The Importance of Balance
by Staci Stallings
As a stay-at-home mom, I have had the distinct privilege of being involved in several "mom-lifestyle" discussions. Most focus on the roll of mothers in society today. Generally there are to camps. One says that a mother should stay at home, be there for her family exclusively, and be willing to sacrifice her very life and happiness for the happiness of the family. The second group says no, a mother should be able to pursue her own career, and although the family may suffer some, her dreams and goals should be paramount.
In discussing this paradox with several people (including my own mother), I have come to this conclusion – neither one works long term.
For a moment, I’d like to back track and see how we got here. Years ago – 40 to 50 now, a woman’s sole job was to stay at home, cook, clean, and basically take care of her family. If a woman married, she was expected to be the caretaker of the children (and if she didn’t marry, then something must be wrong with her). This was a woman’s role. Period.
Then came the women’s movement, and leaders said, "Family isn’t important, you are. Go out, pursue your goals, we will set up daycares and push the concept of year round school so that you can.pursue your dreams."
The problem with these two approaches is that following either one to its extreme throws life out of balance. After lengthy discussions, I have come to the following conclusion: once you get married and have kids, there are three relationships that must be maintained. The first is with yourself. You cannot be all things to everyone else if you are not something to yourself.
This is the trap that many teenagers fall into – if I can just get married and have kids, then I’ll be happy. They believe (as society taught for many years) that having a family will automatically fill the void they feel in their lives. It will not! What too often happens to these women is they get the family, the two kids, the husband, and the dog. Then they look up, bleary-eyed from too many nights of missed sleep, and they say, "I don’t understand. This was supposed to make me happy."
Boredom, loneliness, and frustration set in, and pretty soon, the woman begins to believe that if she was just not married, if she just didn’t have kids, then her life would really be wonderful. Some go so far as to actually detach from the family unit – emotionally or physically. But that isn’t the answer either. The answer lies within. The woman must find ways and schedule time to pursue those activities that are important to her family or no family. In this way she can nurture the relationship she has with herself.
The second relationship a woman must foster is the relationship with her husband. Some women when they have kids, seem to forget about their husband. They become wrapped up in the day-to-day chores (which admittedly can be overwhelming), and they detach from their partner in life. Again, scheduling time to spend together is vital. Make time for each other, like you did when you were first together. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that.
Lastly a woman must maintain her relationship with her children, and this must be done on a daily basis. Waiting until Saturday morning to have a five minute conversation is not the recipe for happiness. Work and activities must be balanced with down time, and always parents have to remember that children don’t want stuff – they want you. They want your time, and I don’t mean just quality time. Quantity time is every bit as important. The likelihood that your daughter will come to you with a question about the guy she’s dating is slim enough without the added pressure of getting the question in only between 9:30 and 9:45. It just doesn’t work that way.
Then, of course, there are those who think that just because they have little children, that means they can be absent most of the time, and the kids won’t notice. It is often these same parents who when their child is 15 can’t figure out why the child won’t come talk to them. Maybe it’s because the child has learned over the past 15 years that even their smallest problems are not listened to, so why should it be obvious now that Mom and Dad care about the big things? The behavior of talking and discussing life with your child is a learned behavior�don’t expect to neglect it for 13 years and then have it suddenly kick in. It won’t.
So, now we have these three relationships�each competing and vying for your time. The key is balance. There must be time set aside each day, or at most, each week for time to nurture and foster each of these relationships. A mother can be all to everyone, and then get burned out because she has no time for herself. Or she can focus on herself and her career, and one day turn around and find her family has fallen apart.
Neither of these approaches work long-term. The answer is balance. Take a few minutes and think about the life you are living right now. A good exercise I have seen is to place the important aspects of your life on a wheel, and then give a point total to each – one to ten, one being total neglect, ten being optimal performance. Once you have done this, take a look at your wheel. What area needs more "air", more time, more energy, more of you?
If all of the areas are somewhat deflated, then start with the most deflated one. Make a plan to spend time on that area. As it begins to improve, start on the next area. Check in with your wheel at least once a week and see how you are airing up your tire – or how you are living your life.
Is it worth all this effort? If you want to have control over life instead of life having control over you, it’s critical. Take some time for your life – find some balance. It will be the best investment of time you’ve ever made.
For more articles by Staci Stallings, please feel free to visit her site at www.StaciStallings.com You’ll feel better for the experience.