Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Is There Really Such A Thing?

toes in the sand feels just right

One of my favorite things about Bloom and the little community that's evolved here is the potential for experience sharing, idea swapping, wisdom imparting. And today I'd really like to hear your experiences, your ideas and your wisdom on the subject of balance. More specifically, maternal balance. Let me expound...

I hear the warnings about selfishness; I know its gratification is fleeting.
I also understand the futility of "serving from an empty tray," "drawing from an empty well" (choose your metaphor), and I understand the hollowness that comes from complete self sacrifice.
I know that there must be a fertile middle ground between the two extremes (selfishness and self-sacrifice), and sometimes I find myself there, but the maintenance is so tricky.

Personal balance has felt slippery lately.
Is this the universal quest and quandary of every woman, I wonder in quieter moments. And will I ever get it right?

I know there's not a one-size-fits all answer to this question of appropriate balance; needs and circumstances vary from person to person. Still, I would love to hear your thoughts, the principles that guide your efforts to balance your life, the patterns you observed in your mother.

Feel free to weigh in on any or all of the following:

Where do you find yourself on the selfishness - self-sacrifice continuum?
Do you feel guilty for too much self-indulgence? Frazzled from too much self-sacrifice?
What do you do to replenish and nurture yourself?
What are your thoughts on this kind of balance? And how do you achieve/maintain it in your own life?

p.s. thanks for being here. thanks for sharing yourselves with us.
it is the richest part of this whole experience.


Rachael said...

A couple of guiding principles that help me:

1) Every day, I spend a specified amount of time just playing with my kids--no phones, no email, no multitasking. 100% focused on them. I also spend another chunk of time reading stories with them. These two things really help me feel like I am having quality time with them every day, not just quantity. And I also put these on my to-do list every single day, so they get just as much priority as the other things I need to do.

2) I try to do one act of service outside our home every week. I've found that this helps me feel more connected to the people around me--plus, I have the opportunity to be the answer to someone else's prayer. And it helps me to be more receptive to spiritual promptings about who could use an hour or two of my time that week.

3) Following Richard and Linda Eyre's advice (the Joyschool people), I do three things every day: something for me, something for someone else, and something that I would like to do but don't necessarily NEED to do. This has made a really big difference in how satisfied I feel at the end of the day.

4) I exercise every day. I can't even tell you how much this impacts my mood and feelings of well-being.

5) Getting up before the kids. I'm not perfect at this every day, but when I get up at 6 and go running, I can be showered and dressed before the day really gets going. I have time to read my scriptures. And I feel like I'm "armored" and ready to face the day.

Abbie said...

Oh Bloom, have you been eavesdropping on my thoughts?

I don't feel balanced at all right now and last night I was just thinking about this as I was looking at my ridiculous to-do list and crying, wondering how I'm going to get it all done and wondering if there is any woman that can get all this done and still be a good mom. How? How am I going to get it done and not freak out at my kids?

I try to think in terms of weeks. A balanced week is way easier to achieve than a balanced day, I think. Hopefully...maybe...praying that this week will be balanced.

Stephanie said...

This is something that I have totally been thinking about lately. I homeschool our 5 children and teach many homeschool classes to other children on top of church responsibilities and regular mothering and wifly responsibilities. I'm way too far on the self-sacrificing side.

A doctor told me that I needed to do something just for me each week to "sharpen the saw". This is sad, but I was at a loss as to what would be just for me. I finally settled on digital scrapbooking. It's a hobby that I think would be fun to learn so I started gathering information and dipping into that.

But I rarely have any time/space all to myself so I ended up trying to do it with one or more children pulling on me. That became so frustrating that I thought "forget it; I'm a mom and this is what I chose, so I've just got to be a mom and nothing else because it's too hard to balance."

I'm not saying this is healthy or right, but I've realized that when I do just one thing at a time I do it better and people are happier.

Chris said...

I think things shift on that continuum a lot. And that is okay. Sometimes your bucket is really low, and you need some refilling time. Sometimes you need to spend more time with your family and in service of others. I think true balance is a myth. The key is not to spend too much time at the end points. The best anchor to keep you from swinging too far is Christ. If you can root yourself in reading your scriptures and making sure you are sincerely praying, you qualify yourself for all kinds of help and support through the Spirit. The Lord wants you to be happy and your family to be happy. He will guide you in your choices if you put Him first.

