The fine art of making choices (hint: it’s usually not good versus evil)

We moved back overseas two weeks ago, and while life was definitely topsy-turvy those first seven days or so, last week resembled much more closely a normal life. So I was tempted to jump back in to blogging full-force, saving the huge lot of guest post submissions for some other time. But I relented, and decided to continue publishing your submissions while I kept my focus on home and family.


Because the best trumps the good.

Blogging is good – many times it’s wonderful, in fact. I love the place Simple Mom has come to be; to me, it’s both a safe haven and an encouragement for busy parents and home managers who need a boost. I love all your comments, I love the Book Club forums, and I love the sponsors who believe in the Simple Mom name.

But it will never top my family, nor should it.

My kids were getting over jet lag, and our boxes were mostly unpacked. My husband and I were slowly getting enough sleep, and things were starting to find homes. But life was still a bit hairy around here. I hadn’t gotten into a good cooking routine yet, and while the boxes were unpacked, things were still everywhere. It was close enough to finished, but I could predict the future – things would stay halfway done, and my good intentions to fully set up our home upon arrival would remain just that.

So I continued to publish guest posts, and will continue to do so for awhile, until our routine here is more concrete and our home works more the way it should. My family deserves my full attention, as do I. In fact, my blog does, too. My writing will be more clear-headed and succinct. When your writing focuses on productivity, organization, and living a balanced life, it behooves itself that the writer embodies those things.

My Point

Life offers us the opportunity to choose the best over the good all the time. Very few times are those that ask us to decide between a good choice and a downright evil one. Usually, our choices involve stuff like scheduling appointments, making purchases, and managing time. But all choices require decision-making, and it’s important to recognize the subtle difference between the good and the best.

The tricky thing is that usually, the best has a lot of variables – it depends on your season in life, your relationships, your health, and your financial situation. What’s best for one family might not be best for another. And what’s best for you this year might not be best next year.

A few real-life examples

Photo by Ian Ransley

Perhaps this year, your son should take advantage of his Little League opportunities – he was selected to be on an elite team, and he could really use an overall self-esteem boost. It would make life a little busier, but your husband’s work travel schedule has lightened, and you don’t have many outside commitments at the moment. But your son also wants to pursue basketball, and has begged you to sign him up for the fall – which would probably tip the scale from manageable to overcommitted.

So for you guys, for now, Little League might be the best choice, on the condition that you say no to basketball. Basketball is good, but not the best.

Your in-laws want to take everyone on a big family vacation to Disney World this summer. They’ve offered to pay for the housing – all you have to pay for is the flight there and your park admission. It’s a great opportunity, and it might not happen again for a few years, but the flight alone would cost your family over $1000 – and you don’t even want to know the price of admission tickets. You guys are committed to becoming debt-free this year, and this vacation would set you back from this goal for at least six months.

It’s a fun idea, and you’d love to do it, but perhaps it’s just not best for your family, right now. It could be – but it might not. If the best is becoming debt-free, you’d hate to settle for going to Disney World, if that’s merely the good.

You’re committed to revamping your family’s health, and are wanting to make better food choices. The farmer’s market selection costs a bit more than your grocery store fare, but the quality and taste are light-years beyond the produce in your neighborhood store, not to mention the health benefits. It involves waking up earlier on a Saturday morning, driving downtown, and adding a few dollars to your monthly grocery line item, but for you guys, the benefits outweigh the setbacks.

For now, for your family, shopping at your farmer’s market is the best.

A Few Good Reminders

1. If what you want turns out not to be the best, remember that it’s just not best right now. Maybe in a year, things will be different.  Disney World will still be there.

2. Keep your priorities in check, especially with relationships. If your good friend really wants you to do a favor, but it’ll truly be a disservice to your kids if you say yes, then you have your answer.

3. Perhaps the best choice is a completely new one, based on compromises. Maybe your in-laws would be willing to do a big family vacation at a nearby lake house?

