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On Your Terms

Text by: Penny Orland, public speaker and blogger at SoHumorMe

You are important and have worth. The time you invest should be on your terms.

A few months ago, my daughter asked for a little help moving into her own apartment. She'd taken a new position that furthered her career and necessitated the move. As a parent, I was delighted on several levels — to see my child make the transition to full independence, to know she is growing her career in a field she loves, to spend time together as friends, and to feel the pleasure giving to another brings.

I soon discovered I might have slightly over embellished the list of benefits. She had somewhere to be in the morning of the move. But could I "possibly go to the storage unit and wait for the movers?" Did I mention her obligation was a fun, overnight activity with girlfriends? Don't we as moms and dads want our children to enjoy life? I caved to her request, not mentioning I'd already gone over twice to help her paint the walls before moving furniture in.

I walked around a large, paved lot of hermetically sealed storage units concealing people's precious belongings behind bright orange roll-up doors. Outside her unit, on the already hot summer morning, I leaned against a wall with a view of the front gate. I held tightly to a long list of to-do items she had e-mailed me the night before. An hour and half later, a graffiti-covered moving van matching the name on my long list drove through the gate. Just how I had planned spending my 4th of July weekend…

I trudged up the nineteen stone paved steps to her upper level, non-air conditioned duplex carrying boxes overhead. I just had to assist the movers, too, even though one of the items on the list from my daughter read, "Do not help the movers. That's what they are being paid to do." I was reminded of a lesson I had learned in the work field. I needed to move that lesson to my personal life as well.

When I was a single parent trying to blend being a stay-at-home parent with an income-earning parent, I worked from home. Unfortunately, I thought I couldn't be selective about the work I accepted. Often I worked long until the dawn hours, only to get up and tend to my parenting duties. Then one day, a friend took me aside, and said, "Work smarter, not harder." Those words have stayed with me. My time was worth more than I was charging. The surprising part was not one client objected to my increased rates.

I've applied that philosophy to other areas of my life that involve money. When I think I can't afford to hire a job out, triggered by those less fruitful single parenting days, I force myself to put a price tag on my worth. I calculate how many hours it will take me at my minimum wage valuation to do a job. If I can hire it out for near the same price, I do just that. Or if the need to get the task done quickly outweighs the cost, I outsource it.

Many of us tend too often to take on too much, especially for those we love and care about. We let others take advantage of us by allowing them to take up our precious time. Yes, my daughter's move worked out fine. She showed up. We shared some laughs, but that night I went home and evaluated how I had spent my time. I needed to love myself as much as I had unselfishly showed my daughter I loved her.

The next day I had planned on do more painting with her. Instead I called her. "I'm really worn out from today," I told her gently.

"It's fine, Mom, don't worry about it," she said. "You've done so much for me already. I really appreciate it."

My goal now is to end up with a balance - to make others aware of the value I place on my time without being rude or pretentious; to use my time wisely and honor my priorities; to gain experience learning and doing new things, while allowing myself the leisure time I need; to have time left for family and friends; and to take time for myself.