To Do or Not to Do: How Do You Decide?

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I’ve got a question burning inside me for all the moms out there: How do you stop trying to do too much?

I know you have children who need you . . . and tons of papers and projects and messes calling your name, so I’ll be as brief as I can today, but here’s why I’m asking:  In spite of all I do to be an organized, balanced, happy mother, I am still trying to do too much, and I don’t know how to stop.

Sarah, an incredible blogger at Memories on Clover Lane, wrote a post on The Power of Moms this week called What NOT to Regret, and her words really struck a chord.

I think when we mothers try to do too much, something or someone pays the price. Sometimes it’s the kids, sometimes it’s the marriage, sometimes it’s us. In this case, it was me.

(I’m with you, Sarah.)

I remember older ladies stopping me in the grocery store, admiring my children and saying, “Those were the best days of my life.” or “What I would do to have those days back.” or “It goes so fast. It’s gone in a blink of an eye.”

At the time I felt this general malaise in my heart.

I did some soul searching, talked (and probably cried) with my husband and made the decision that if I would regret anything in life, it would NOT be spending these precious days of raising my children without a feeling of peace. When I am that old lady in the supermarket, I want to know that I spent quiet days, loving and having fun, learning and NOT missing the small moments. I did not ever, ever want to have regrets. I don’t think I could live with myself.

I don’t think there’s a mother out there who doesn’t want to raise her children with a feeling of peace–having fun during the small moments of quiet days. None of us want to be the “old lady in the supermarket” wishing she’d done things differently.

In Sarah’s situation, she was able to quit a home business she’d started.

I was proud of the business I grew, but it had served it’s purpose and I let it go without a look back. Things were tight again, but I was okay with it. Because the peace in my heart was worth more than anything.

The reason I bring up this question is because in many circumstances, and especially in today’s economy, women can’t quit their jobs. In my own circumstance, I could certainly stop my work at The Power of Moms, but I feel like this is part of my life’s mission, and I would feel even less peaceful if I gave it up.

Sarah’s proposed solution is as follows:

I have found one of the best ways to examine the life you are living is by asking yourself, “Will I regret this?” I picture myself in a rocking chair on a front porch, watching my grandchildren, or great grandchildren play on the lawn. Will I look back with peace in my heart? Will I say,”I wish I would have slowed down and savored every moment?”

I love those questions, and believe me, I’m trying to ask myself those things every day. Some days I do this well. Today we folded the laundry together and talked about how Spencer’s new ready-for-preschool haircut has zapped away the cute “baby look” we all adored. I looked through a magazine with my son and made plans to play a new backyard game described in one of the articles. I sang the evening’s lullaby to my daughter really slowly, as beautifully as I could–hoping she’ll remember my voice once she’s grown up.

Those memories are priceless to me, but in the midst of all that, I also sent out dozens of emails, worried about a glitch on my website, tried to get a picnic packed for a day-trip I should have canceled (and finally did), called all kinds of landscapers and handymen to help out with some big home improvement projects, and performed lots of other little tasks for my home and family that needed to get done. In the moment, I don’t think I’ll regret those things, but by the end of the day, I sometimes do.

I need to slow down, I want to slow down, and I know I should slow down, but honestly, how do you look at your list of things you want to do and decide what not to do? Any advice you have would be appreciated (by me–and by all the other women who I’m sure are struggling with this same thing. You are out there . . . right?).

QUESTION: So how do you decide what to do?

CHALLENGE: Take a serious inventory of your activities and commitment, and then discern what it is that needs to go, and what it is that needs to stay.


  1. says

    Ok, I really think you can do most of the things you want to do, or prioritize enough that you SHOULD do. But I think you have to be REALLY organized to do it all. That’s my personal philosophy though, and I know it doesn’t work for a lot of women. You just have to squeeze in a little of whatever your “me” time is, and then decide what’s really important, and leave tiny spaces for less important things (like blog reading). I really think you can squeeze most of what you want to do in. It’s just making each second count (even if the second is just counting to be relaxing, that’s important too).

    • April Perry says

      I do agree, Hilary. Thanks for your comment. Typically, the things I want to do can fit into my day, if I’ve prioritized well. It’s just that “extra” stuff I need to phase out. Organization is key, I think. Thanks!