Photo by Andre Chinn

Our lives are chock full of good-versus-best decisions all day long. From choosing to read books to your kids over popping in a DVD – or perhaps popping in a DVD over absolutely no dinner on the table, parents are challenged to step up to the plate and make wise decisions. As responsible adults with bank accounts, we’re asked regularly to be wise with our finances and make the best fiscal decisions for our families. And as people with a myriad of relationships in our lives, we’re regularly required to make choices that benefit those relationships the most – even when it doesn’t always look like it.

It’s a tricky minefield, sometimes, but the best is always better than the good.

What about you? What does this look like in your life? What was the most recent decision you had to make, when your choices were the good and the best?

top photo source

Change your work from drudgery to delight.

If you've ever felt confused about what you're meant to do...

You're not alone.

Like Your Life can help you
figure it out.


  1. Nicole

    This is a great post. I just wrote about turning my ‘to do’ list into a ‘to be’ list for the purpose of just this…trying to prioritize the BEST rather than the GOOD. Mentally, I try to think through my priorities in life-what is most important, what needs to be preserved and nurtured and then I try to make the little (and big) decisions based on that assessment. Well, I try to do this when I wake up and realize I’ve been choosing good over BEST way too often.

    The post I wrote about the to be list is here:

    Nicole´s last blog post…What Calls for More Alertness than a Terrorist Attack?

  2. Heather

    Thanks for writing this. Truly I needed to read it today. My blog has fallen to the bottom of my list of priorities for a while now and, although I enjoy writing on it, I just don’t have the time right now. My family trumps it. Thanks for reminding me that it’s not a bad thing, it’s just not the best thing right now 🙂

    Heather´s last blog post…Making butter from scratch

  3. Stephanie

    This post was just what I needed. I’ve been trying to choose between visiting family this summer (good) and getting ready to move in July (necessary/better). It’s easy to put what I want to do over what I need to do. At least in the moment. However, the consequences of choosing what I want over what I need are never very good.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Stephanie´s last blog post…Boy was it cold outside…..

  4. Christi

    This post is extremely well-timed for me. One point in particular spoke directly to me, as I’m considering lots of choices for our lives right now.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Christi´s last blog post…starting the week with a plan

  5. Tsh

    Glad it’s all speaking to you in your individual lives right now.

  6. Aimee

    Tsh- Thanks for this nudge in the right direction, and it’s nice to hear your voice on SM! I’m glad you’re taking all the time you need to get settled. Sounds like you are completing in weeks what it would take me months to do!
    And as for blogging versus family, I believe you are already aware of a choice I have made in that area (hint: Wednesday’s comments…)

    Aimee´s last blog post…In Love With Berries & Cream Pavlova

  7. Rebecca

    I knew intuitively what your post would say, while reading the title on my feed reader. I am faced with many difficult choices right now & I appreciate the great reminder that it’s ok to sacrifice for “the best”. I think too many times we settle for the good enough. Most of the time, like Disney World, it’ll still be there tomorrow or next year. Great post!

    P.S. Don’t know why, but I love the photo of the fork!

    Rebecca´s last blog post…Choices

    • Tsh

      Fork in the road. Get it?

  8. Mrs. H

    What a great point. Sometimes our choices aren’t just good vs. bad. Sometimes we have to choose between two equally “good” choices. And, just b/c we choose one over the other, it doesn’t always make the other a “bad” thing. Kinda helps keeps that guilt meter under control. I should choose family b/c it’s the “best” choice, but it doesn’t mean that blogging is a “bad” thing. 🙂

    Mrs. H´s last blog post…now what

  9. Leigh

    Good for you! It’s so important to make those good/best decisions – and because the other is good, it is sometimes hard to see that a decision needs to be made! I stopped blogging on my craft blog, and I even stopped being active in a mommy’s forum b/c it was all taking me away from my kids.

    Leigh´s last blog post…My New Thing: Letting Go of Guilt

  10. Tashia

    Excellent post! I love your blog, but haven’t been here in a while because I always feel like I’m so busy. You post is very relevant to what I have been struggling with lately as I’m sure many WAHM’s are… finding the balance between family and working from home. I’ve been working like a madwoman on a project, which is good, but I know my kids and hubby are feeling neglected. I think I need to make a commitment to designate family time and keep it family time… the best!

