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What to do with my life….
This is a question most of us have been asking ourselves since we were kids.
Think about it…
Beginning as early as preschool graduation, kids are being asked to tell their teachers what they want to be when they grow up.
And it never ends.
You’re sitting around the dining room table playing The Game of Life with your siblings… and have to immediately decide between college or a career path. Lawyer, doctor, journalist, athlete, accountant.
As you grow up, enter middle and high school, you are asked much the same. Do you want to follow a vocation, attend college or start working upon graduation?
What are you interested in?
What kind of job do you hope to get?
How much money do you want to make?
Do you want to live in or near your hometown? Or are you seeking a change of scenery?
Do you want to get married someday?
When do I want to retire?
What to do with my life.
This, my friend, is a question that human beings will forever seek an answer to… regardless of one’s station in life.
You are never too young or old to ponder.
So, in this article, we will cover a few different scenarios.
And to make things easier… we’ve broken them down into categories to help get you some quick clarity.
What You Will Learn
- What to Do with my Life: for the Teenager
- What to Do with my Life: for the College Bound Student
- What to Do with my Life: for the Career-Minded Person
- What to Do with my Life: for the Single Person
- What to Do with my Life: for the Married Person
- What to Do with my Life: for the Parents
- What to Do with my Life: for Retirees
- A Final Word on What to Do With My Life
What to Do with my Life: for the Teenager
If you are a teen, you are likely facing multiple challenges on a daily basis.
Maybe things are going on with your body that confuse or annoy you. Maybe the laws of attraction have your head spinning. Perhaps your course load is a bit much, with all of the extra-curriculars you do.
And what if your parents and guidance counselors are harping on you to make a decision about college.
Do you even want to go?
If so, where? What do I want to major in?
Is community college or 4-year the best choice for me?
It’s a lot of pressure.
But there are ways to diffuse the ticking time bomb that is decision day.
1. Talk to someone whose opinion you value.
Talking with someone about what you are going through is one of the best ways to work things out. This can be your parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle, best friend, teacher, coach or trusted mentor.
Bouncing ideas off this person. Share your fears. Your dreams.
Let them know, “I am struggling with what to do with my life”. There is no shame in admitting it.
And, likely, you are not alone.
2. Go online.
There is a ton of content available on the web that can help you answer the questions you are asking.
If it’s about your body or relationships, for instance, kidshealth can be a great resource.
If it’s about trying to find what interests you, there are some free career quizzes available.
There are also paid career quizzes… some of which are a part of an online service to help with career search and placement.
3. Start Gathering College Brochures.
So maybe you don’t know exactly what you’d like to do… that’s ok. Start smaller.
Ask yourself what you enjoy? Where your strengths lie?
For instance, are you super curious about the world? How things work? Maybe science or engineering are good places to start.
Perhaps math comes easy for you? Teaching or accounting could be ideal matches.
Or maybe you spend hours writing and sketching in your free time? Taking pictures and posting them online? The arts could be something to consider.
If you have the travel bug, and are fascinated by people in far off places, world languages may be the major for you.
Regardless of what it is that floats your boat, if you start by asking yourself what you like vs. what you want to do… you might have an easier time landing on the path that is best for you.
From there, ask yourself where you may enjoy going to school?
Close by family and friends?
Out of state? Out of the country?
At this point, you’ve answered the two toughest questions:
Most colleges offer online catalogs, virtual tours and pricing information. You can also request brochures via the mail and set up a phone call with a college representative, who can answer most of your questions and put you in touch with the right people.
Sidebar: It’s always a good idea to research the geographic area you’re considering (maybe even plan a visit), to make sure it’s a good fit.
4. Talk to someone already working in the field that interests you.
Whether you are interested in an office job, creative work, medicine, law enforcement, or working with your hands… finding a person in the field who is willing to speak to you is the best possible way to hear about working in the profession first hand.
Think of it as a one-on-one interview, but more casual. This can be done at their place of business or over coffee. If you’re lucky, maybe they will even invite you to join them for a day or two – to see them in action.
5. Research travel abroad options.
Sometimes stepping out of a situation can be the best way to find your way into the right one.
Maybe the pressure is just too much.
