Are You Too busy? Figuring Out the Non-Negotiables in Your Life.

Right now I am currently in the process of a career change. That’s right, I’m moving into the exciting world of graphic design.  So, yay for me!

Actually, the truth be told — I naively took on the job of re-designing my husband’s website — after which time, I will gladly retire from the world of web design and return to part-time blogger and full-time wife and mother.

The thing is, my husband is an amazing designer.   His web site used to reflect that, but we’ve been busy with life, and work and all the craziness of having six kids — only to realize that our website is beginning to look a bit outdated.  It just doesn’t reflect how beautiful and amazing John’s work really is — so it’s time for an update.

After a thrilling game of paper, scissors, rock — we determined that I would be the best person for the job.  I mean, how hard could building a website from the ground up actually be, right? 🙁

Read “Web Design for Dummies”, took some notes, and thought to myself — how hard could this be?  🙁

I know — it’s going to be awful. 🙁  After only a few days of loading templates, working with said-templates, and trying desperately to come up with something that doesn’t look like “amateur night at the Apollo” — I anticipate that this is going to be far more difficult than we ever imagined!

Anyway, this whole crazy process has made me wonder  “Am I just too busy?” I’m sure most people reading this have asked themselves the same question, but how do you answer it?

I have found it extremely helpful in these crazy times to determine the “non-negotiables” .  These are the things that you refuse to let go of — even in busy times.  They are the backbone of family life, and knowing what they are, will help to keep you afloat in chaotic times.

Knowing my non-negotiables has helped me to determine if I am just too darn busy for my own good.  It keeps me (relatively) sane and focused on the things that truly matter.  The busier you are, the more important knowing these things will become.

Anyway, I offer you my 7 Non-Negotiables.  I hope it gets you thinking about yours.



There’s a quote over the door of the chapel that I sometimes attend during the week. “Prayer Takes Time, and The Saints Pray and Get More Done in Less Time”.  It’s a good one to think about.  Yes, prayer takes time, but I can not tell you how many wrong paths I didn’t venture down because of the time I took for prayer.  So it actually saves a lot of wasted time.

Taking time to pray is also an act of trust in God.  It invites God to be a part of your decisions, and it helps you to realize that not everything depends on you.  Yes, we have to work hard and try our best — but it’s so nice to know He’s there to help us through.

Ask Him to be a part of your life and you will begin to see the many ways God is helping you to get done what needs to get done in your day.  I’ve finally reached the point where I realize that if  I’m too busy for prayer — then I’m just too darn busy.


Educating Your Children

As parents, we are the primary educators of our children.  Even if they’re in school, you are the one who determines where they will go, what extracurriculars they will do, and what conversations you will be having with them throughout their lives.  You are irreplaceable in their education, no matter the path you take.

If blogging or other extras start to take the time I need to dedicate to educating my kids — I know I need to re-evaluate and make some changes.  Fortunately, I am surrounded by great resources for my kids, so while they’re in their classes or music lessons, I’m using that free time to do what needs to get done in the day.

It doesn’t take more than a few hours in my day to cover what needs to get covered for the younger ones, so there is a lot of time left to do other things.  And in the midst of all that educating, you will have funny little moments with your kids as well.

For example, a recent reading lesson with my son turned into a WWF (World Wrestling Federation) match with his little brother. I don’t know why, but these are the moments that make me so happy to have them home with me.

First I shall pinch you…
Then I shall bite you…
Didn’t work out so well…

Homeschooling is the best.  I just love it.  Gotta make time for it.


Family Dinner

We have made it a priority to have a family diner each night.  This sometimes means we aren’t eating until 8:30 at night, but it’s worth trying to make it work into our schedules. Maybe if nights don’t work for you a family breakfast could work?

The point is to reconnect every day over a meal — it’s where important conversations happen and good old-fashioned laughter happens too.  It’s a time to hear about everybody’s day and to be reminded of the beauty of this crazy life we live.



I don’t see exercise as a nice thing I do for myself.  I see it as an effective way to stay healthy for my family.  There’s a lot of research that shows our body is much more capable of fighting off sickness and disease when we exercise on a regular basis.