  11. Nicki at Domestic Cents

    Great post Tsh. The reason I read your blog is because you are honest (I think 😉 ) and real. There are too many people trying so hard to have the perfect image and the best reputation that they lose all sense of self. Real-ness and good priorities are a breath of spring air to me. Enjoy your family and your settling in time. Can’t wait for you to be back.

    Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post…Easter Projects Update – Bunny

  12. Sherri (Serene Journey)

    Hi Tsh,
    I felt somewhat the same this weekend. I could have spent time writing more blog posts and keeping up on reading some really great articles out there in the blogsphere but it was above freezing for the first time this year (yeah!) so decided to forgo all of that and spend some much needed time outside with the family! It was lovely and actually quite rejuvenating.

    Glad to hear you’re almost fully settled in!

    Sherri (Serene Journey)´s last blog post…Love Is A Verb

  13. Shawn/Lifeatbuttercupfarm

    Tsh, how I LOVE “SIMPLE-MOM”…reading your amazing thoughts and those of your guest bloggers is part of my blogging day! This theory…good vs. best…a cornerstone at Buttercup Farm. We have a family mission statement to help us guide these types of decisions. It is amazing at how quickly one can make a decision when they have a plan they are following. Our yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily decisions are “quickly” sorted by answering the question “Does this fit into our family mission” (and what goes along with it). I wrote about how I work through this process in my summary 2008 post earlier this year.. . I am glad you are settling in-:)

    Shawn/Lifeatbuttercupfarm´s last blog post…Dominican Republic Part 1 – The Overview

  14. Cara

    This is a wonderful article, and reminds me why I come back, over and again, to read the insightful posts at Simple Mom. I run into these scenarios all the time around our house, but on a smaller scale. And mainly it involves doing things for me vs. doing things for my children and husband. Sometimes it’s better to focus on me, but sometimes I need to stop what I’m doing for myself (laundry can wait, really!) and focus on my family because it’s what is best at that time. It also applies to how I spend my free time. If I have 2 hours, how best can I spend that time? I’d love to surf a million blogs, but that isn’t always what’s best!

    Now, I can have a running dialogue in my head: “Is this what’s best and what is best for right now?” Thank you.

    Cara´s last blog post…One Small Step: Leftover Soup

  15. Kirwin

    This is such a wonderful post, so true! For me, sometimes the hardest part is choosing between “good” and “best”. And wow–I had no idea becoming a parent would involve so many decisions!! Seriously.

    I can’t think of a recent good-better decisions, but I’ll be back when I do.

    Thanks Tsh!

    Kirwin´s last blog post…Consultation with the Pantry

  16. Shannon

    This post totally hits home for me right now.

    I am walking away from a career in news that I’ve built for the last ten years, because the payoffs of working no longer outweigh the sacrifices.

    I’m tired of having to wake my two-year-old son up early from his nap so I can rush him off to daycare and get myself at work not a minute past 2 pm. I’m tired of my son asking my husband where I am at dinner time and asking if I can come home.

    I could go on and on….but it’s come to the point where it may be “good” for us to have a dual income and health benefits, but it is BEST for me to stay at home for a while and do a little freelancing.

    It’s the toughest decision I’ve ever made, but one my family deserves.

  17. Rebecca

    This post was so timely for me as I was making some tough decisions this weekend and will continue to have to make difficult choices throughout the week. It’s never easy, so I appreciate you sharing your great tips.


    Rebecca´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Giveaway – iPod Shuffle!

  18. Angie @ The Creative Mama

    What a great reminder this was. Often times my to-do list becomes my life. I need to step back and be sure my priorities (kids and hubbie) are in line.

    Thanks for re-showing me the light Tsh! 🙂

    Angie @ The Creative Mama´s last blog post…52 weeks: get fit.

  19. Sara

    Thanks for the nice post. The best advice my father ever gave me was, “Honey, you can’t do every good thing.”
    I am also grateful for a new day each morning, and chidren who forgive so quickly. So, when I don’t make the BEST choice, the next day I can try again.

    Thanks…..and keep the guest post coming, get your life together so you can share a more “centered” you on the blog.