After all, you’ve worked hard for years… so maybe taking a step back, a breather if you will, can give you some perspective.
There is a plethora of travel abroad experiences available to young “whipper snappers” such as yourself.
Yes, I used the phrase, “whipper snappers”. My grandfather would be proud.
And many of them will even pay you for it!
Talk about the best summer job ever…
You’re not just taking the year off, you’re actually saving towards your future by working abroad…
Not to mention gaining valuable life experience, which looks great on a college application, should you decide to go that route.
Here are just a few options:
There are also general websites specializing in placing college-aged students with job opportunities abroad, in case you’re not sure of exactly what it is you are looking for.
6. Contemplate taking a year off to volunteer and soul search.
Ok, so your parents may hate me for saying this, but opting to simply “take a year off” may not be the worst idea at 18 or 19 years old.
Especially if it’s for something you are passionate about.
I’m not saying you should simply sit at home, watching television or playing video games all day while your parents work full-time to keep you fed and clothed.
What I am saying is that you can contribute in different ways.
And volunteering is a great one.
People all over the world need our help.
Volunteering your time to do that not only broadens your vision of the world, but can make a serious impact on other people’s lives.
Rather than being selfish, you are opting to be selfless… which is a wonderful life lesson. And one that your parents will likely approve of.
And honestly, it’s much less likely that you’ll be able to take such sabbaticals once you are among the working class.
You are only young once.
Then life happens… and before long, financial and family responsibilities are knocking on your door.
Putting it off another year or two won’t make much different.
If you are contributing in other ways.
Some ideas include:
What to Do with my Life: for the College Bound Student
If you are “all in” and 100% committed to going to college, yay you!
College is a fantastic life experience.
You will be living on your own for the first time.
You will make lifelong friends.
You will meet interesting people from all over the world… and from all walks of life.
You will be intrigued by profound thoughts and concepts.
Professors will inspire you.
You will be urged to get involved in activities that will help to shape the person you want to become.
You may experience your first hangover.
Yes, she said that.
Whichever way your personal college experience goes… you will find yourself.
College is great.
It is also a guaranteed way to get your foot in the door with a rewarding and profitable career.
There is always a but…
Four-year college has gotten expensive. Even the in-state schools.
And to be honest, most professions require more than a Bachelor’s degree for employment these days.
And possessing a Master’s degree… even a PH.D… is where most of the money is to be made.
So now you’re talking about six or more years of college… just to get a leg up in a marketing job?
Back when I was a kid (do not try and guess my age)… six or more years of college was reserved for people who wanted to be lawyers.
Specialists in their fields.
Today we are talking about that as a minimum for slightly above entry level, corporate work.
Even teaching in the United States requires a Master’s in most instances these days.
So when thinking about what to do with my life, I would advise you to strongly consider the 2-year or community college route first.
That is, unless you are 100% certain of your career choice.
And, let’s be frank, most kids ages 17-20 have little or no clue as to what they want to do post college.
There are many ways to earn an Associate's level degree, which in most instances, involves a seamless transfer of credits to a four-year institution upon completion.
Whether via an online university, or a local community college campus… students enrolled in a two-year program are able to complete most or all of their basic liberal arts requirements for a fraction of the cost.
You are even able to take a few “fun” classes of interest… to see if leads to a career passion.
I, for instance, took tv production and children’s literature courses as part of my Associates degree studies.
There are also scholarships available… same as with the four year institutions.
It’s definitely something to consider if money is a factor.
And for many of us, it is.
What to Do with my Life: for the Career-Minded Person
If you are gung ho on starting a career right after college… keep two things in mind.
First, just because you start someplace doesn’t mean you have to end up there.
Second, adequately prepare yourself to excel along whichever path you choose.
Not everyone has the luxury of starting college right after high school.
Not everybody has the desire too either.
We never know what is going on in a person’s life, or what their financial situation is… but sometimes securing a good job is the best way to get to where they need to be.
If something like electrical, mechanical, HVAC, solar or plumbing work speaks to you (which all offer the opportunity for good money to be made)… then a vocational school is where you need to be.
Same goes for fields such as cosmetology, fitness, esthetics.
Proper training is required in order to excel in all of these fields.
No matter where technology takes us, people will always need their cars repaired.
