One of the hardest things about being a grown-up is having to set priorities — we have to be reasonable about keeping our commitments, fulfilling our responsibilities and doing all the things we NEED to do instead of what we WANT to do.
We learn to trudge our way to work in the mornings and come home at night to make dinner, do laundry, help the kids with homework, and finally crawl into bed and wait for slumber just to do it all over again. We work, make money, pay bills, work some more… and while we are busy taking care of business, our children grow, our loved ones go about their business, and we get older and lose people from our lives. One day we look back and ask where did all the time go and wish we had spent a little more time on the things we now realize are the most important in our lives.
I understand that to a point we don’t have a choice, there are bills to pay to keep a roof over our heads, to feed our families, to pay doctors when need be. But should we lose ourselves in work to the point that instead of working to live, we live to work and forget about living.
I remember hearing a relative of mine, upon introducing his second wife to us, tell us that he was retiring because he wasn’t going to make the same mistake, this time he WAS going to take those vacations with the woman he loved, and he was going to spend time with her… and yes, he did regret that he cheated his first wife of time together because he was so absorbed in his job and making money and living up to other people’s standards. This man realized, now that he was remarried, that he had “sort of” a second chance to get it right and he wasn’t going to waste it.
Is it more important that our children look back and think how we replaced our living room furniture every few years or that they remember fun family vacations we all spent together? I believe the kids, especially when young, appreciate tearing the wrapping paper off a gift more than they worry what the price tag was. I watch parents who spend a fortune on holiday gifts, even when they know it is beyond their budget, because they don’t want their children to feel like they received anything less than their classmates. The old expression “keeping up with the Joneses” seems to be alive and well even today.
So yes we have to be responsible and there are things we are obligated to do, but don’t become so obsessed with earning money that your family value is less than your paycheck. Make sure you spend time with your loved ones while you can, take those vacations now when the children are young enough to still enjoy being with parents… even if all you do is make sure you take the time to give hugs and kisses to your children and your spouse and take the time to call your folks and see your siblings, treasure those moments. Birthday parties and phone calls are so much better as precious memories instead of regretful missed opportunities.
When I listen to my grown offspring talk about their childhoods, most of the stories are filled with family time adventures, jokes we shared, places we went together, and of course the “dumb” things Mommy and Daddy did — I honestly don’t recall hearing them talk about how much was spent on their Chanukah presents or whether we stayed in a more expensive hotel when traveling. Yes, there will always be TV advertisements for the latest and greatest and the kids hear the message loud and clear, but you know they survive without the “hottest toys of the year” even if they grumble for a while.
I’ve had a couple of decades to be a responsible and mature adult and now that I am “older” I’ve decided that I will still take SOME responsibility seriously, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have FUN as well.