    Sara´s last blog post…Housework

  20. Angela

    Wonderful perspective. We’re a usually-two-but-now-one-income family due to the economy, so we’re tightening our belts and stretching our dollars. So I hemmed and hawwed over spending $18 to send one of my dearest friends a box of fresh cookies for her 30th birthday today.
    I decided just minutes ago that the best choice would be to spend that $18. Would have been a good decision to not spend the money; but my friendships and making sure my loved ones know they are special are far more dear to me than that $18.
    It was nice to then read this post and feel confident that I made the best decision for me, right now, right here, today. Thanks!

  21. Tsh

    Thanks, all, for your kind words!

  22. rachel

    Thanks for this post. It is so true. Real-life example?

    All my friends were putting their kids in “mother’s day out”. It was 2 hours, once a week, at a good church preschool, where I was reasonably certain that my 2 year old would be well cared for. Seems like a no-brainer, but I agonized over the decision, finally prayed about it, and the answer I felt I received was “no”–not in a “NO” way, but in a “things will be just fine without it” way.

    A week later a girl at the preschool died suddenly and the preschool shut down for a week for quarantine purposes, because the doctors weren’t sure of the cause.

    Would my daughter have caught a fatal virus and died, had I chosen to enroll her? Possibly, but highly unlikely. Would I have gone into an unhealthy spiral of worry and fear? Yes, almost certainly.

    The next year, we decided preschool at the very same church was best. She attended for 2.5 years, then we started homeschooling (best).
    Thanks for reminding me of prayers answered.

    rachel´s last blog post…Drink Brewed Chocolate

  23. deb

    I can’t believe this is the first blog post I read on a day when I was feeling all exactly this. Thank you for my deep breath. I am doing a blog for Lent and keep feeling this balancing act thing. Ah,life…

  24. steadymom

    I just wrote a post about transitions in our lives, and I’ve also found that in times of transitions it helps me focus on being instead of doing.

    Thanks for your reminder.


    steadymom´s last blog post…mommy transitions

  25. Lisa

    So glad to hear from you again on the other side of the pond. This was a fabulous post – thanks. It goes right along with something my husband and I have been learning with our small group at church. We’re studying Andy Stanley’s “The Best Question Ever.” The main idea is that when faced with a decision, we will ask “What is the wise thing to do?” based on our past experiences, current circumstances and future hopes and dreams. It has made a drastic difference in how we handle decision making – and has made “no” so much easier for me! It’s hard to stare down “good” sometimes even when I know what is best.

  26. Monica

    Great words for us all to take to heart. I love how this decision making process (choosing what’s best, over just what’s “good”) can be applied to every area of our lives.

    Thanks for the inspiring post.

    Monica´s last blog post…here’s a thought

  27. Robynn's Ravings

    Always need this reminder. Thank you and so happy for you that you are getting settled in! Most Saturday mornings find me at the Farmer’s Mkt. Nothing like it. LOVE it.

    Robynn’s Ravings´s last blog post…Kid Whizdom 1

  28. Amber

    What a great post. It is all too easy to fill our lives with so many good things that there is little room for the best things. Life is all about the choices we make and, like you said, it’s usually between two good things. I know I don’t always choose the best things but it’s something I’m working on. Glad to hear you’re starting to get settled in.

  29. Marci

    Great post! We have a couple sayings at our house ” Put what you want most over what you want now” and “You can do anything, but just not everything”. We have to repeat those over and over to remind ourselves what is important. My goal is to keep life simple and not get busy. It is a constant struggle.

    Marci´s last blog post…De-cluttering secret weapon

  30. Alger

    I couldn’t agree more. We’ve had several family vacation offerings this year and given the economy we just decided to lay low. I’ve noticed some people have a great deal of difficulty saying “no” and this sometimes keeps them from making the best choices for themselves. Thanks for the great post.

Get our weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where we share new stuff from the blog and podcast—that way you’ll never miss a thing. Tsh also shares other goodness from around the web... It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.

(You’ll also get her quick list of her 10 favorite essays and podcast episodes from around here, helping you wade through a decade of content.)