Home Strategies Work

Prioritizing and Doing What’s Important

“If everything is important, nothing is important.”

Important vs. Urgent

Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” 

  • Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals.
  • Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are not necessarily leading to the achievement of your goals.

Urgent activities are often the ones we concentrate on at the cost of focusing on the important. These are the “squeaky wheels that get the grease.” They demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate. Urgent is not exactly evil but it can cost you what is important.

When I was working in the corporate world, my job had a lot to do with managing resources and productivity. Even a large company with greater resources cannot manage to accomplish every idea that comes up — to do so would create a lot of pissed off, frustrated, and burned out, and crazy people. Setting priorities help you manage your time, your resources, and more importantly, your focus. Time and resources are always finite and limited, and there is no way you can do everything. In setting priorities for managing the home, you have much more control over it because you are the executive (or co-executive) of the home whereas in a corporate setting you might not have as much determination over company values, culture, and priorities.

What your priorities are will depend on your goals and your values. What you want to get accomplish depends on you and your family. Every family has a different context, and each family value different things and have different cultures. For example, once I became a homemaker, I wanted to learn how to be the best homemaker possible for my family. However, being a homemaker can encompass many things: parenting, cooking, cleaning, decorating, laundry, sewing, gardening, home repair, homeschooling, raising and farming your own food, storing, pest control, plumbing, furniture making, etc… There is no way I can or even really want to learn everything that would make me the super perfect homemaker who can do it all. That person doesn’t exist – I don’t think even Martha Stewart does it all. There are a whole lot of things that I don’t do, probably more than what I actually do. You have to pick the parts that matter to you and either forget about or outsource the rest.


Why Do Women Love Mr. Darcy?

Recently I came upon this image while on Facebook. It was liked by over 21,000 people within a matter of a few days. It has been a while since I read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but I remember thinking that Mr. Darcy was as annoying as her Emma! Like Emma, he is “handsome, clever, and rich,” but he is also arrogant and meddling as well. What is it about Mr. Darcy, that women like? Is it the handsome, clever, and rich part or is it something else?  

If memory serves, I also recalled that there are also endearing characteristics, like that he is awkwardly honest. I am sure that most modern women would dump a guy who is so brutally honest he criticizes your attractiveness on first meeting, though. Mr. Darcy is like a lot of men (as he even describes himself as selfish and overbearing), until you consider that he is sensitive, a good listener, thrives on criticism, and changes for the woman he loves. This is where the fairy tale elements kick in — I know very few men (or women) who can sit there and take harsh criticisms without getting defensive, remain a gentleman, is deeply affected by the tongue lashing, good apologizing, and actually make changes based on said criticism. He does all this and yet likes Elizabeth Bennett just as she is. Very few men will have all those qualities and still be handsome, clever, and rich!

I do enjoy the witty banter, and I love a good sparring of wit. However, I wonder if Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy would have made it happily ever after as a modern married couple. If you want to have a good relationship, John Gottman, the foremost relationship expert and researcher warns one of the six predicting factors of divorce is “harsh startups,” or the use of criticism, sarcasm, or harsh words. In fact, he calls  Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling (withdrawal) the ” four horsemen” of marriage apocalypse. Of course, the number one predictor of divorce is habitual conflict avoidance, which is clearly not a problem for Mr. Darcy and his Elizabeth.


Groundhog Day is Stay-At-Home Mom Day

For a stay-at-home mom, everyday is like Groundhog Day to some degree. There is always laundry, cooking, cleaning, managing the home, and taking care of children, husband, and family. It’s the job that no job can prepare you for. Working moms may think that life would be easier as a Stay-At-Home mother, but there is no way that you can know until you are living it. The days are really long, but the months and years go by quickly. Children grow very quickly, master new skills and achieve new milestones. While some routines are helpful in making the day go by easier, the truth is some routines can be bad habits. When I was working I  often see processes that are not working but are at liberty to change. At home, however, we have more power to change what needs to be changed. In fact, change is all around us. As the chief executive of the home, it is our responsibility to examine what works and doesn’t work to make sure we are doing what is optimal… and what’s optimal also changes as our family grows and changes. According to Punxsatawney Phil, winter will last another 6 weeks, but from where I sit, it is a brand new season.

