Monday, March 22, 2021

Let's Prioritize our Priorities

People will talk about the elaborate foods that they are making for or with their kids. 

I'll see an article with lists of seasonally-appropriate crafts or activities for families to do. 

I'll hear about all of the elaborate homeschooling plans that various moms in my area are crafting...and the mental battle begins. 

Why am I not doing these things too? I'll bemoan my lack of put-together-ness, my disorganization, and my low threshold for becoming overwhelmed with life. But then, I remember:

My priorities are not the same as those of my friends, neighbors, or random bloggers online. 

We expend time, money and effort on the things that are important to us--or do we? I've come to realize that I may know we all have different priorities, but I fail to act like it. All of the times when I compare myself to others and plunge into guilt for not being "that mom" are moments when I forget that all these wonderful things are good, but they aren't my priorities.

It's easy to see something beautiful, exciting, and worthwhile that someone else is doing and believe that we need to be doing that thing too. When we operate under this belief, we can may find ourselves forcing our lives to look like another person's without first questioning if we really want this. 
For example, I know some women who are incredible cooks. They have made inventive, elaborate meals and pastries. I love eating the food they make, and it's always fun to see what they come up with. These women seem to enjoy preparing exciting foods, and they prioritize that--they carve out time and money to buy special ingredients and prepare new recipes. I've realized that as much as I love the idea of creating (and eating) elaborate foods and pastries, going through the work (and mess) is not something that I have a huge desire for at the moment. I would rather be doing other things. So, I've been giving myself permission to let go of the feeling that I "should" make exciting foods, and instead stick with super-simple dishes so I can carve out space for the activities that matter most to me (like the weaving class that I am currently taking). 

Photo taken after I "sleyed the reed." Weaving terminology is great ;)

Lately, when that mental struggle of comparison flares up, I ask myself: Is this a priority for me? 

If I can answer "yes" to this question, I try to find ways to make a place for this important thing in my life. If my response to this question is "no," I push myself to ask if this should be a priority for me, and if the answer is still "no," then I dismiss it. I let myself focus on my actual priorities. 

What do I hold dear? What plays an important part in my life? What do I need to spend money on and make time for? These are my priorities, and I need to know what they are. After all, how can I recognize that other people's priorities are different than mine if I don't know what my priorities are? 

Something that helps me determine my priorities is a Rule of Life: a basic framework for how I want to live. Widely associated with monastic communities (like the Rule developed in the sixth century by St. Benedict of Nursia), a Rule of Life is more than a set of guidelines for monks or nuns. It can transform the way that us lay people live. It helps us intentionally chart our days according to the values that we hold dear. 

My husband and I have crafted a Rule of Life for our family, and we regularly reevaluate it to determine what, if anything, needs to change. If something isn't working, we can discuss new ways to approach it, or consider removing that aspect of our Rule and replacing it with something else that is more fitting for our marriage and family at the moment. 

Daily life is full of choices, and as much as I dislike saying "no" to things, I've learned that I have limits to my time and energy. Whenever I try to "do it all," I very quickly burnout and grow overwhelmed. Knowing my priorities helps me confidently say "yes" and "no" to different things without getting bogged down in guilt ("mom guilt" still comes here and there, but not nearly as often). 

So, let's carve out some time for silent reflection as we each address our values and dreams. Are we truly making space for the things we care about? Let's bravely prioritize those priorities in our lives, and see what God has in store for us. 


  1. Love these thoughts as I have the same struggle. Makes me think of a mother's rule of life, which I got alot of good from. People seem to hate that book, and I will never be super scheduled as she is but I found her life fascinating, and really loved the idea of a set of priorities. Also, her way of getting her chores done has really helped me to tackle my house work without so much resentment toward my husband and little kids who make messes but can't help much yet to clean up. When I stick to my morning routines of cleaning as I go, nothing piles up and I actually have evenings free to spend with my husband doing hobbies. It all starts with the priorities. Now I'm curious what types of things have made it on to your rule of life. We have Sunday mass, dinner together, Sundays as family day and no chores, homeschooling, growing friendships with other families, and time for adoration and hobbies.

    1. A Mother's Rule of Life has been in the back of my mind for years! I've heard that it's great, and I really do need to read it someday. Thanks for sharing your rule of life and for getting me thinking more about this topic!! Those sound awesome. The main points from our family's current rule of life are: Marian consecration, daily Mass once a week, monthly Confession, and "help each other follow our dreams." (we also have other things-like making Sunday a family day, that aren't explicitly part of our rule, but basically are part of it) Like your rule (I'm guessing), different things flow from these-we pray daily Rosary together as part of our Marian consecration and devotion, we make the schedule shifts and sacrifices to help each other follow our dreams and passions, etc. and figuring out daily Mass once a week has been...interesting with Covid. Perhaps I'll do a series of posts on rule of life stuff!

  2. I love these thoughts. I’m bad about comparison and often wonder how other moms do it all, but I forget too we prioritize different things.

  3. Excellent thoughts. Love the point about not only IS it a priority but SHOULD it be? I'm also a firm believer that there are different seasons for different things! Like maybe someday when my kids are older I will do more such and such. I've also had to realize that I do prioritize eating healthy, homemade foods so when I feel like all I got done for the day was in the kitchen, I remind myself I'm choosing that priority. Other times it's less a priority, like with a young baby, and we eat chicken nuggets and call it good!

    1. Thanks! I'm so glad you liked this and I love seeing your thoughts on this type of thing. I love your point about reminding yourself of your priority when it feels like all you got done was in the kitchen. Such a great point!! I've started putting a lot of things in the "someday, when the kids are older" realm (like making pretzels for Lent) ;) I've heard that having big kids can be such a huge game changer!

  4. This is such a good and important point, AnneMarie! Man, something to learn over and over. It really does take some serious reflection to make those intentional choices about what to prioritize. It's so freeing when you release yourself from silly personal expectations we impose on ourselves. That's so cool to hear about the weaving, and hope you're enjoying it!