From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

Prioritize to Simplify Your Life

Do not race through life. Take the time to not only smell the roses, but watch them open.

Sharon McElroy

I am a working grandmother, and in looking back over the years, I wonder how I managed to do it all when my three children were an active part of my busy life. I believed in the traditional life—home-cooked meals; a clean home; a manicured yard; all clothes ironed, mended, and handmade; and being there for my family no matter what. But what this boiled down to was that I was overworked and overwrought.

From my mother I learned that always being there for my family wasn’t easy, and there was only so much of me to give, but out of love I found myself giving even more. Many days and nights I was drained and in need of at least eight hours of sleep to function normally. I could not fathom how I awakened after only five or six hours of sleep most nights.

At 4:30 AM the alarm would rudely blare. Slowly I would awaken and reluctantly rise from bed to quickly ready myself for eight hours at the office. I would then awaken my children, dress them or supervise them getting ready for school, pack lunches, prepare breakfast, eat, do the dishes, and off I would race to take them to school and to arrive at work on time by 8:00 AM. Not easy to do. With never enough time in the morning for me, often I found myself applying my makeup at each red light.

At 5:00 PM the race after the tiring workday started again. Sometimes I would need to stop at the grocery store before arriving home to cook dinner and complete or delegate chores. And too often there was homework to help with. After a long day in school, I don’t believe children should be given homework. It is like taking your job home with you, and who enjoys that? After dinner, homework, baths, before you know it time has run out, and it is time for bed. And weekends? Usually those were spent completing chores that couldn’t be finished during the week.

In retrospect, I recognize all the precious time lost in the hectic race of life because of its many responsibilities. Could I have slowed it down? Could I have simplified and balanced my life to become a calmer, happier person? Could I have made my loved ones happier? Yes. And over the years I finally learned how to do just that.

Still, I work full time at an office and part time writing and submitting whenever I can. I didn’t back then, but now I enjoy time with my friends and loved ones. My life is very full, especially with the addition of four wonderful grandsons, but I don’t race anymore. And I don’t have to put makeup on at red lights any longer. I have learned to simplify my life by doing only what really matters. I changed my work schedule to avoid the dreadful 4:30 AM wake-up alarm. I let some unnecessary chores slide without feeling guilty, and I don’t iron all the clothes. By not cooking, I don’t waste time cleaning up the mess and thereby have leisure time to visit with friends or family at a restaurant and still enjoy a good meal. I create peaceful, enjoyable, quality time with my children, who are now grown and independent, and frequently I spend priceless time with my grandsons. No job, no race, is worth more.

Poet, singer, songwriter Rod McKuen wrote an insightful poem entitled Age Is Better. And I agree. I finally crossed the finish line, content in knowing that I have simplified my life by balancing responsibilities and accomplishing what brings the greatest happiness to myself and to others. My children will grow to learn this one day soon, I hope, and so, too, shall you. But why wait for precious years to pass? Why not prioritize, balance, and simplify your life now?

Sharon McElroy

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