I’ve been thinking a lot about “balance” lately. Well, actually finding balance, and my quest over the years to do so. It has become more and more clear to me as the years progress, that my husband and I have a limited time with our children. They are growing and maturing at what seems like an exponential rate and there’s nothing we can do to slow down time or bottle their deliciousness.
Before moving to NH, I taught full-time and was mommy to our wonderful little ones. People would ask me, “How do you do it all?” I would just shrug my shoulders and smile because frankly, the honest answer was, ” I don’t.”
I don’t do it all. I don’t think anyone can. For years, I’ve battled the stress of being a mom and working full-time. I spent hours commuting back and forth, putting my all into making sure my students’ needs were being met. Then came dinner and bedtime with my own children, grading papers and lesson plans before passing out. The stress and responsibility was sometimes overwhelming. Sprinkle that big ball of stress with some guilt, well, maybe I should say douse it with a lot of guilt for not being there more for my own children, and born was a wild horse I tried my darnedest to tame. It wasn’t just me, either. All of my mommy friends were and still are going through the same thing. So what did I do? I started a business to boot. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.
Fast forward to now. Life has thrown me a few curve-balls that has pushed me to choose one profession over the other. It was a real ego-buster, but the gift has been a chance to catch my breath and develop a clarity I didn’t have before. It’s not about doing it all, its about doing your very best with the time you have each and every day.
So I’ve recently been in search of ways to make the best of my time with all of the responsibilities that are still on my plate. Here’s what I’ve found so far:
1. Schedule time for yourself. For me, this is 45 minutes a day for a brisk walk. You need to do something for yourself once a day, even if for 1/2 an hour. Read a book, draw a hot bath, walk in the grass with bare feet, work on a piece of art, meditate, write, pray. Do something meaningful that’s just for YOU. In addition, make sure you get enough sleep and eat well.
2. Schedule time for your family. It took me many years to figure this one out. I used to think I had tons of opportunities to spend time with my family. I mean, we lived together, right? But when it boiled down to it, I worked almost all the time and was easily distracted when I wasn’t. Make your family a priority and block out your weekends. Make a date night with your spouse or loved-one every one to two weeks (we are still working on this one!). Make a one-on-one date with each child once a month. Put these special times in your calendar with the importance of any other appointment or meeting. They need you. Make the time for them.
3. Cut out distractions that don’t add value to your life. I’m not talking about a quick tweet or post, but if you get lost in surfing Facebook or Pinterest (it’s easy to do!), or sucked into the TV when you could be outside playing with your children, CUT IT OUT! When my mom learned she had terminal cancer, one of the things she reflected on was all the time she wasted watching TV. Ask yourself what’s most important to you. I bet it’s not the gadget you’re on. This also goes for people who are negative, gossip, or suck your energy. Life is short. Surround yourself with those who lift you up, not bring you down or distract you from what really matters.
4. Get organized. Develop a schedule and stick to it. Decide what hours you will work and what hours you will have for yourself and your family. Keep a planner and prioritize your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to help keep you on track. Planning and organization go a long way. This can be especially helpful if you work from home. This is something I constantly work on. When I work, I give my full effort. I need to be able to stop when my children are home in the evening. Stopping a project mid-way is a VERY hard thing for me to do but my kids mean more to me than what I’m working on, so I need to keep to my schedule. When it’s time to stop working, I need to stop working. Staying organized with my time is extremely helpful in keeping my priorities in check and balancing work with family.
5. If you can, outsource tedious activities that drain your energy. A friend of mine uses PeaPod grocery service and orders her groceries and supplies online. They are delivered right to her door. A house keeper or landscaper could also be a worthwhile investment if it frees you up to spend more time with loved ones. A few extra dollars can go a long way in saving energy and time each week. Some of us are not in the position to afford such help, but if you can, it could make a difference in the time you could spend doing the things you love. Better yet, spend this time doing these activities together with your family and make it a shared experience.
Ok. Maybe the daughter grabbed those scallions and shoved them up her brother’s nose right after this picture was taken. The point is, there is no perfect formula for finding balance between work and family. It’s a continual work in progress. I work on these things every day and believe me, I am FAR from mastering them. I know, however, that it’s important to be open, be flexible, and know that it’s OK to be imperfect. If you’ve developed your priorities, then honor them with what you choose to do each and every day.