A To-do List From a Mom Who Wants to Do Better

We only get one chance at this life and one of my biggest fears is getting to the end with regrets. The only way to minimize regrets is to take stock of where we currently stand in life and be willing to change, or at least slightly adjust, direction.
01/23/2013 05:28 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

I will admit that I am feeling a bit sensitive today. But, such days are often stellar opportunities for reflection and to take stock of life. For good or bad, I have always been painfully aware of the passage of time and try my hardest not to take it for granted. I find that the world nowadays spins so fast and I am often feeling disappointed in myself for not "doing better." I know a lot of people can relate to at least one, if not several, of these perceived shortcomings -- whether justified or not. Here are my top ten:

1. I feel guilty for the amount of time I spend online.

I have written about this topic before and while I have substantially cut down on my time online, I feel that I need to cut down even further and carve out designated timeframes. Although it can obviously be used for extremely efficient and essential purposes, once you get online, it is too easy to get sucked into its never-ending world and then time is just gone. It's time you can never get back and I'd rather spend it playing with my kids. That is what we will remember. Not 25 versions of low-carb muffins that I might make one version of. Maybe.

Even my second grade daughter has a sense of the time-suck caused by the Internet. She is really into a certain online computer game right now, and every second she has a free moment, she's playing it. Last night, she was saying she didn't want to go to school because she felt like she hardly got to see me. I said, "well I've been right here. Maybe if you'd stop playing computer games, you'd feel like you saw me more." She replied, "You know, I was thinking I would see how long I could go without playing it so I could spend more time with you." She was thinking this on her own, which showed me that even at the age of 8, kids already have a sense for how the "online" world can steal a significant part of their life away.

2. I feel guilty for losing my patience.
I used to be literally known as the "most patient person ever." But, as life continues to get more and more hectic as the kids get older and involved in more and more, my ability to let things go has waned. It is hard to repeat yourself. Over and over. And over. You can only do it for so long with a smile on your face. One of my children spends a greater amount of time "in her own world" than the other. I need to find a way to get her to listen at least by the fourth time and balance that with not getting overly frustrated.

3. I feel like I just can't keep up with the clutter.
We have so much stuff, crap, pieces of God knows what everywhere. I swear I am always throwing stuff away but the kids just keep getting more and more. I readily admit that I have a hard time getting rid of their stuff. I mean, I do, but not enough. I always think, "but what if they want to play with this again?" even though they haven't touched it in ages. I know once it is gone, none of us will ever think of it again. But it's hard. This being said, I get so sick of the constant clutter. I'm OK with some, but it just seems endless. And overwhelming. Like it's taking over.

4. I feel frustrated that my time-management skills are clearly lacking.
I feel like I'm constantly in motion. I don't take naps. I don't read the five million magazines I continue to buy, yet never read; it takes me months to read a book anymore because I never do until I'm about to go to bed and then I'm too exhausted. I do workout, but I get up extra early in the morning to do that, while most sane people are still sleeping. I'm not currently working outside the house, but I do volunteer a lot at the girls' school. I'm always planning, coordinating and carpooling. I have a daughter with Leukemia, and issues with obtaining her medication, going to the doctor and clarifying her medical bills come up constantly. This last point, I know, affords me some slack, but still. I need to find a way to more efficiently manage my time because I feel like I'm not getting "it all done" in the way I want or need to. I never feel like I can get ahead, but more like I'm struggling to keep from getting further behind.

5. I feel guilty that I have fallen so behind on scrapbooking.
I have been known to be overly obsessive with the camera and take pictures of everything. I have always felt an overwhelming responsibility to document everything my kids do. For the first couple years of my oldest daughter's life, I did real scrapbooking. You know, the kind where you cut stuff out with cute scissors, choose theme appropriate stickers and then write a story explaining every single detail for every single page. Then, once my second daughter arrived, the real scrapbooking turned to online photo books. This was still OK. They were very cute and got the job done. Neither of my kids could take a breath without me documenting it. But, for the last couple of years, I have fallen overwhelmingly behind. At first, I just got behind on the actual scrapbooking, but still took all the pictures. Now, I still take pictures but not nearly as many. I think, subconsciously, I take less because the more I take, the more I am theoretically "behind" in my scrapbooking efforts. I need to fix this. Those books are my girls' favorite things to look at, even now. I can only imagine how much they will cherish them when they are older.

