Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Is Balance?

I need to preface this by saying that I need a nap. But I need to write more. I don't often have kid days where I consider pounding my head against the nearest brick wall, but today might be in that category. If you can't relate, I don't want to know.

But on to writing...

First, as background, you must read Reasonable Limits. LOVE this piece. In it, the author talks about striving for balance in her life.

Sometimes I think I'm seriously out of balance. But here's the thing...

I am doing EXACTLY what I want to do with my life. I want a houseful of kids (which, incidentally, says a lot considering my morning!) I want the garden, the healthy cooking/eating, the family time, homeschooling. And, although it's sometimes hard to fit in, I also enjoy the periodic challenge (usually a couple times a month) of working outside the home. It is stressful, but it makes me think in ways that I don't usually get to at home.

But I am BUSY. ALL. THE. TIME. I feel like I always have a "to do" list ten miles long. (Even when I don't have time to make a list, it's still in my head. Last night I even dreamed about one of my friends' moms coming over to help me organize my house. Pathetic, I know.)

Contrary to the article, I do not feel like I'm obsessed with my children in an unhealthy way. That's pretty balanced, I think. (If you're my friend and reading this, let me know if I'm wrong.)

But I totally struggle with what is "reasonable." What is balance? Does the fact that I'm busy all the time mean that something is out of whack?

I mean, come on. Let's look back a few decades. Take the women of the 30s or 40s...they certainly didn't have recreational time. They didn't have all the modern conveniences we do. Just gardening, sewing, cooking, and doing the laundry took up most hours of the day. So were they out of balance?

I relate to the author when she says, "Some people think I do too many things. I feel like I don't do enough." I know there is more I could be growing. Canning. Cooking. Learning. Teaching. Writing. DOING.

I do feel gratitude for the good I'm experiencing, although sometime I have to "feel gratitude" at 100 miles an hour in order to sneak it in. I often think how fortunate I am to have what I've always wanted. Yet I sometimes find myself reading aloud to my kids, thinking about what it is I need to DO next rather than enjoying the moment. I try to live in the present, but it's hard...and the more busy I am, the harder it is.

Like the author, I am HORRIBLE at keeping things organized. Countless stacks of papers and books pile up in my office. My kids gifted me with boxes of their unwanted stuff that I'm supposed to sort--what to garage sale, what to give away, what to keep for younger siblings. I still have piles of adoption paperwork to sort. Homeschool curriculum. Job-related materials. Stuff-n-stuff.

At the moment, it feels worthless to even try. In the time I sort through one pile, GG will create another ten piles. If I stay with him, playing "Clean up, clean up..." we're at least down to minimal GG damage by the end of the day. Though looking around in the late afternoon, I often wonder what DH will think when he walks in the door. "Do I have children or mini tornados?" This letter from a Dr. Laura listener makes me feel slightly better. Slightly.

Yesterday I related so well to the woman who called into your show saying she felt frustrated that she could never get any tasks accomplished. As she spoke my list of 367 things to do ran through my head. I nodded frantically as she spoke the exact feelings of my heart.

You told her "your house is a toy box until the kids are in kindergarten". and then explained that all she needed to worry about was that the health department wouldn't come and take the kids away, there was food on the table, and there were clean clothes to wear but most importantly that she was relating to her children and making sure that they were being cared for and loved. Those words changed my life, they were just what I needed to get all the weight of that giant list off my shoulders. Suddenly I could breathe!!

I excitedly called my husband to tell him and that dear man said to me "that is what I've been trying to tell you. I don't care if there are toys on the floor or if we have left overs for dinner. I care that the kids are happy and most importantly that you are smiling".

Today each time I've felt stressed and overwhelmed I've reminded myself that my home really is a toy box and the two small boys making all the messes are what really matter in life.

But back to the original blog article...

I hugely struggle with decluttering. But here's the thing. I have children ages 3-19. I'm homeschooling. I have a preschooler. I occasionally work from home. Out of necessity (at least perceived), I have a lot of STUFF.

Take yesterday for example.