Their hot water heaters replaced.
Their air conditioning serviced.
There will always be people wanting to treat themselves to a mani/pedi or new hair-do.
Personal trainers will never lose their jobs… as long as people crave motivators for success.
People will always need help selling or buying a home.
We no longer live in a society where choosing not to go to college equates to “taking a step back”.
At least, it shouldn’t.
It simply means you’ve found something better suited for you.
And as long as you are driven to succeed, you will.
What to Do with my Life: for the Single Person
So… you’re single.
You’ve got no ties.
Nobody to answer to.
Nobody to consider in your day to day decision making.
You’re a casual dater.
You’ve got lots of time for your friends and hobbies.
Maybe you’re married to your job.
Maybe you’re just happy having an expensive car and 2 bedroom townhouse all to yourself.
Or maybe… just maybe… you are asking what to do with my life next.
Which is likely the case if you’re single.
We’ve all asked it at one time or another.
The biggest questions often being, “should I find someone to settle down with?”.
Do I want kids?
Do I want to advance my career, or take a step back?
Do I want to buy a house in a quieter neighborhood?
If you are in your late 20’s (or older) and still single… there is a reason.
Maybe you have chosen to put your career first.
Maybe you value your independence above all else.
Maybe you simply haven’t found that special someone after the countless blind dates your friends set you up on.
Maybe you’re selfish and set in your ways.
It’s ok. I’m not judging you.
Still, there are a few questions you should ask yourself when deciding to give couplehood a try:
- Am I willing to share my space?
- Am I willing to be somewhat accountable for somebody else’s feelings?
- Does this person ultimately share the same goals as I do?
- Does this person and I have enough things in common? Do we share similar interests?
- Am I willing to share my income?
- Does this person want marriage? Children?
If your answers seem to be pointing you towards taking the plunge, so to speak, there are many ways to go about finding that special someone.
Why not try a local MeetUp group? Here, you actually meet people “the old fashioned” way… or at least as close to it as there is these days.
You simply search online for a group of people with similar interests (running, hiking, dating, politics, language, art, etc…) and meet those people out somewhere the organizer chooses.
Bars, restaurants and parks are common meetup places.
There are also websites designed exclusively for dating, with the intention of forging committed relationships. Even marriage.
The reputable ones will typically have you complete a profile and answer a series of questions. Then the site’s algorithm will send matches to your inbox based on your responses.
Some are more in-depth than others.
Meeting people online is a low pressure way to get to know someone… and costs much less per month than a handful of bad first dates.
And then there is bar hopping… which seems a bit pas·sé, but does still work for some people.
Hey, you never know when your knight in shining armor will show up ready to hold your hair back for you while you visit the royal throne.
In all seriousness, it doesn’t have to be a loud bar… it can be a jazz club or speakeasy.
Even a coffee bar.
Or, instead of bar hopping, why not take up a new hobby? You know, while you still have money to spend on yourself… because that becomes less and less common once you’re in a relationship.
Heck, I only kickbox occasionally because I found a groupon.
Otherwise, it’s “free” activities for this mother of four… like running, cycling, walking, workout videos on demand.
Not only can taking on something new put you in a great state of mind… but it also may land you on someone’s radar with interest in the same thing.
Yoga, martial arts, a choir, an art or cooking class… the possibilities are endless.
The point is just to get out there… so whatever floats your boat, go forth and make it happen!
Life is waiting… and maybe your soulmate is too.
What to Do with my Life: for the Married Person
So you’re married.
For all intents and purposes, you are no longer a “me”… but a “we”.
Your life revolves around each other.
You are yourself constantly checking with your spouse regarding plans on the calendar.
You organize “couples” night out more than “guy’s (or gal’s)” night out.
The last time you did anything by yourself was…
give me a second…
oh, right, when you took a shower.
Ok, then the bathroom… definitely.
The drive to work maybe?
My point is, you are thinking for two.
And that is normal and healthy.
It can be downright rewarding, even.
But when is the last time you thought about yourself? Even just a little?
If you’re married and wondering what to do with my life, perhaps you should listen to yourself.
A relationship is only as good as the people’s mindset who are in it.
This is not to say your thoughts on what to do next don’t include your significant other. They very well might and certainly can.