Sugar... said...

I don't think that the word balance means to have balance everyday. Some days you spend time having picnics and water parties with your kids, and some days are spent running errands and cleaning. It all balances itself out in the end. That being said, I think we will always strive to find balance in life. We will always be busy, and there will always not be enough time in the day to do everything you want to do.

I liked Sister Beck's (from the LDS General Relief Society Presidency) talk in April's Conference about "Essential, Necessary, and Nice." Find what is essential in your life. For me it's the spiritual things; prayer, reading scripture, reading scriptures with my children, praying with my husband. Then the necessaries; again for me it is having a relatively organized home, making sure I have dinner, spending time with my kids, cleaning, and exercise. Then the nice things; picnics, sewing, blogging, crafting, visiting with friends, going to the pool, shopping, etc. Some days are filled with more necessities than nice, and vice versa, but the general idea is that when the essentials are done, you feel good about life and you have the Spirit to guide you.

I truly believe that it is impossible to be a happy mother if you are not a happy woman. I believe that it is just as vital to feel accomplished in womanhood as it is in motherhood. Obviously our children have priority, that is what we promised to them when we brought them into the world, but that does NOT mean that having individual goals as a woman (apart from motherhood) is selfish. I love to set goals and push myself physically, emotionally, etc, and seeing those goals come to fruition in my life is such a joy to me. It makes me a better mother, and I think it is healthy for my kids to see me set goals and accomplish them.

We all have a different idea of what balance means to us, but I do think that it is important to understand that we will never achieve perfect balance. It is what we call "enduring to the end". ;)

LJ said...

So many thoughtful ideas here, already. I love it! I've come to the conclusion, that you can have balance--but it's totally individual. You have to find what feeds you and what balance means for you. When thinking about how I want to spend my time, I often ask "does what I'm doing energize me, or take energy away from me?" I try to include activities that energize me every day if I can--a walk, some picture taking, and some time spent blogging. But, I know that it's different for every one. It really takes time to understand what is feeding your soul and what's draining it.

I do know that the path of utter self-sacrifice is not for me. I've seen my mother and many women her age who gave up everything only to explode/implode after 30 years of neglecting their own souls. I'm trying to learn from my elders here and so I'm taking a path that not everyone would take. And one that I imagine many people might think is selfish. Still, I know that it's a path that is right for me and for my family.

Natalie said...

Fist of all, let me just say that this is something that I think about a lot.

A few things that help me:

A recent talk from the LDS conference by Julie Beck:

"A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or do all of the worthy things her heart yearns to do.

Life is not calm for most women, and each day seems to require the accomplishment of a million things, most of which are important. A good woman must constantly resist alluring and deceptive messages from many sources telling her that she is entitled to more time away from her responsibilities and that she deserves s life of greater ease and independence.

But with personal revelation, she can prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently."

For those of you not of my faith, personal revelation is, for me, seeking, and following the will of God for me and my family on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. As I do this I feel peace, and things fall into place. This doesn't mean things aren't crazy around here sometimes. It just means that my heart is where it needs to be. I have the Lord on my side, and with that, I can accomplish anything.

The second thing is that sometimes we all seek validation from the wrong places. The internet, the tv, and many social settings are filled with opportunities for us to compare ourselves with others. As I prioritize correctly, and make sure that I am right with the Lord, everything else just somehow works. I receive an inner strength and confidence because I know I am doing the things that make Him happy, and that's a good place to start. It makes what others think, or what others are doing, matter less to me -- in a comparative sense. Another quote from Julie Beck sums up this idea:

"Good women always have a desire to know if they are succeeding. In a world where the measures of success are often distorted, it is important to seek appreciation and affirmation from proper sources...we are doing well when we develop attributes of Christ and strive to obey His gospel with exactness.

We are doing well when we seek to improve ourselves and do our best. We are doing well when we increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and help other who are in need.

When we have done our very best we may still experience disappointments, but we will not be disappointed in ourselves."

I certainly don't have all these things figured out, but this is a great road map that works for me. No matter what religion you are, if you are a mother, you need the Lord's help every day. In every way. He will bring peace and steadiness into your life and your home. You will know how much time to yourself is too much, you will know which child needs and extra snuggle in the rocking chair, you will know how to discipline etc. etc.

Longest post ever. :)

Laurel said...

Great topic. I don't know any woman who doesn't struggle with this very thing.

