We’ve all heard of the work-life balance. However, I rarely feel balanced. I think of it more as a teeter-totter. When you see the kids on one of these at the playground, there are rarely balanced. Someone is always up and someone is down to one degree or another. This seems like a pretty good metaphor for life.
Perhaps if we consider the balance to be over a month or over a year we might find some equilibrium. It is easy to let the day-to-day logistics of life undermine or confidence that we have it all covered.
Recently, I found myself in what felt like an extreme see-saw, trying to balance everything and feeling like I failing at all of it. I planned ahead for our vacation. Traveling with kids is always an adventure. Add new food sensitivities, “seasonal” trails that are not so marked, wild elk, and fallen trees and adventure takes on new meaning. Our spring break trip to the Oregon Sand Dunes and Redwood forest was full of fun and movement. We even spent some time barefoot walking. Yay for family and movement.
Then we came home. A 14 hour drive, followed by the youngest being violently ill shortly after we all fell asleep. The next day my son broke his elbow. A few days later he was scheduled for braces. I dropped everything to spend the week snuggling with him and trying to manage the pain. The stress and exhaustion caught up with me. I called it mild depression, my husband prefers the terms fatigue and autoimmune flare. Regardless, I was exhausted and pretty much unproductive for a few days.
Self-care became a priority. I am blessed to have friends who were willing to meet me for a walk and chat. I finally got some work in the garden done and some sunlight. Feeling better. Yay.
Now to catch up on work.
Of course, I also have a sick child at home with me today.
The cycle continues, and being a mom means being flexible. Life happens.
While sociologists, authors, and researcher are busy debating now to “achieve work-life balance” the rest of us know that balance is an idea rather than a reality.
What does that mean for those of us trying to be a good Christian / wife / mother / employee / business owner / etc ?
It means we a flexible. We make a plan but also try to take each day as it comes. I am currently sitting next to my sick child while I type this post. Maybe we can’t do it all, but we can do an awful lot.
Here are some suggestions for getting through with we are not feeling like super mom:
- Schedule at least one thing every day that replenishes you. See my last blog post for more on this.
- Ask for help – just because you are the mom does not mean you have to do everything. The kids can pick up after themselves. Your partner can help make dinner or do bedtime, etc.
- Call a friend – Female friends are one of God’s greatest gifts. You don’t need anyone to solve all of your problems, but sharing them is a great stress relief, as is laughter.
- Take a B – If you are a perfectionist, this one is hard. Sometimes you need to order a pizza or heat canned soup for dinner. Maybe the kids don’t really need a bath tonight. You can give the kids extra broccoli tomorrow if you feel guilty. The kids will think they won some kind of lottery and their smiles will make you feel good. Your mental and emotional health are more important than the details. Being a good mom does not mean being perfect.
- Keep a gratitude journal – Writing down what you are grateful for each night is a great way to remember how good your life really is. Maybe you are having a tough week, but you also have plenty of good things going on right now. This is a sure way to boost your mood.
- Get outside – Feelings of overwhelm/fatigue are unlikely to go away when you are inside staring at laundry. Go for a walk in the sun. You will feel more energy and less stress. Trust me, the laundry will still be there when you get back.
My grandmother often reminds me that the kids are only young for a little while and the mess will still be there later. I am not always good about remembering this but am grateful to have her voice in my head. Some days the house gets cleaned and some days we go play outside or snuggle with a book. A really good day is when I manage to do a little of both.
Regardless of which end of your see-saw is up right now, remember that you are not alone. We are all in this together mama.