Hi everyone, it’s been a while since I wrote a post on ‘Mum Life’ and I apologize for that. I’ve been pretty wrapped up with our micro-fiction writing competitions, starting a new business venture (I’ll tell you all about it in a couple of months) and taking care of my family, but I decided this morning I was going to dedicate at least an hour of my time writing this post before it flies clean out of my head like a paper napkin out of the car window.
After dropping my older kids off at school Monday morning this week, I was driving home and my head was quickly filling up with all the things that ‘needed’ to be done. Phone calls to make, bills to pay, daycare to organize, decisions to be made about my direction this year, cars to book in for repairs, shopping to be done, school runs, daycare and kindy runs, etc etc etc. You know how it is as a mum, Monday hits and the weight of the entire week starts loading itself upon your shoulders until you can barely breathe from the weight of it. You think about everything that has to be done and how little time you have to do it in and anxiety starts creeping in. If your not careful and don’t get a handle on it as soon as possible, Mum Life Burnout can happen and we all know how bad that can be for ourselves and our family.
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You can have it all, or can you?
All over social media and throughout blogs and magazines etc, there’s this sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle message that “all” women can have it “all”, “all” the time, as long as it’s perfectly balanced! It’s the subject of many books, articles and heck, even I ask the question of all my ‘Mum Life Success Story’ mums, “how do you find balance?” This quest to find balance in our lives as women (not just mums, because we are women first) seems to be an ongoing battle that has become the ‘holy grail’ of womanhood. That which must be attained at all costs if we are to find peace and contentment in our lives.
Well I want to challenge the theory that we need to find that ‘perfect balance’ to be content, and even that ‘perfect balance’ is something that is possible at all. See the idea of balance is that we are giving equal attention to all aspects of our lives or at least to the most important aspects. I don’t know about you but my head is constantly overwhelmed with how many things I’m supposed to stack onto those scales to get the balance I need.
- Being a good mum (i.e. being always available for all my kids needs, I have 5)
- Taking care of the household (making sure we have a clean, tidy, functional home)
- Working on financial independence (whether it’s studying or building a business)
- Maintaining self-care (me-time, personal growth, rest, etc)
- As a Christian, maintaining my faith (this includes building on my relationship with Jesus, attending and volunteering at church, establishing relationships with members of my church family and being available for God to use me in the lives of others)
Now these are just the most important things and you can already see that it’s a lot to try and balance, and there’s not much room left for anything else. When I think about all the things that are important to me and consider that they need to be perfectly balanced, it feels like a “suicide mission”, and what I mean is that I’m setting out on a mission with a high probability of failure. I’m setting myself up to feel defeated, useless, disappointed and out of control. This once again can open me up to Mum Life Burnout, where Mum Life Fatigue and Depression can steal my peace and my productivity. That constant quest for Balance can be the very thing that makes me feel like I am not good enough, like I am not doing enough, achieving enough, like I within myself am ‘not enough’. Anyone else feel like that?
Do we need to find balance?
So the question is, do we need to find balance, is it something we should be aiming for? In my opinion….yes and no. We need to balance our lives so that one aspect isn’t consuming every ounce of our time at the expense of the other aspects of our lives but at the same time the pursuit of this ‘balance’ can drive us crazy and create ‘imbalance’ in our hearts.
I can see how this would be confusing, so let me explain.
Like I mentioned earlier, I ask all my ‘Mum Life Success Story‘ mums how they find balance (if they do) and the answers are almost always the same in that ‘they don’t’. What they do do, is make family their main priority. Their families come first and anything else they do has to be juggled around that. Now anyone who has a family will know that things rarely go to plan and cannot be boxed into a particular time frame.
Have you ever been at work or Uni/College/Tafe etc, and received a phone call from your child’s school or daycare centre, informing you your child is ill and you need to come and pick them up asap? I’m sure most of us have been there. Your going about your business, feeling capable, productive and in control of your schedule and life, and then BAM, your schedule and your ‘balance’ is thrown off and everything is tossed to the wind because you now have to face a boss, lecturer, clients or yourself (if your self employed) and inform them, you cannot do what you’ve committed to do that day because you have to go collect a child and be a mother for the rest of the day.
How do you deal with this? With strength and poise and calmness and a spring in your step? (Congrats if you do) or is it more like a heavy weight has been thrown onto your scales, tipping it completely off balance in favour of one side? Does it make you feel deflated? Angry? Irritable and short on patience? I know I’ve been there. I’ve finally gotten into a good routine (me last week) and I feel like I’m killing it with how evenly my scales are tipped and then something will once again throw it off balance and my balance ‘high’ comes crashing down and I feel resentful (again, me last week). This often shows in my attitude and behaviour toward my family, the most important aspect of my life. In turn I once again feel like I’m failing at life, failing at everything I’ve been put on this planet to do.
