Doing Less Having More

I remember my first Mother’s Day as if it was just yesterday.  It was not a celebration of motherhood but a momentous task of making sure that hundreds of flower boxes were sent on time to eager mothers everywhere in the Philippines.  It dawned on me that day: Mother’s Day would always be a WORK day for me, as though I was Mrs. Claus, managing my elves, and making sure Rudolf delivered everyone’s flowers that day.  And so it will be for every other major gift-giving holiday in the Philippines. All work and no play.

But this year, it was different.  Armed with my inner resolve to live more from less, I deliberately stopped receiving orders when I felt that we had enough orders to pay the bills, pay the effort, and have a little to celebrate with.  As I knowingly turned my back on having more materially, I found refuge in having more time to be with my husband and children, as we simply reveled in the blessings of motherhood. Instead of material gain, I found exquisite joy in going home and still having time for play, a relaxed and unhurried mealtime, watching my husband and daughter piggy-back on the pool, sleeping-in and awakening to a banner celebrating ME!

I am too much a lover of life to allow work to dominate my days, despite its material rewards.  Life is a precious and sacred gift, and I cannot afford to waste time pursuing the non-essentials.

With a lopsided culture that measures our worth by money and status, many of us fall into the trap or get caught up in a cycle of living to work, and not working to live.    I just hate it when people I meet right away ask me; “So what do you do?” “Where do you work?”  In this masochistic society, to be busy is a sign of importance.  It’s always about what you do and not who you are.  The harder you work, the higher you rise in the corporate ladder, the fatter your paycheck. It boggles a mind when those who only sleep four hours a night or work 12 hours a day evoke envy, not sympathy.

I used to watch the partners in the law firm where I worked.  The big honchos seemingly lived in the office- they came in early, worked as if there was no tomorrow, would have their fancy lunches and dinners, and then…viola, go back to work!  Of course, they had their flashy cars, sailboats, even a plane, but when will they find the time to delight in these? Do millions still matter when you’re stuck at work, as precious time flitters away? What about being at home to read a bedtime story and kiss your child goodnight, instead of just watching him sleep?  Come to think of it, with the number of hours they put in, if their profits or paychecks were divided by the hours worked, we might find that they’re actually working for peanuts!

A lot of us have placed too much value on work that we have forgotten how to live.  We never question why we have to work so much.  I understand the need to earn a living. Work puts food on the table, pays the bills, allows us comfort and indulges us with a little luxury.  However, many of us squander precious time at the office so we can, among other ironies: pay for the house we can’t enjoy; afford the nannies that raise our children so we can spend more time at work; buy vacations that we can only take once a year in a hurried and frantic pace (while we lug laptops and work even more!)

I believe the key is, as it often is, finding what is essential to you and then striking a balance between work and living a full life.  For some, this means refusing a tempting offer to go further up the corporate ladder to spend time at home raising children. For others, it could be detaching oneself from the lure of the multinational company and choosing a small company that allows free time to go on trips, go on adventures or explore new places.  And still, there are those that prefer the six figure salaries and grandiose perks to lost time with friends or family.  If the fat wad of cash every 15 days makes them truly happy, let them be.

I do not regret foregoing the additional orders that would have padded our wallets and allowed us that fat juicy Wagyu steak nearby.  If I took more orders, I wouldn’t have had the time for dinner on Mother’s Day anyway!  Looking back, I have never regretted leaving the glitzy world that would have provided me with the “Office with a View.”  In any event, I would have been buried in books to even see it!  I simply refuse to have the gift of a cherished life pass me by unnoticed. Success doesn’t have to have a title, or a suit, or a fat paycheck.  I make my own definition of success, one that involves less stress, and more time to do that which really matters.

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