While talking with a friend earlier this week, we were busy swapping new mom stories when she asked me a question about how I’m handling a personal situation. I shared my approach but also added that I knew it wouldn’t be the same for everyone else. My advice, to her as much as to myself was to “Figure out your priorities, then make your decision.”
As a new mom, a veteran mom, or any kind of functioning human, we can get so bogged down in the right way to do all the things. Is it right for me to bottle feed or breastfeed? Even then should I breastfeed till six months or two years? Purees or baby led weaning? Public school, private school, homeschool? This job or that job? Vacations once a year or eating out every weekend? Rent a home or buy a home? So many decisions and so much pressure to get it right. How will we ever know if we are making the right decision?
Without our priorities and values clearly identified, we have no direction or foundation to stand on. We fall into a dizzying trance of trying to keep it all together in all the wrong ways. We sway a little this way based on one person’s advice and a little that way based on another trying to be all the things to all the people but never really knowing why or who we are ourselves.
“If you don’t know what you value, you won’t know who you are,” I remember saying to a client only months before taking maternity leave. We were working on self esteem and how to set personal boundaries in her life. I had her draw her life in the center of the page and draw a fence around her life as an expressive arts project.
If a boundary is a fence, it is keeping some things in and other things out. But it does no good if you don’t know what you are protecting. In my back yard I have different types of fences. One keeps my dog out of the garden. And another one keeps him in the yard. Why? Because I value his safety and not letting him run in the street, and I also value not having dog pee on my vegetables. A third fence keeps our cat from going down a drainage pipe because she could easily get lost if she’s a bit too curious, but it’s not good enough to keep the skunks out… ask me how I know….
Humorous but such a simple exercise in how to tell what our boundaries are meant for.
I wouldn’t have any fences in my yard if I didn’t want to keep certain things in and other things out. If I didn’t want to protect my pets and my garden.
How does this translate to our interpersonal lives?
My husband and I learned from some mentors the importance of taking inventory every so often. Around our anniversary each year we tend to do some reflection. How are things going, what needs to stay, what needs to go. What are our priorities and values for this next year?
This past year when we reflected, we did so with a 2-month-old baby while staying on a dairy farm. Some of our values included: wanting more time at home as a family, continuing to be present in areas of ministry and mentoring others. We wanted to incorporate more play and wanted to make sure we had unscheduled nights at home at least once a week.
Because of these values we made some decisions about jobs, volunteer opportunities, and social engagements that helped us protect those priorities. We had to say no to some good things in order to stay aligned with what we felt is best for our young family. Setting boundaries and making decisions is not always about eliminating “toxic” things from our lives like pop culture often tells us. It can be more simple choices of how you want to grow and who you want to become on a daily basis.
If you are having a difficult time decision making today, ask yourself what are you protecting? Where do your values and priorities lie?
Is it time with family?
Is it your professional goals?
Is it saving money?
Is it simplicity?
You can’t be all things all the time. When you know what you are trying to protect, you’ll know that it’s worth it.
Finally, as you seek to make your decisions, spend time in the Word of God. This is where you’ll discern if your life goals and priorities align with God’s design and heart for your life. The Lord gives His wisdom to those who ask for it. (James 1:5)