In September, the Motherhood Collective will feature posts on balance - having it or not! It's certainly a state most of us struggle to find. September is, for some, the calm before the storm. Our kids are back in school, fall activities have begun and we have a few precious weeks before we really have to start thinking about the holidays. What better time to take a few minutes to reflect on how we spend our time, juggle our lives and what we can do to achieve our own perfect balance! ~TMC Okay, I’ll be honest. This was a crazy summer for our family. We ran around like, well, my son after his birthday cake—eyes roving and all. We have recently crashed and burned—and are taking this opportunity to re-evaluate.
Finding balance? It’s hard. Especially when you try to balance good things. I feel like I have weeks in which I spend the perfect amount of time at home, taking care of Gabriel, cleaning, cooking, and resting. Friday comes, and guilt overtakes me—I didn’t spend time with others, or serve anyone else in any way!
So I call up my friends—let’s book up the next week! That Friday comes, and I feel like I’ve just lugged Gabriel around to whatever plans I made, without thinking of his needs. Or my husband comes home from work, and I haven’t even started dinner.
Ugh! The irony is that I feel like I don’t have time to figure out balance. It takes too much work, too much strength, too much thought! Sometimes I think I’m still figuring out my identity as a mother, let alone how I’m going to be the same wife, friend, daughter, and sister that everyone else knows me as.
Of course, it’s very easy for me to speak the language of failure. I mean, my son is 12 months old. Shouldn’t this whole mothering thing be figured out by now? Ha, ha. Funny you should ask.
Come to find out, this is a universal struggle. I love reading proverbs of every kind—they have a way of putting the daily grind and the wisdom that solves it into one sentence. One of my favorites is from the Bible, Proverbs 14:1, “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down (ESV).”
Does this describe how I feel about all things homemaker at times? Most definitely. I spend the morning building a fortress of peace, instruction, sweet kisses, vacuumed floors, and homemade bread (just for good measure). I then find myself in the afternoon—with a jackhammer between my hands, pointed at the foundation of all I built that morning, a crying baby in the carrier, a caffeine headache (because I just can’t get around to that cup of coffee), and a constant stream of “You’re doing this ALL wrong,” going through my head.
I have been taking some practical steps every week to help get me on the right track. Even if every plan deviates from what I expected, I have assurance that next week is a new week. I get to start all over again! (And honestly, isn’t every day a new day? I even feel like my child waking up from every nap is a new day. We are given endless grace in this!).
- Weekly Planning Retreat: I try to take time every Sunday to ponder the coming week. I prefer to do this while Andy watches Gabriel, and whether I’m home or at Starbucks, I make a list of three things.
- What goals do I have for this week? I write down the things I want to accomplish in housekeeping, errands, time with the Lord, Andy, Gabriel, and friends, and a fun project that I can look forward to (like that awesome new recipe, or my ever-beckoning sewing excursions J).
- What meals do I want to prepare this week? I decide on those, make my grocery list, and gather my coupons.
- I space all these things out as evenly as possible through the days. I’ll admit, I’m a “get it all done” kind of girl, so my Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be busier than my Thursdays and Fridays.
This may sound simple, and you may already be doing this (if so, keep it up!), but if you haven’t and you want to start—it’s not hard. Ask your husband or friend to help you establish this routine.
- Ask Yourself Good Questions: When you’re young, all the “old” people ask you challenging questions that help get you on track. When you’re a “big girl,” you’re expected to be able to do this for yourself now. But it’s easy to forget! Something I’m working on is asking myself a few simple questions every week (these are adapted from Lindsay Edmond’s blog “Passionate Homemaking” http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2012/04/take-time-to-live-intentionally.html).
- If you follow a certain faith, ask yourself about your place spiritually. What areas can you improve in? What new character traits would you like to develop?
- If you’re married, ask yourself questions like these: How can I bless my husband? How can I love him like he has never been or ever will be loved? What is one aspect of his character that I could thank him for? What is one thing I could say to cheer him up?
- What practical steps can I take to love my children? What is one creative activity we could do together? Think of a one-on-one activity to do with each child. How can I bring life to them through my words?
- What practical step can I take to serve others, express thankfulness and/or encouragement to a friend?
- What practical steps can I take to simplify my life - what is one area I need to simplify to provide more peace in our home? What steps will I take to accomplish this? (This is a big one for me!)
- What is one step I can take towards completing long-term goals?
- Gratitude List: So this doesn’t exactly plan my week for me, but I do find that it keeps my attitude in line! I like to keep a pad of paper out, and periodically write down anything and everything that strikes me as beautiful. Beautiful things become blessings. Blessings produce thankfulness. Thankfulness literally transforms us. Of course, it’s great to remember the blessings of food, clothing, shelter, jobs, a husband, and children. I like to also remember really small things. Here’s an example:
- Kisses initiated by Gabriel
- Dairy-free chocolate chip cookies (since I’m allergic to dairy!)
- Sunlight streaming in on my plants—a reminder of the slow yet beautiful process of growth
- A new notebook
- Movie time with Andy
- Five senses to fully experience my son
- Breezes while walking
- Early morning bird songs
I, by no means, have perfected any of these practices. I certainly find them helpful, though! The Motherhood Mountain is a journey, and it’s not just about “making it” to the top. Our kids are following close behind. Let’s find small victories in jumping over streams, and working together to scale boulders—dirty diapers, sticky fingers, and all!