  2. says

    I always try to keep an eternal perspective in mind. I ask myself if it is something that will matter tomorrow or in a few years or even in eternity.

  3. Beth says

    I’ve thought long and hard about the best way to respond to your (incredibly timely and important) question April. The problem we seem to share is that our hearts are always going to want to say YES to things that will eventually overwhelm our happy life balance mojo because they are *insert reason here* (fun, fulfilling, make great use of our natural talents, are good for our kids, are good for our friends, are good for the world. Or, the most insidious, because someone I like or respect or want to impress expects me to say yes…)

    What I learned, and what you may need are PARAMETERS. Absolute rules that you live by that define what you will and won’t do. Because your heart will find a way to talk you into things that will take you away from the harmony and balance you seek.

    When you have parameters in place, and you are confronted with an opportunity, you will be able to give it an instant litmus test to see if it passes or fails. Of course you can and will make exceptions to the rules, but they will be EXCEPTIONS and not the NORM.

    I’ve had to let go of a LOT to live within my parameters, but when I do, harmony reigns. And to me, that is worth the opportunity cost of letting some good things pass me by, knowing that there is a season for everything, but that this is not the season for EVERYTHING.

    • April Perry says

      Beth, your thoughts about parameters were brilliant. (I even quoted you in our Power of Moms newsletter.) Thanks for the reminder. I appreciate you!

  4. Lindsay Szczesny says

    I think you’re doing great April. You actually canceled a day-trip–that’s terrific! It sounds (to me) like you’re honestly doing so well with priorities. Sometimes the game of life seems unfair and we just want more time. Sometimes our attitude toward time resembles a poor person’s attitude towards money: there is never enough. If we can chill out about filling each minute perfectly, we will enjoy the satisfaction that comes from restfulness inside. You’re already winning the war, just enjoy each battle. :)

    • April Perry says

      Lindsay, that’s exactly what I needed to hear. I think a big part of my problem is that I want everything right now. Last night I was feeling stressed about how a couple of my children have been behaving. I said, “I just want to enjoy my children!” My husband responded by saying, “Then enjoy them! That’s your choice. You can sit around and feel stressed about how you’re not the perfect mom or you can relax and enjoy the process.” I needed that. Thanks for your advice!

  5. Mia says

    I agree that my biggest regret would be – without question – not being with my kids as a stay-at-home mom. I had my children to Be with them and I also strongly belive that no-one can do the job of bringing up one’s own children as well as a mother (assuming she is a good/loving mother!). But – at the same time, I also think it’s just not possible or healthy to do everything perfectly in anticipation of how you will feel at 80 or whatever. It’s also not possible, as you point out, for all moms to give up work. I think the point – well, my approach anyway – is to Love my kids, Be present, Be there for all the moments of their life – but Not apologise or regret having to miss it (e.g. not being fully present every now and then) sometimes due to working or being overwhelmed. Like many of the moms on here I have 4 kids, and of course – the more children, the more of a balancing act it becomes. But – like you, I also work. I compromised and shifted things until it worked for our family (I now run a consultancy from home). But, I have a PhD I worked hard for it…years of school (BA, MA etc) and it’s part of who I am. I really think that if you love what you do and it makes you Happy then that’s another positive addition to bring to motherhood/family life – and being a happy, engaged, productive, intelligent citizen is a very good role model for children. I want my children to know there are amazing jobs out there and they can Love working. That working can mean being passionate and part of creating the world. In the writers case it obviously worked for her to give up her home business, but for myself and many other moms, I don’t think it’s something that should necessarily just be given up or regretted.

    • April Perry says

      Great thoughts here, Mia! I think you hit the nail on the head by emphasizing how great it is if we love what we do. It does bring a lot of happiness to motherhood when you are happy with whatever other projects/work that you have on your plate. It’s a delicate balance, but if we are doing our best to be flexible and keep our families as our top priorities, our children will feel the love we have for them, and our families can flourish. Sometimes I still wish I could do more for “everybody,” but when I know my choices have been made carefully, I just have to have confidence in those decisions. You sound like such a wonderful, dedicated mother! Glad to have you here.

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