I have a little basket of eye droppers, film canisters, squirt bottles and mini containers. While I was chopping/freezing produce, I took the basket out, added it to the "doctor kit," grabbed a couple dollies, a dollbed and blankies. The boys had a blast. Eventually, they took it outside so they could do more with the water and less with the doctoring. But they had SO. MUCH. FUN. Yeah, it's "stuff." Yeah, I hardly ever use it. But it was perfect in the moment.

Here's the next piece I relate to:
I seem to have an issue with a skewed idea of what I want to do and what I can actually do in real life. In my mind I wish I could do so many things and just don't have the time. Living with a feeling like I always have an unfinished 'to do' list puts me in a negative situation as I always feel like I'm not measuring up, not doing well because it never is done.

For me it's not so much that I have a skewed idea of what I can get done. (At least I don't think.) It's that I know exactly how much I can get done. Then I fill every little second of that time until there is nothing left. I'm not sure how long a person can continue that route and still call herself "balanced."

Frankly, I have no time to declutter right now. It's all I can do to take care of kids, garden, cook, do laundry, and, yes, WORK.

I feel an urge to rethink "what is reasonable."

So is your life balanced? How'd you manage to get there???


AmyP said...

I got there by only having one kid and then quitting my job. Oh. Wait. Maybe I'm not balance. Perhaps I'm lazy. =)

In any case, I think my mom's life was a lot like yours. There were 8 people in our 1000 sq ft house and she did *everything* that needed doing for everybody. She found the balance she needed by learning to live on very little sleep and a lot of coffee. =) I kid, but I'm sort of serious. She stayed up very, very late every night just so she could have a little time alone.

As for the house, her MIL used to complain that she didn't clean enough or well enough. Mom always told her that she was there to be a mother, not a housekeeper (and I think occasionally invited her to clean anything that wasn't up to her standards). When mom only had time for cleaning or playing, she always played with us. I remember that well. Lots of reading and games and foot races. Lots of promoting silliness and laughter. And that went well beyond kindergarten.

Will you have more time once the gardening slows? Will you feel better now if you realize that in a month that's what you can spend an hour on a day (or a week, with your schedule!). How much of the cleaning/decluttering needs to be done to enjoy life with your family? And how much of it just *feels* like it needs doing? Do you have a basement or an attic? =) Again, thinking of my mom, she didn't get around to sorting through a lot of stuff until we all moved out of the house. She'd just get it organized enough to move to the basement...and then YEARS later went through it all.

Let me know if having a partner would help. I could come down some day during school and you could put me to work. At least you'd have some grown up company for your misery. =)

Maybe I should have emailed, rather than commented. =)

christinemm said...

I'm glad you enjoyed my blog post. I liked hearing your thoughts and how these things affect your life.

Today the orthodontist asked me how homeschooling was going and I said great. Then he asked how I was and I said I was busy and you know, trying to juggle everything and get it all done.

He has kids my boy's ages. He said his house is like a bomb went off. He said there is no getting it all done.

I said I try to do one thing right and that means something else has to slide.

He said that "you can only do part of the things part way, busy parents can't even do one thing all correctly, and no matter what, the house is a mess".


(What an understanding father!)

Two people showed up unexpectedly today and I was not embarrased to have them see my home, even though the mop was out and I had not yet gotten to mop the floor and it needs it. At least it was swept. LOL.

Tomorrow I have some alone time and will finish the garage, hopefully!

And I convinced my father to come help me declutter the basement.

I'm on a roll since watching the reality show Hoarders on my DVR!

Teddi said...

I'd write more, but I'm too busy. ;-) A few thoughts:

*I think you have balance, but your balance has a rhythm. This is a very busy "season," both in terms of the life of your family, and in terms of harvest. You'll cycle back down to less of some activities as winter comes on.

*For decluttering, I've found it works if I set for myself the goal of "5 things out" a day--5 things either tossed, given away, or put in the Goodwill bag--from whatever space is my focus at that time. If I get more than 5 out, great. But over time, 5 a day can make a big difference.

*And, just to add another twist, my pastor mentioned in his sermon Sunday the saying, "If the devil can't make you bad, he'll make you busy." Food for thought. ;-)

Love you. As soon as we're both not so busy, we'll get together!

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