Exercise is so good for so many reasons.  You have more energy, you feel better, and it’s a great way to blow off some steam.  There was a time in my life I stopped exercising because I felt selfish about taking the time “for myself”.  Within weeks of stopping, I got the worst case of the flu I have ever had.   It took me over a month to recover and I could do very little in that time.

Moral of the story: taking time for exercise enables you to serve others better.  For my life,  moderate exercise 3 times a week is a non-negotiable.



The Church calls Mass the highest form of prayer — so might as well pray the best way we know how, right?  Mass is a concrete way to help you and your kids kids develop a personal relationship with Jesus.  So it’s worth taking the time to go to Mass.

It’s been one of the best decisions of my life to take this time for God.  Praying at home is great and necessary — but there’s something really special about time at Mass. Mass is where Heaven meets Earth — even when I’m distracted — Jesus is there loving me in a very real way.

On a practical level, I try to make it 3 times a week and on Sundays.  This is what works for me with all my other responsibilities at home.  One day, I hope to start to make it a daily occasion — but for now, this is what works for me.  It keeps me going and it’s a definite non-negotiable.



The Family Rosary has been so good for us in so many ways.   I want to assure you that we are not a perfectly peaceful family with perfectly behaved kids — we are just a regular family trying our lousy best.

In our defense, we are descendants of Celtic Warriors, so naturally our family prayer time would reflect that, right? Fights erupt, sucker-punches are thrown, and sometimes everybody is horribly distracted.

I often find myself asking “Um, what decade are we on?” because my mind is a million miles away.  And you know what, that’s okay.  We have one rule:  Just show up. That’s it.  Oh, and try your lousy best to pay attention.

But despite all that is lacking in our devotion, it has been so good for our family.  In little and big ways, I see the blessings of answered prayers and love growing in our midst — it will hopefully always remain one of our non-negotiables.


Time for Fun/Leisure

You know what they say, all work and no play makes Johnny a very dull boy.  Honestly, we need good old-fashioned fun and leisure in our day.

If you don’t have time for leisure, than you’re just too busy. For me, the goal is at least 30 minutes a day of some low-key activity I consider leisure — and sometimes longer on the weekend. This is the time to find the joy in life and reconnect with family and friends.

Yes, sometimes it has to take a back seat to a child whose throwing up or some other more pressing need that arises, but I try to find at least a little time at the end of the day to read or spend time with John before going to bed.  And speaking of John, make sure you’re finding ways to reconnect with your spouse on the daily.

Filling your life with endless work is not doing anybody any favors.  Taking those little breaks will make your work more fruitful and it will leave your kids with the right impression of this life of ours:  it is a good, beautiful life.


What About a Clean House?

You may have noticed that cleaning the house is not one of my non-negotiables. Something’s gotta give — and in our house, a spotless home is not as big a priority as the other things.

I recently asked a priest if the time I take for writing a blog might be better spent cleaning my house.  His reply was pretty spot on.  He reminded me that I have 6 kids — and even if I dedicated hours of my day to cleaning — my house was  just going to get messy again. So best to find a middle ground when it comes to the state of your house.  Good point padre!

I know this is a hard one for many people.  I love a clean house.  I mean, who doesn’t?  But there is a futility in trying to keep an immaculate house when it’s full of little people.  John and I have agreed to let some things go.

I’ve heard it said, “cleaning your house is a way to bless your family”, and I think to myself,  “am I refusing to bless my family with that pile of laundry over there or those dishes in that sink?”

Then I think — no, I’m blessing them in other ways — I’ll bless them and their future spouses by teaching them to clean up after themselves.  So to any future spouses or religious orders my kids might one day join — you’re welcome!

That being said, if having a clean house is necessary for you to remain peaceful, there’s nothing wrong if it makes it way to your list of non-negotiables.  It’s just not on my list.

So what would be on your list?  Write it down and the next time you’re faced with a new activity or time commitment, use them as a test for deciding if it’s going to work.  They just might help you say no to something that wouldn’t be the right fit for your life — like designing a website without the skills or time required for such a task.  🙁

I’d love to know what your non-negotiables are.

