Prioritize and structure. Choices must be made

W hen the party’s over and everyone trudges back to school parents and children feel all kinds of emotions. Some are disappointed that the unscheduled or less scheduled days of summer are ending to be replaced by the highly structured predictable routine of the school year. Now it’s nose to the books for the youngsters car pools and lunches for the grown-ups and homework struggles for everyone. Some kids go kicking and screaming into the next grade while others love school and can’t wait to see what the new year will bring. Some children have missed their friends and some parents have missed their quiet time.

Structure Purpose Meaning

The truth is that school — no matter how awful it may sometimes feel — is a significant source of intellectual social emotional and spiritual stimulation. When children are out of school they often feel deprived bored and empty. Similarly retired adults often feel cut off lost and depressed when they find themselves without a meaningful daily structure. Homemakers whose children are grown or in school all day sometimes feel unfulfilled down or anxious. In other words people of all ages need their time to be constructively occupied. When it isn’t their psyche sends out messages of distress urging recalibration.

Structuring Your Time

Children’s time is almost always structured for them. For two decades or more they go to school. Adults however must structure their own time determining how to spend each day’s hours. There are some constraints of course — obligations to Hashem to family to work. But even within those constraints there are many decisions to be made.

A mother for example must decide how many hours she will spend at work outside the home (if any). She must decide how many hours she will devote to cleaning how many hours to cooking how many to direct childcare how many to her personal interests.

There are only so many hours in the day and I don’t like housework enough to spend most of them cleaning. I love cooking and baking — you can usually find me in the kitchen. My house is filled with delicious smells and tastes. As far as I’m concerned this is what home’s all about.

Yes there are only so many hours in the day. It’s impossible for one woman to devote herself intensely to taking care of her children making elaborate and uber-healthy meals keeping a spotless home working in or studying toward a challenging career maintaining an active social and communal life and keeping herself spiritually intellectually and physically fit. Each of these endeavors requires hours of time to do well. Doing all of them well would require more than 24 hours each day. While all of them can be done no one person can do all of them well in the limited time available. Choices must be made.

I want my family to eat healthy but I don’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen. So I make very simple whole-food meals that don’t require a lot of preparation. If a recipe calls for more than four or five ingredients I just don’t use it.

I think that being involved with my small children is very important. I’d rather take them to the park than clean the house. I make sure there’s clean laundry and food to eat — but that’s not my priority.

Both my husband and I love a clean orderly home. I enjoy decorating and organizing. It’s my passion and I invest a lot of hours in it.

I need to be with adults. I tried staying at home for a few years and almost lost my mind. I love my family but I cannot be cooped up inside a house all day. So I go to work and pay for cleaning help and I feel fulfilled and happy. Everything and everyone is still looked after. I’m home in time to help the kids with homework serve dinner put the little ones to bed schmooze with the big ones — I even have time to talk to my husband! I’m living the life that’s right for me.

Living the life that’s right for you requires the ability to prioritize. Devote more daily hours to those activities that you feel are important satisfying and fulfilling. Living in sync with your true self leads to your greatest accomplishment happiness and wellbeing. (Originally featured in Family First Issue 557)