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Who Is the Priority in Your Life?

Real Simple readers told us who topped their list―and why.

Woman and childrenGreg Kessler

Your Family

When our 27-year-old son was killed by a hit-and-run driver late this spring, it was brought home forcibly to us that all the possessions in the world mean very little. It occurred to me that after 45 years of marriage, my husband and I needed to pare down and keep only the things that matter most, and to spend more time with family and friends.
Barbara Hutchinson 
Antrim, New Hampshire

My first priority is my children. I am a high school music teacher, and I also play professionally. I try to be everything to my kids and to provide them with the nurturing, love, and experiences that I hope will make them happy and healthy adults. But it's not easy. Sometimes I have to hire baby-sitters more than I would like because of performance commitments. And sometimes I worry. But I try to focus on learning, loving, and enjoying that which is beautiful.
Deborah A. Cole
Worcester, Massachusetts
Recently, my mother unexpectedly passed away, and I think I'm still in shock. But it has made me realize that my family is the most important thing in my life. Before, I had put my work and interests on the top of my priority list, and I didn't keep in close contact with my family. Now I call several times a week and plan to visit more often. I enjoy my work, but it does not have the place in my life that it had before. I hope that others realize that we need to stay in touch and say "I love you" often. Differences in opinions and lifestyle must be put aside, and our love for each other should be put on the front burner.
Pam Dean
Rio Grande, Ohio
I put my three girls, my husband, and myself before everything else. I am a stay-at-home mom, and when I get overwhelmed by church, school, and volunteer work, I ask myself, "How will this affect our family?" If a project will consume a lot of my time, I shy away from it. I have finally realized that a stressed-out mom is not a pleasant mom, and I would much rather say no to the PTO fund-raiser than be irritable and short-tempered at home.
Julie Snow
Springfield, Tennessee
My son Bob is the most world-weary six-year-old on the planet and can roll his eyes like a pro. My son Sam, two, eats like a trucker and likes to break things. Some days I'm proud just to have kept them alive another day. Some days I sit in their rooms as they sleep and am awestruck that these beautiful boys belong to me. They are my two demanding, unrelenting, hilarious, annoying, goofy, and wonderful priorities, without a doubt.
Mary Duan
Salinas, California
I am an empty-nester, but my family is still my priority. With a blended family of six of my husband's children and four of mine, I spend most of my nonworking time e-mailing, talking to them on the phone, jotting letters, and (still!) tossing together occasional care packages. When my children return, it is with friends/significant others/babies in tow. They come home for a meal, a visit, or sometimes an extended stay. Our time together, however it occurs, is more precious to me than jewels.
Debbie McEwen
Salem, Oregon
I am reconnecting with my family. After living away from them for my whole married life, I recently moved back home to Cleveland and realized how much I missed out on―the birthdays, weddings, holidays, and seeing nieces and nephews grow up. I now go to every family function, large or small, and enjoy being surrounded by the ones whom I love most in the world.
Paula Reid
Cleveland, Ohio
My first priority in life is to raise my children to be kind. The most important gift you can give them is the ability to be mindful and have empathy for others.
Heather Boyne
Glastonbury, Connecticut
I try to expose my children to nature, good literature, and visual and performing arts. I make sure they have time to hang out without a schedule, TV, or computer. I teach them about other cultures, charity to others, respectful behavior, and compassion. I teach them what it means to persevere at a task in order to succeed. I teach them to do things for themselves.
Sandy Cobb
Newton, Massachusetts
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