I will say this, and maybe someone will find it hopeful, I have found that this issue has become a bit easier with age. Not to say that I don't still struggle, but I find, now that I'm turning 40 (cough, cough, sputter), that I am more content with my life, more accepting of my self, more okay with not doing everything, and okay with not doing everything perfectly every time, and most importantly, more aware of the times and seasons of life.

Maybe that is because I am seeing most of my friends graduate into mothers of older children. (I am the crazy one who just had a baby...cough, cough, sputter) but my friends are finding that while they are more emotionally taxed, they are less physically demanded, i.e. they don't have someone hanging on them every moment of every day. While they are busy, they are able to explore more personal interests. They can go to the temple during the day. They can take those classes that they have always wanted to, etc.

I, on the other hand, am thrilled to have one more baby to experience now that I know how fast the years have flown by with my older two. This time I am ready to slow down and enjoy it, and I can't tell you how great that feels. For me.

Balance is so individual, and I find that it changes regularly. What I could do before, I may not be able to do right now, and I have to be in tune with that. We have to know our limits and recognize that as our circumstances change, so do our capacities.

Sometimes we need to, as my father used to say, "Get up and go to work!" And sometimes we need to know, as my mother still says, "You can't swim upstream everyday!" And that's okay, too.

Joan said...

So many pearls of wisdom here! Wow.
I enjoyed the common Julie Beck thread :) She's a woman who has things pretty well figured out--phenomenal role model on so many levels.
I could echo all or at least most of what has been said already.
The only thing I would like to add is the joy and satisfaction mothers can find in continuing to learn. I am still (still being the operative word) working on my BA from BYU and therefore have the opportunity to take classes online. It fills so much of my glass. Not so much in terms of time but in terms of personal fulfillment.
Right now I'm taking "The Bible as Literature" and it is changing my world.
So, find an area of interest and take a class. There are a zillion little community center classes to partake in. Maybe photography interests you or short story writing perhaps? A formal class may not be necessary so find a text book at the library and delve in!
I never want to lose myself entirely to motherhood. Not that I don't want to devote myself entirely to my childen...but I want to give my BEST self to my children and that cannot be achieved if I do not remember who I am as an individual first and then how those characteristics, abilities, and weaknesses alike combine to create myself as a mother. My best Mother self if that makes any sense :)

Jonesy said...

This is exactly why I need my Bloom fix every morning! I appreciate so much the words of all you great gals and I love that so much of it encompasses my own thoughts and feelings. I think Sister Beck's talk hit the nail on the head for any mom, anywhere, and we would be wise to hearken and abide by its precepts.

I honestly think that most of us are a lot more "balanced" than we think we are. It's easy to forget about those days that when everyone gets their teeth and hair brushed before school, when we get the dishwasher filled and laundry done before dinner, and when we get a hot cooked meal on the table with the whole family there to share it. The less-often days of complete chaos overshadow the mundane days of "getting things done" or the underproductive days of "just hanging out with the kids" but I'm willing to bet if we take a true inventory of our lives, we're all doing a better job keeping our lives balanced than we give ourselves credit for.

Rachael said...

Can I just say that I wish all you ladies were in my ward and that I knew you in real life? What an amazing community you've created here, Anne and Emily! Thank you!!

Melissa said...

Very wise words ladies! I will add that I believe balance is adding in some "want to's" to even out the "have to's". Sometimes my "want to" is dinner with my hub, sometimes it's an breakfast with girlfriends, and sometimes it's playing hide-and-go-seek with my kids. So many of our mothering moments don't include silly play, and that should be one of the joys of being a mom--enjoying your kids!

Sherry Dew once said that Satan delights in our busy schedules. The busier we are, the easier it is to go from task, to task, to task and forget what is important. I try not to let the tasks control me. If I'm suffocating or having an anxiety attack over my schedule, then something is wrong and needs to be reworked. Sometimes something has to go, and sometimes I need a rework on my perspective of things. We perfectionists have the hardest time letting go, but I'm here to tell ya, it can be done. Don't let your health be the thing you have to lose before you stop spinning crazy. Take some deep breaths, learn to say "no" (you don't have to please others at the expense of yourself or your family), and enjoy the moment. Your schedule will not always be as busy as it is right now, and some day, you'll miss it. :)

Melissa said...

Apologies to Sister Dew. It's Sheri. :)