Say, for instance, you are thinking about going back to school?
You could be doing it because you are bored and thinking about switching careers.
You could be doing it because you want to advance your current career to make more money… save up for that bigger house you want to raise a family in.
Maybe you are thinking about accepting a new job you’ve been offered and leaving your company of 15 years behind?
Perhaps you want to start your own small business?
Or pick up and move to another state? Or country?
Maybe you want to spend your savings on a trip to someplace exotic?
Itching to learn a new language?
Or simply want to give a pottery class a try?
Regardless of what is going on inside your head, there are ways to help you figure out what to do with my life if you’re married.
Because, let’s be honest, you have responsibilities.
And you can’t simply just throw caution or money to the wind when you have another person counting on you… unlike a single person could.
So, my best advice is to research your ideas.
Give your thoughts and dreams some credibility.
If it’s schooling or career advancement you’re looking for, consider an online university.
If you prefer a more traditional experience, try a few courses at your local community college.
There are also non-traditional online learning websites, such as Coursera or Skillshare, that brings together professionals from thousands upon thousands of fields and specialties… and have them teach 100% online courses.
Coursera even offers professional certificates and degree programs.
If it’s direction you are seeking, online career quizzes are a great way to see what may be a good fit for you.
On other matters, if your dreams involve saving for a house, it’s a good idea to budget and research what you need.
Finally, if the travel bug has bitten you… reading up on potential destinations is a must!
From there, searching for deals is a great way to go… and they are out there!
Especially if you’re willing to travel last minute or “off peak”.
There are tons of companies that offer deals, but airfarewatchdog is a personal favorite of mine. They offer deals of the day on not just airfare, but hotels as well.
And partner links to the top travel rewards credit cards can help those of you with good credit get even more bang for your booking buck.
Whatever you are contemplating, whatever you decide, remember it’s not just about you… having your partner by your side in the process can make it all the more rewarding.
What to Do with my Life: for the Parents
It’s 3am and you are in the middle of a great dream… like, epic!
When you’re suddenly hit in the forehead and woken up by your toddler who just “feels like cuddling”.
You finally get back to sleep when your 7-year-old comes in at 4:30am just to let you know she had to use the bathroom.
Thanks for the update, kid!
While I keep telling myself that I will miss these days… and I’m sure I will… being a parent is exhausting.
Brilliant, rewarding, life changing… but exhausting.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent, you are on the clock 24 hours a day… seven days a week.
You’re up with the roosters…
I literally am up with roosters. I live in the country now.
And you try your best to stay up just an hour or two after the kids are in bed, despite how tired you are… just to have some adult time.
But kids tend to wake up.
No matter what age.
Whether it’s a bad dream, insomnia, stress or a wet bed… there is a good chance that uninterrupted sleep is not in the cards for you.
At least not yet.
If you’re a working parent, you get the kids off to school and go to work all day.
Then you’re expected to come home and switch into your parent costume and parade the kids to all of their activities.
Make them dinner.
Put them to bed.
In most cases.
I hear some people have nannies.
Like “fly in on an umbrella and help with everything” nannies.
Lack of sleep aside, you are not only a parent… but a housekeeper, laundry service, personal chef, coach, den mother, chauffeur.
And it can be down right draining.
It’s also not uncommon to feel unappreciated at times.
Ok, a lot of the time.
The minute your child was born, you pretty much entered into a silent contract with him (or her) to put your life on hold… for the sake of letting them live theirs.
And that’s wonderful.
But it’s also completely natural to wonder what to do with my life as my kids grow older?
Maybe they are just starting school full-time.
Maybe they are in high school.
Headed off to college.
You’ve been there for them all of these years… so what do you want to do now?
Keep in mind… this doesn’t have to be a life changing or grand undertaking.
You can start small.
Try carving out a bit of time for yourself every week.
Then every few days.
Maybe, eventually, every day.
And, no, I’m not suggesting you disappear for three hours every night and leave them money to order a pizza for dinner… but even as little as 30 minutes to yourself every day can make a big difference.
Here are some simple ideas for “MOMme” (or “DADdeed”) time:
1. Hire a parent’s helper
If you take the time to look, or simply ask around, there is an abundance of high school and college students looking to earn a few bucks by helping a family out after school.