6. I need to be better about staying in contact with people.
Anyone who knows me knows that I despise talking on the phone. There is a reason why, which is irrelevant information here, but it causes problems. I am pretty good about emailing and texting but this isn't good enough for some. I do feel guilty about this, but I'm not sure how much I am willing to change this about myself at this point in time. I already feel overly stressed for time, so I prefer my communications to be to the point. This, of course, doesn't apply to friends or family I never get to see but, honestly, I need to schedule a time in the day to talk to them. It has to go on "my calendar." I'm just not a "have a casual conversation-anytime-anywhere" kind of girl. Weird, I know. But, I do need to return calls more promptly and keep in better contact with some. For sure.

7. I need to find a way to master the concept of "moderation."
Maybe not master, per se, but at least moderately work it in. No pun intended. Unfortunately, I often have an "all or nothing" mentality. My husband will attest to the fact that when I focus on something, I am "full steam ahead." I zero in on whatever it may be and try to accomplish it, not always considering what other areas of responsibility or sense of balance may fall to the wayside to accomplish my current goal. When I get something in my head, watch out, because I'm gonna make it happen. What I need to do is figure out the best way to make my goals happen while taking into consideration everything else that's going on in our life.

8. I need to find a way to more effectively help both children with their homework separately, while positively persuading the other to productively entertain themselves when it's the other's turn.
Every time I try to help my second grader with her homework, the kindergartner starts chatting incessantly. She is always doing something cute, but it's obvious (and she knows full-well) that she is just trying to steal the attention from her sister. I give her things to do, but she finishes them inordinately fast or "claims" she needs help. So, most homework sessions involve the older one getting mad at the younger one for interrupting and me getting frustrated with both of them. I'm sure many are familiar with this. This is where you say, "YES, I know exactly what you're talking about."

9. I need to give my kids more chances to make mistakes.
I've quit my job as an attorney to raise my two kids. Obviously, I feel like this is a very important job or else I wouldn't have done it. I pour my heart and soul into taking care of them and trying to make sure they'e happy. I want them to have an amazing childhood and become amazing adults. I am learning, the hard way, that part of what is going to make them amazing adults, is not doing every single thing for them as children. For example, yes, I am scared to death for them to get a cavity. But, I need to balance letting them brush their teeth by themselves with my fear of the drill or else they will never learn to brush their teeth. Obviously, the brushing teeth scenario is a simplified metaphor for a wide range of things in life, but hopefully you get my point. Although, I will admit, it is hard for me to let them brush their teeth without me at least sneaking a peak at the end.

10. I need to keep an eye on maintaining my own individuality.
I am so immersed in my kids' lives and the days fly by so fast that I feel like I often get lost along the way. A part of me is fine with this because I am sacrificing for the good of my kids. I have less (be it financially or emotionally) so they can have more -- like any good parent does. I do know there will come a day when they are doing their own thing and I have more actual time. I know I will want to do something different and it would be comforting to have figured out what that is before the time actually gets here so I am not left with a big, fat, identity crisis. I love to write, so I should write more now. My dream would be to become a famous author... a girl can dream, right? You never know until you try.....

So there it is. My top 10 things I want to work on now. At the end of the day, I know I am a good mom, raising great kids and generally doing the best that I can. I do have a child with cancer and I know helping her get through her treatment and successfully holding everyone together will be the most important thing I ever do. If I do nothing else, it is still a huge accomplishment.

However, I strive for even more and I know there is always room for improvement. We only get one chance at this life and one of my biggest fears is getting to the end with regrets. The only way to minimize regrets is to take stock of where we currently stand in life and be willing to change, or at least slightly adjust, direction. It's not always easy and may be downright painful. But, remember, one shot is all we get.