with my husband a year ago. His boss was demon-spawn and he was working himself silly only to be beaten down every single day. To the point that he was constantly exhausted and didn’t want to do anything with us. I explained that we would be happier if he took a pay cut and was able to spend more time with us. We wanted him, not necessarily that paycheck. Of course, we need a paycheck to live, but we can live with less if it means he’s happier and able to be there for us, physically and mentally. I knew that if things continued on the way they were, eventually, he would regret the time lost to that thankless job and evil boss. His priority was taking care of us, but it was at the expense of the well-being of our family. Thankfully, he was offered a new job working for his former boss, whom he really liked and respected. Yes, it involved a serious pay cut, but the pay off: he’s happier, less stressed, and able to spend time and have fun with all of us.
When I made the decision to give up my career, I did it because I knew if I had the opportunity to be with them when they were little and didn’t do it, I’d regret it when I was older. I don’t want to have any regrets over things I didn’t do. I’d rather look back and say, ‘wow, that wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but I learned from it.’ The regret I do have that I think may be too late to do anything about, I was 2 classes shy of getting my bachelor’s degree. I was mistaken when I thought I had more time to complete those two courses and now I’m too late. I can deal with that more than I could deal with regret over not spending good time with my precious children when they were little. They are the most important things in my life, and I have not regretted a minute of it.
So tell me, what are your priorities? Do you have any regrets? Do your priorities cause you to miss once-in-a-lifetime events or miss special times with the people who matter most to you? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.