Have a great weekend!

Linking up with Kelly.

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8 thoughts on “Are You Too busy? Figuring Out the Non-Negotiables in Your Life.

  1. You really hit the nail on the head with this one! We all say we are “too busy” (and yes, life is vey, very busy) but many times it’s because we try to do it all, even the things that are not necessary or important. I’m a SAHM to 5 littles and recently started a small side business selling some of my sewing projects. It’s made me re-evaluate many things, like cleaning and social media. I LOVE a clean and tidy home, so much that in the past I was using all my spare time to clean/organize/tidy up. Well I’ve come to realize that, like you said, it just gets messy again with all these bodies in one house. So I started enlisting the help of all the kids and trying to focus on the things that make our home more efficient and hygienic rather than trying to keep each room looking “magazine-worthy” at all times. Yes, I still keep things tidy but not nearly to the extent as before, and I don’t find myself having a panic attack if I didn’t mop the floors this week. As for social media usage, I gave up Facebook for Lent and let me tell you how much time that opened up! I think it will be a permanent sacrifice from now on. I also started getting up early in the morning with my husband so we could do the daily mass readings and just be together for a bit. He is naturally a very early morning person and I’m not, so it’s a bit difficult for me but so worth it. In the past I would hope for free time in the evenings with him but the truth is that we are both so tired by the end of the day that we would just fall asleep. This way we get to start our day with scripture and uninterrupted conversation and it really sets the tone for the day. I won’t go on listing all my other non-negotiables but just wanted to day thank you for writing this! All your posts seem to really hit home for me! Good luck with the website!

    1. Malia,
      So glad you liked it. Yes, I once heard it said that you can have it all — just not all at once. There are seasons of life. Right now, we’re in that season of either enjoying our kids and family and getting done what needs to get done — or cleaning all day long to meet unrealistic cleaning standards. I think we have chosen well. 🙂 Yes, those of us who have let things go a bit in that department have this internal struggle to go back to obsessive cleaning to the detriment of the really important things, right?

      Wow, you gave up social media? Lent makes us do crazy things — but you know what, sometimes those crazy things are just what we needed to see what’s really a blessing our lives and what is actually a distraction from the blessings of our lives. I’m glad that sacrifices has paid off for you. And as a non-morning person, I feel your pain with the early morning rise. Ha. I am slowly transitioning to morning person as well. We’ll see how that goes.

      Thanks for sharing some of your non-negotiables! I’m so glad it got you thinking about them! 🙂

  2. I’ve just learned to say no to a lot of things in order to get the essentials done.. I don’t like to say know, but the more kids I have the more I need to streamline! Great Post!

    1. Kathleen,
      Ah the art of saying “no”. I’m guessing it gets easier each time you say it, and when you begin to experience life at a more realistic pace and say, hey this is actually kind of nice — that probably seals the deal. 🙂

  3. Love this! Because my busy times are very much tied to the liturgical year (choir) and performance seasons (theater and ballet) knowing my non-negotiables have been the only way to stay sane and keep raising the tiny humans.
    Clean house is a big deal for me, but not everything about having a clean house is a non-negotiable. My big things that are done by the end of everyday are: laundry at least one load done, dishes out of the sink, table and counters wiped off, at least under the dining table swept. Beyond that I can hope it will happen, but as long as I do those basic things it doesn’t stress me out or get too far ahead of me.

    1. Kirby!
      Excellent point about the different levels of clean! Yes, for me it’s making my bed in the morning and making sure the kitchen is cleaned up before we go to bed. Somehow if those two things are done I can breathe easy. 🙂

  4. As always a provocative read!Time is so precious, tell my brother to invest in a pro so we can keep being privileged to your wisdoms! Love your voice and love you better through your writings!

    1. Hey Collette! From one writer to another, I really appreciate those words! 🙂 I did have a breakthrough with the website this weekend, so I think it just might happen. We’re always trying to save some bucks by doing things ourselves when we can. If all goes well, those extra dollars will help on the next adventure with our kids. Anyway, love you back! Talk soon.

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