As I have been talking with other mommas these past few weeks about the most frustrating part of parenting, the overwhelming majority of us feel like balance is what we are lacking. Balance in fulfilling everyone’s needs…including our own, which typically get pushed to the bottom of our very long list.
Why is it so hard for us to have balance in our lives?
(From my own observations, it seems that this isn’t as difficult for men. Maybe I should study my husband.)
As busy moms, we are pulled in so many different directions all the time. I think most people (with and without children) feel this way actually. The main difference I see is that, as mothers, our frustrations from not experiencing balance affect our children, the future generation. It is important that we work towards, think about, and discover ways to achieve more balance in our lives, for everyone’s sake.
For this to happen, for us to achieve some semblance of balance, we must first start with ourselves. No, not putting our own individual wants/needs at the top of the list, however tempting that may be sometimes. We must start with ourselves by reflecting on our priorities.
But before we do that, let me tell you a story. One day, January 6, 2016 to be exact, I experienced balance. And it was grand. So grand, in fact, that I had to write it down. Here are my exact words, no revising, no editing, not written for an audience…just my words: “Today, I had a taste of this balanced life. I worked normal hours (7:20-4:00). [As a teacher, this is huge.] My husband and I picked up our boys from preschool and took them to dinner. (When you have young children, you eat dinner at a ridiculously early time like 4:30.) They both began losing their cool by the time we were finishing one hour late, but that’s besides the point. Once home, we watched a little Curious George (who, by the way, has really good balance) and relaxed. I spent about 30 minutes planning a writer’s workshop for my IB Junior English class. Then I rocked my youngest son to sleep, lay in bed with my oldest for 16 songs of his lullaby c.d., and finally sat in my chair to write a little. This was the most balanced day I have had, oh, probably since this school year started. However, the time is drawing night, and that 5:00 alarm sure comes early. And I can hear both my boys moving around in their rooms now doing anything but sleeping. Okay, balance, I got you for one day. Don’t be a stranger now, y’hear?”
Have I had days like this since? Yes. Here and there. Not much, but “here and there” is much more than what I had been experiencing previously. And I believe I can attribute this to one main thing. I reflected on my priorities. And then, I set them in stone.
By last May, I knew something had to change. I could not keep doing everything I had been doing and stay a sane, (semi) normal person.
I (dare I say, We?) have a tendency of making things much harder than they need to be. You know what I mean?
Turns out, the concept is really very simple. It’s the doing part that’s hard.
Here are the 4 steps that I do to help balance my life.
Step 1: Prioritize People
First, I organized the people in my life into a list based on priority.
For me, this list looked like:
3-the rest of my family
For now, let’s try to avoid getting into the argument about why you should put your husband first and your children second. I feel that, when you have 2 young children, that whole theory just goes right out the window. At this point in life, my boys rely on me for survival. My husband does not.
Sometimes it’s hard for us to look at a list like this and see it without putting it on a scale…favorite at the top, least favorite at the bottom. Or worse. Love at the top, hate at the bottom.
That’s not what this is. I do not hate my colleagues, administrators, or others. Nor are they my “least favorite.” They simply have to fall somewhere on my priority list. And this is where they landed.
Step 2: Prioritize Activities
Once that was done, I made a conscious decision to base my activities around this list. **This was the most difficult step for me.**
I have a hard time saying no to people. And that’s exactly what this step boils down to.
“No, I will not be attending that training.”
“No, we won’t be able to make that birthday party.”
“No, I cannot help judge the art show.”
“No, I won’t be sponsoring another student club.”
If it was taking time away from my children, the answer was no. If it was taking time away from my husband, the answer was no. If it was taking time away from my family, the answer was no. If it wasn’t going to directly affect my students and their education, the answer was no. If it was taking time away that I had for myself (to work on SodieDooDotch, read, research, or paint my toenails), the answer was no.
Obviously, this calls for a balance in and of itself. Sometimes, some things just have to be done whether or not it infringes upon the time for the people on your priority list. However, if you have said “no” to the extraneous requests, it’s easier to say “yes” to something that really matters when you need to.
Step 3: “So Be It”
I had to develop a “so be it” mindset.
I knew that some people would be unhappy with me, the answer I was giving, and the decision I was making. (However, in all honesty, this did not happen nearly as much as I expected. For the most part, people accepted my answer and went on their way. They didn’t hate me. Weird.)
If someone did become unhappy with me, I had to just accept it. Besides, it left me with more time to spend on the people at the top of my priority list. Winning.
What actually ended up being harder than developing a “so be it” mindset towards others’ reactions, was developing this mindset towards myself. I want to do my best, be my best, and help everybody along the way. When I had to tell somebody no, I would beat myself up about it. The guilt set in strong.
That’s when I had to separate myself into two parts: the part that was angry at myself for not doing/being my best and the part that had made that priority list. I think back to my priorities. Visuals are strong reminders. I keep pictures of my children, husband, and family at work so that I can remember who comes first. Then I say “so be it” to that angry part of myself.
**Another thing that helpes me with this step is to ask myself “In five years, will this really have mattered? Will I even remember it?” If the answer is no, move on.
Step 4: Experience a Little Balance
I began spending my time differently.
By not making commitments to other responsibilities, I have a little more time in my schedule to spend the way that I wanted. More quality time spent with children and hubby makes for a happier home. Making a little time each most days to do what I want/need helps with having to take care of others.
I have to make compromises, though. My “me time” is usually at night after everyone is in bed or early in the morning before everyone wakes up. (I don’t get as much sleep as I had a few months ago, but I am definitely more positive and better able to help fulfill others’ needs because of that little bit of time to myself.) During the time I do have, I don’t watch t.v. or mindlessly scroll through Facebook or Instagram. I have started doing things that bring me real joy…reading, writing, learning. Time well spent.
The Reality of Balance
So this is where I’m at right now in my life. Is this process perfect? Absolutely not. Is my current scenario perfect? Nope. Is it working? For right now. Finding balance is not something you can just check off your to-do list. It’s something that will need constant attention. For the rest of our lives, but especially for the phase we are in right now with our children.
I don’t get time to myself every day. I still let that mommy guilt settle in more often than not. (That’s an issue to tackle another day.) I still say “yes” to a lot of things that I should be saying “no” to. I don’t always feel the balance in my life. But I’m better than I was a year ago. Progress, my friends. I take it baby steps at a time. Each day, I will keep reminding myself of my priority list.
Do you have any tactics that you use to help balance your lives a little better? For example, I know that planning and organization can go a long way. Maybe you have an idea you can share with us. Click that comment button below and tell us. I would love to hear about it!
This post has been shared at Thank Goodness It’s Monday at Nourishing Joy.