Do you ever wonder how long you can continue at this pace? Will you get sick? Will you have a breakdown? Will today be another day that you take your frustrations out on the kids? When will it end? Do I have to wait until the kids move out? Or worse, retirement?
When we are trying to do everything and believe that we can’t drop any of the balls that we have in the air, we set ourselves up for failure.
The frenetic environment we have collectively created is making us sick. Whether we, individually, are sick right now, is irrelevant. It’s just a matter of time. It comes out in so many unhealthy ways – impatience, not enough time to nurture our marriage, not enough time for self-care, not finding the time to exercise, eating on the run (often choosing “fast” foods), texting while driving, losing our tempers with our children, not having enough time to coach and guide our children, sleep deprivation, emotional eating, the toll it might be taking on our children, etc. The list could go on and on.
Our pace of life is eating away at our happiness and causing us to wonder “is this it? is this really all there is? is this really what has become of my life?”
But everything is important, right? It all needs to get done now, right? And if my neighbor can keep it all together, then I can too, right?
Well, I’m really not so sure.
I have always been an achiever – I want to know as much as I can about any topics that enter my world and I want to be known as a person who can get things done.
When I was working pre-kids, my goal was always to be the best – the fastest, most efficient, the one with the best ideas, the most resourceful, etc. I had detailed things to do lists (still do actually) and loved managing complex projects just because I loved the thrill of bringing them in on time and under budget. I had so many balls in the air and was determined to NEVER let them drop. And, yes, I was exhausted.
Then I had 2 kids in 20 months and I brought a very similar “achiever” mentality to being a mom. Being a mom became my full-time job, so I better be the best at it, right? Over time it became evident that the only thing I could count on was that my schedule would never ever be the same on any given day and that I generally would never feel like the “best” mommy I was striving to be. I felt I was perpetually chasing a fantasy that I could get my life in order and tie it up with a nice neat bow. It’s been almost 13 years, and it hasn’t happened yet. How about for you?
We ask for something called balance. But what we are really asking for is some sort of mommy homeostasis.
When you are balancing on something, are you ever truly balanced for very long or are you always making tiny little adjustments? A little more in this direction, a little less there, a little twist here, a little bend there. It’s subtle but it keeps you from teetering to one side or another (which is being “out of balance”). Then add in that you have kids pulling on you, hanging on you, and pushing you. It’s actually quite impressive that we stay in balance as well as we do!
I like to think about it from that point of view because it makes me realize that life is more of a balancing act (or circus act) rather than having a goal of being in a permanent state of balance.
So, we examine what balance feels like to you.
One cannot look at a friend and decide to do it “that way.” To understand what balance means to YOU is the beginning of the path towards achieving more balance in your life. Just when you feel balanced, life changes and you need to re-calibrate. But when you KNOW what balance means to you, it’s much easier to get back to that place.
“When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
I’d like to propose that you keep a journal for one week.
Note all of the times when you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, impatient with your kids, exhausted, spent, etc.Try to reflect back on what was going on.
Specifically jot down what you think was causing these feelings (more specific than “too much to do, too little time”).
An example might be, “We woke up 10 minutes late, I didn’t make lunches the night before so I was making lunches while Emma informed me that today was sharing day and had a tantrum when she couldn’t find something to share. We sorted that out and I started reading emails and there was one really irritating one that I HAD to respond to right then. As I finished, I noticed the time and we had 3 minutes before we had to leave and no one was dressed – I screamed at everyone to get dressed, shoes on, etc…and we ran out of the door and ended up 4 minutes late to school. An awful start to the day.”
I’m exhausted just writing that. However, I’ll bet that many of you moms and dads out there can relate, even if just to part of that. Pay attention to afternoons, when you are driving your kids around. Pay attention to dinner and bedtime. Those seem to be trigger times that tell us that we have done too much or are doing too much.
Now, pick one specific pain point and see if you can make small changes.
For example, if in the morning you find you don’t have enough time, can you wake up earlier? Can you save checking emails until after the kids are in school? Or perhaps in the car for 10 minutes after you drop them off? During the day, can you adjust your day to make sure you get a workout in? In the afternoon, can you say no to a playdate? Or can you pick up the kids earlier from the playdate (even if the kids “really want to stay”) so that your evening is not as rushed? Can you say no to something that you actually WANT to do, because you know it will mess up your entire afternoon if you say yes?
The balancing act includes the following:
- Identifying what balance means to you (more time with the kids? more time NOT with the kids? more time being social? more time being alone? time to read a book? time to clean the house? what is YOUR balance?)
- Discovering and then listening to the subtle signals that you are getting out of balance before you tip the balance in the wrong direction
- The art of saying “no” even when you are tempted, if you are pretty sure it will disrupt your balance
- Slowing down – valuing the act of BEING vs. DOING – it’s totally okay to do nothing and it’s actually the way we recharge our batteries so to speak
- Changing your things to-do list from SHOULD do to COULD do. Should is a word that should be stricken from our vocabularies. It’s just not ok for us to be walking around with all of this pressure that we SHOULD do something. Who says? I’d much rather feel that I COULD do something and then, I just might 🙂
- Take a look at the things you really dislike doing – maybe it’s something your spouse DOES like doing, ask for help. Maybe you can assign it as a chore to your child. If you have the money, maybe you can hire someone to do that task. Get creative! Ask for help!
- Cut yourself slack and talk gently to yourself – nothing is worth beating yourself up over
- Stop comparing to others. We all prioritize different things in our lives. Some people are perfectly happy staying home on Friday nights watching a movie, while others crave going out to dinner and a show. Some people thrive on a busy, fun, exciting weekend, while others enjoy a peaceful weekend cleaning out their garage.
One last thought, can you stop for just one moment and ask yourself, why do I keep myself so busy? What do I tell myself that makes me think that I have to be busy all the time? Am I doing “busy work” to avoid doing important things that I fear? Am I afraid to slow down and take an honest look at my life and face my personal truths? Am I too worried about what other people think so I just keep trying to do what I think they want? Do I feel pressure to be the “best” because I am afraid people won’t love me if I am not?
Let me be the one to fill you in on a secret – when you were born, you were a perfect creation, and guess what, you still are! You are lovable just because you exist! We each have a purpose and each of us has unique gifts and talents. Slow down and listen. You just might hear something really important that will ignite you and inspire you to live the awesome and fulfilling life you deserve to be living!