In situations like this we can feel like nothing is ever completely balanced because life can be unpredictable. If we think of balance as having all the important aspects of our lives equally divided and adhering to strict measurements and time frames etc etc, then we will inevitably fail to find balance. Life and especially family does not ever stick to a tight schedule. So how can we give time to all the important areas of our lives and not feel defeated and out of control when the scales get tipped in one direction or the other.
Is Our Idea Of Balance Unbalanced?
Let me explain this using some illustrations, because if your like me (a visual learner) you’ll understand things better if your shown rather than told.
So if we imagine our life like a giant scale that’s evenly balanced with all the important aspects of our lives equally divided up on each side we can see how ‘balance’ is designed to work. For the purpose of getting this post done quicker, I will keep it simple with just four aspects.
Let’s say we have one block for family (this includes all the things that we need to do with and for our families including relationships with spouses or partners), one block for work (this can include all aspects of work and or study etc, if your doing one or the other that is), one block for self care (this includes ‘me time’, hobbies, exercise and other health related things) and one block entitled ‘other’ which is everything else we consider important in our lives (extra study, time with friends, volunteer projects, church commitments etc etc).
So the idea of balance is that all areas of our lives that are important to us need to be equally divided in order for the scales to be even. When family life happens, as it does, we see something like this, with family taking up more time than any other aspect.
This of course throws everything out of balance and in order to get things back in balance something has to suffer and usually it’s our sleep or self-care. Then the inevitable burn-out happens and even though we’ve gotten all our priorities back into a balanced place our bodies, our mindset and our sanity is all out of whack and maintaining balance in our life becomes a futile task once again.
So how do we find balance in our daily or weekly lives without losing our sanity and peace in the process?
It’s all about our mind set, our main priority and our attitude toward it. The truth is as I’m sure most of you already know, that family should always be our main priority. If we neglect this aspect of our lives, we inevitably lose it. Kids grow up, lose touch because there’s no connection anymore, they have families and repeat the cycle over again. Our attitude toward community I believe can be directly linked to our attitude toward family.
If family is not our main priority then community also takes a back seat. This can mean that we often isolate ourselves, fail to establish connections with others and ultimately spend a great deal of our lives alone, unconnected, unsupported and struggling. I’m not saying this is true in all cases and that all disconnection and isolation comes from a lack of quality family life, it’s a complex issue with so many variables and contributing factors that it would take 10 books to cover it all, but not making family our most important and valuable treasure in life can affect not just ourselves but our children in the long run.
So what I suggest is a change of heart or mindset as to what creates balance. Instead of trying to assign equal time to each aspect of our lives, maybe family should be the main aspect that we focus on. Assigning more importance to family than anything else, giving it more of our attention and time and focus would make the scales look something like this.
What this means for the other aspects of our lives
We all know that if we overload ourselves with too much to do, we inevitably burn out and then we are no good to anyone or anything.
I know it’s important to make money, for without it we cannot live, our families cannot live and the cost of living these days far exceeds most basic incomes, but what I’m saying is do we need that brand new fancy car, that yearly vacation, that latest technology, that bigger house etc etc? Are there things we are living for, working for that are taking priority over our families so that whenever the inevitable family life happens and we are forced to put it first, we are feeling out of balance and losing our cool?
Our kids are only with us for such a short time, a lot of us are pushing for careers, lifestyles and incomes that go above and beyond simply providing for our families. We reach a goal in life and the satisfaction is momentary and we are setting a new higher goal for the next momentary satisfaction. The world has become consumed with “self” and achieving for “self” so we can feel fulfilled as a human being etc etc etc, but focusing on self, what we can achieve, what we can earn, what we can get, what we can ‘feel’ from all of that, means putting our families into a little box that is the same size as all the other little boxes in our lives and we can sometimes resent it when that little box tries to grow and outweigh the other little boxes, leading our families, our spouses, our children etc feeling unimportant, unheard, unseen and looking for all those things in all the wrong places.
As I write this I feel like it’s going in so many different directions that need expanding on which would equal at least one book, so I will sum up my thoughts (and these are just my thoughts, I’m no expert) into two more paragraphs.
Instead of striving for balance in all areas of our lives and inevitably failing and feeling like a loser (harsh but true), maybe we should strive to balance our family life with all the other areas of our lives. If other areas have to suffer, don’t stress too much. Obviously work has to be the second priority but everything else can have it’s time. You may not fit all of it into a week, you may have to think about a monthly or yearly schedule that accomplishes all your other goals but don’t stress out when you can’t fit in that pottery class this week, or you have to say no to volunteering this time or you miss a session at the gym or the spa etc etc.
Look at the smiles on your kids faces, the joy in their hearts when you make them a priority. Cherish every moment, even if you have to have pizza at home instead of going to a restaurant, make the most of the little moments, celebrate the victories and achievements of your children, consider them your own achievements and you’ll find satisfaction in that because they are your offspring, your progeny, they carry so much of you within them and they will learn what is important from what you show them is important.
Please remember these are just my opinions, I know everyone’s situation is very different and we all have to do what works for us and our families.
Are there any plans or strategies you use to help gain ‘balance’ in your life?
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