Someone willing to get the kids off the bus and start their homework.
Someone willing to help get dinner going.
Drop the kids off at soccer practice.
Help with laundry.
Depending on how old your kids are, you might just be interested in hiring someone to be home with you for a couple of hours… entertaining the children while you run errands in peace and get the house in order.
More times than not, these “kids” are happy with minimum wage or a little more… which is a small price to pay for a little bit of downtime.
2. Book a date night sitter
I am a firm believer that date nights are crucial for keeping a marriage strong.
As parents, we have a tendency to get so caught up in the day to day things, our children, that it becomes all too easy to stop talking to your spouse.
You forget to check in.
“Johnny had a great day at school today.”.
“Maggie lost another tooth.”.
“Derek is being bullied.”.
Our conversations tend to surround our kids, which is perfectly normal.. but at what risk?
The risk of losing sight of each other… and what it is about one another than made you fall in love and have these beautiful children.
Care.com is a great place to go to find sitters in your area. For a small fee, they provide the names of certified sitters for your child… all of whom have been background checked.
Or if you are on social media, you can try searching facebook for babysitter boards and mom groups. It’s free and you’d be surprised just how willing other parents are to share their finds.
In fact, I met a few of our sitters this way… their moms reached out to me on their child’s behalf.
And they’ve all worked out just great!
3. Take a fitness or art class
Today, thanks to this little thing we call the Internet, finding a new hobby is just a few clicks and swipes away.
Interested in yoga?
Google it with your zip code.
Interested in learning to play golf?
And voila! You have a list of endless possibilities at your fingertips… from the comfort of your computer, tablet or smartphone.
If you’re not sure you’ll be able to swing an hour or so away from the kiddos… there are many websites offering online fitness and art classes as well.
Check out Grokker to scratch your fitness itch… without leaving home.
You can also download an app straight to your phone to get you moving, sans the gym membership. Aaptiv is a great one.
Similar to Skillshare, which I mentioned earlier, Udemy is another rather popular online learning resource… and may be worth checking out.
Harriet Jackson Brown Jr., American Author, said, “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”.
And I could not agree with him more.
Volunteering is one of the greatest things a person can do with their free time.
Unlike the occasionally dismissive behavior from your family after you slaved over dinner for an hour and nobody bothered to compliment on it… or the roll of the eyes you get from your teenage daughter after you drop her and a friend off at the movies and dare to say, “I love you.”…
The people you volunteer your time to help will typically show nothing but gratitude.
And that is a wonderful feeling.
Volunteer Match, and other sites similar to it, allow you to search by category for what might interest you… broken down by postal zip code.
You can volunteer with children or adults…
You can be a mentor, tutor, companion, activist… you can build something, clean up something, organize something.
Visit a children’s hospital or nursing home.
You can work with animals.
Educate people at an animal sanctuary, or help rescue and nurse wild creatures back to health.
You can work for a farm or co-op.
You can also search locally for volunteer opportunities in your area via, you guessed it, Google.
Some volunteer opportunities will require some training, but other than that… they are always open and eager to have new members give as much or as little time as they can.
As an added bonus, being an active volunteer can sometimes lead to employment opportunities… turning your newfound passion into a rewarding career.
5. Get a part-time job
If you find yourself with a little extra time on your hands… and a high salary with health benefits are not a top priority for your family… then a part-time job could be just what the doctor ordered to give you a little personal pick-me-up.
A part-time job can be a great way to meet some new people or learn a new skill… while putting away a little extra cash for a rainy day.
Maybe for a weekend getaway with your spouse or best friend.
Or a vacation with the kids over spring break.
It can even be as simple as treating yourself to a spa treatment once a month.
Typically part-time jobs offer more flexibility, so you can tell them exactly which days and hours you can work.
A full-time position doesn’t typically come with such luxuries.
A part-time job will also give you something to talk about with your partner besides the kids… for once.
And you’ll likely have other adults to talk to throughout the day… which is always nice.
Says the woman typing this article who just realized she has applesauce in her hair.
Or is it?
Anywho, don’t underestimate the value of the company of other adults.