I really love the Groundhog Day (the movie starring Bill Murray), and it has many parallels to the life of a SAHM. When you get up every morning, it is easy to feel like you are living the same day day in and day out. It is the same old grind and drudgery and you are constantly doing things over. The laundry is never done, and the kitchen is never clean. That’s how I felt for quite a while. I was determined to learn how to do things better, but to some degree I missed the old life I used to have. I had a career that I really loved and miss still and I never realized that working was like taking a vacation compared to the hard labor of being a stay at home mother and wife. However, just like Phil Connors (Bill Murray’s character) in the Groundhog Day movie, after many negative attempts, decides to improve himself instead of seeing his predicament as a curse. He learns to play the piano, ice sculpt, learn French, and become a new man so he can live the perfect day. Ultimately, the movie is about self improvement.

English: A media event! Andie MacDowell with N...
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While I have always believed that having the option to be a SAHM to my young children is a privilege, it took me some time to make it fun. I had to develop skills that I lacked and improve some others. I also had to learn what I need to let go and what I need to do for myself. In the movie, Phil Connors is able to live without consequence; however, what we do everyday has consequences in ourselves and everyone around us. How we live affects our partner and children.

Since I was laid off and started to stay at home, I learned not only to not be bitter about  the circumstances that got me here, but to see it as a true blessing. I have learned how to cook nutritious and healthy (and decadent) foods for my family. I have learned to let certain things go. I have learned to be more patient and kind to everyone, including myself. I have learned to appreciate my life in ways that I didn’t think I ever would a decade ago. I hope to learn even more this year and take better care of myself so that I can be a better mother to my children, as well as a better partner to my husband.


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Miscellaneous Personal

Happy Chinese New Year (of the Dragon)

This year, my Chinese New Year did not get off to a very good start. It is tradition to do some serious and thorough cleaning of the house for Chinese New Year, and I did not do a very good job this year of cleaning and washing everything. We had planned to go out to a Chinese restaurant to eat but on account of the rain and 49ers game, the family ended up staying home and I cooked up a nice meal (albeit non-Chinese) instead. My first lesson this year will be one of flexibility and letting some things go!

Last year I obsessed about being the best housewife I can be, and in trying to do as much as possible, I was freaking tired all the time and feeling like a servant in my own house. As a result, I have determined this year to get some balance and put some energy back into myself instead of housekeeping. I am going to keep working on being a good mom and making home cooked foods, but the one thing I am going to let slide a bit is the cleaning. Letting that go will hopefully allow me to rest a little more, enjoy myself a little more, and put a little more back into me. I am determined to lose my baby weight (the baby is almost 8 months old now after all) and feel better about myself.

In addition to self improvement, I will also be focusing on managing my marriage. I have kick started the new year with reading some books on marriage. Having a happy marriage is important to me, and I have to admit that having two children is succession has made couple time a scarcity. Since the birth of our son 2009, my husband and I had 3-4 date nights per year. It is not easy to find time to have uninterrupted and focused conversations, especially since we have to rely on babysitter as we have no families living nearby.

Even as I work on improving my life I am still very thankful for what I have. I am a very lucky woman and I will make a point to remember that everyday!


“First World” is an Outdated Term

One of my many pet peeves is hearing the term “First World” throw around incorrectly. I think it is because I was an International Relations major that I give a damn. I cringe when I hear it used incorrectly, but now I am cringing a lot more.

Here’s the entry for  First World in Wikipedia:

The concept of the  First World  first originated during the  Cold War, where it was used to describe countries that were aligned with the  United States.

Recently there is an internet meme going around called “First World Problems,” which is about about whining by the affluent. Now the term is taking on a whole new life.

Here’s an example:

Here is a site about “White Whine”:

The general ignorance of the term “First World” is probably due to the fact that it is a relic of the Cold War. However, it chaffs me even more to hear people refer to Asian countries like China and Taiwan as third world. I even read a popular baby book refer to countries that practice co-sleeping (as practiced in Hong Kong and Japan) as a practice from third world countries! Seriously, even the definitions for First World, Second World, and Third World are all screwy.