If I could do it all again -- raise a family -- I would, in an instant.
But I'd do it a little differently, because hindsight, it turns out, really is 20/20.
I realized this not long after my kids left for college, when I had the chance to focus on myself -- to reflect upon the ways parenting had changed me, and the things I learned. I think you can only really accomplish this properly when you've achieved some distance from the role. I'd raise my family differently, not because of the mistakes I made -- though I certainly made my share -- but because time means so much more to me now. I understand it better, and its importance. . . and the way parents use it, lose track of it, and wish it away or wish for more. It's all about the time we spend together as a family, the time parents spend making decisions and avoiding decisions; doing the right thing and the wrong thing; and consoling, teaching, reading, talking, dancing, playing, working, dreaming, laughing. It all comes down to time.
If I had the time to do it all again, I'd:
- Give myself permission to not be on call 24/7. By permission, I don't mean disappearing without a trace, or for long, drawn-out periods. But I do mean handing over the reins of parenting more often, so I keep in touch with who I am in addition to being a parent.
- Enjoy a regular date night with my husband, at least twice a month. Away from home if possible, but if we can't, at least pretend we are.
- Let the laundry pile up. Because, let's be honest, nobody is going to fire me.
- Swing on the swings with the kids. Fun is more fun when your mother is having it too.
- Make fewer to-do lists. They only beget more to-do lists, and though I might feel as if I'm accomplishing something, I'm only writing down what I already know.
- Have more "backwards days," where dinner is for breakfast and breakfast is for dinner.
- Sleep more, better, longer.
- Worry less, better, shorter.
- Take time for tea. The entire process of making and drinking it -- slowly -- is an art. Zen. Brilliant.
- Be less grumpy about the state of my kids' rooms. They'll be empty far too soon.
- Dance. Regardless of how dumb or goofy I look doing it. Knees don't stay young forever.
- Write down the bedtime stories I make up for my kids. And even better, the ones they make up for me. We don't think so at the moment, but memory fades. The written word lives on.
- Step out of my comfort zone more often. I'm a role model, after all, for making dreams come true.
- Be less polite to people who are unpleasant. I'm not going to change them.
- Drink more milk. Strong bones mean I can lift my kids, and run with them -- and one day, with their kids.
- Knit. Somebody always needs a sweater, blanket, scarf, hat, mittens, and socks. Plus, it's strangely soothing.
- Travel more. Regardless of the obstacles. It's an education in itself.
- Repeat number 8.
Your personal credit report is an easy-to-read record of your credit accounts and total indebtedness. It is a good idea to review your credit report at least once a year and when you're getting ready to make a major purchase. You can request a copy of your report directly from Experian. You also should consider reviewing your reports from the other national credit reporting companies.
A credit score translates the information in your credit report into a number reflecting the risk of doing business with you. While there are many different types of credit scoring models, a higher score generally represents lower risk. To check your risk, request a credit score when you order your credit report. You will receive an explanation of what the score means and what from your credit report is most affecting it.
A credit history shows creditors how you manage your debts. Having no credit history can make it difficult to qualify for new credit because creditors have no information to help them make a lending decision. You only need a few active accounts reported to the credit reporting companies to demonstrate smart credit management.
Late payments, called delinquencies, negatively impact your credit scores and affect your ability to get credit, since they indicate a stronger likelihood that you will make late payments again or will be unable to pay your debts in the future. If you fall behind on your payments, contact your lenders, which may work with you to set up a different payment schedule or interest rate.
A mix of accounts can show that you know how to manage all types of credit. It is good to have a history of repaying an installment loan, such as a car or student loan, but a revolving account, such as a credit card, demonstrates more clearly that you can responsibly manage credit because you have to control how much you charge and pay each month.
High outstanding debt can affect your credit scores because it results in a high utilization rate, or balance-to-limit ratio, making you appear to be an increased credit risk. Keeping your balances low compared with credit limits shows that you aren't tempted to charge more than you can pay and can handle larger amounts of available credit.
Closing an account isn't always a good thing because it can result in an increase to your utilization rate. However, if you want to eliminate a few cards with high interest rates or fees - and you have ample credit available to you - the impact on your credit score should be relatively minor.
Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Recent inquiries indicate you may have taken on new debt that isn't yet shown on your credit report, and many inquiries in a short time might suggest you are trying to live on borrowed money.
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