Plus, if everything is copacetic with your employer… it could lead to more when and if you want it to be.
Just food for thought.
6. Join a club
A local garden club.
A knitting circle.
Hey, knitting is making a comeback.
A book club.
These are all things you can do in your spare time, and typically only once or twice per week, that will get you out there among the people.
Feeling like “you” again.
7. Plan a weekend getaway
You can love your kids to death… but also still dream about a wine tasting tour with your friends in Napa Valley.
You can hug and kiss your kids goodnight… while your thoughts drift off to pink sand beaches of the Bahamas.
You can cheer for your child as he is about to score another goal in the big game… while wondering if you can pull off a golf weekend with your buddies before it gets too cold.
You love your kids… I know this.
You know this.
And whoever said, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” clearly knew this.
It is perfectly ok to take a small break from parenthood.
Call your in-laws.
See if they’d be willing to watch the kids for a few days.
Even offer a swap deal, if you must.
They do it one weekend… you do it another.
Time away in an excellent opportunity to recharge your batteries, both mentally and physically.
And doing so is almost guaranteed to make you a much happier mom and dad upon your return.
At least until the next time they color with permanent marker on your freshly painted walls.
Hey, it’s a getaway… not a time machine.
What to Do with my Life: for Retirees
The golden years.
The best time of your life.
So, it seems only logical to be asking yourself what to do with my life over the next few years.
Well, hopefully it’s more than a few.
Hopefully you planned well and were able to retire while you are still healthy enough to have some fun.
While retirement can spell freedom for some, it can be financially stressful for others.
Unless you paid into a pension system, 401K or IRA… invested in stocks… planned and budgeted over the years… you may find your retirement to be more about worries than pina coladas.
In fact, a published study by the Federal Reserve Board stated that as many as 33% of retirees returned to work in some capacity after retirement.
Sure, for some, money was the primary factor. They retired too early and didn’t plan well enough, so they needed to go back.
For others, it was boredom.
For others, there were unforeseen circumstances beyond their control that forced their hand to go back.
And, for another group, it had to do with failed expectations. While they had saved enough to get by… it wasn’t quite enough to take that trip around the world they always dreamt of.
So if you are contemplating what to do with my life next as a retiree… it’s probably a good idea to meet with a financial planner before hand.
Make sure all of your ducks are in a row.
This way, you’re not disappointed later.
You may find that you need to lower your expectations a bit. Or at the very least, rework them.
Revisit what would make you happy… and what you are truly looking to get out of retirement.
There is always the risk of life throwing you a curveball to mess with your retirement.
In fact, we all run the risk of encountering a setback or two in life. Not everything is in our control.
But educating yourself is half the battle.
Then ask the questions:
There are even retirement calculators online where you can run some base numbers and get an idea of your retirement picture.
If not working any more and having a house in St. Maarten is the dream…do the research.
What is the average cost of living on the island? Where can you get the biggest bang for your buck?
Perhaps another island is better suited for your financial situation?
You may need to sell your two story cape and settle for a 1 or 2 bedroom condo.
Or consider getting rid of one or both cars and getting Vespas instead.
Plan to shop locally and eat out as little as possible.
Whatever your dream… remember these words.
Retirement is no longer synonymous with a big house, yacht and acres of land.
Retirement is about enjoying what is left of your life.
Enjoying time with family and friends.
Enjoying your hobbies and pursuing new interests.
Not having to set an alarm clock.
Relaxing a bit.
And it’s all possible if you are willing to curb your expectations.
A Final Word on What to Do With My Life
What to do with my life?
This is a question that most people ask themselves… and they likely will do it more than once in their lifetime.
It’s good to look ahead, there is nothing wrong with that.
But just be careful not to spend so much time looking forward that you start looking back?
Where did the time go?
You’ve missed the precious present.
And it’s a gift.
A good habit to get into is setting short term goals for yourself.
Things that will improve your well being, without disrupting your current situation too much.
Short term goals are also great for those who seek immediate gratification. Those who have little patience to wait for things to come to fruition.
Live your life every day.
Don’t have any regrets.
Pursue new experiences.
But always remember how you got to where you are.
Learn from it.
And when you are least expecting it… that answer to what to do with my life will just fall into your lap.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.