Finding Balance, or Not

Finding Balance, or Not January 28, 2015


Lately I’ve been really struggling to find balance in my life.

Balance does not come naturally to me — it never has. I guess I have an artistic temperament or something, and I definitely have certain ADD traits like hyperfocus and its counterpart, utter disinterest. For most of my life, this just meant that I wandered through life with my head in the clouds and my face in a book, and got in baffling amounts of trouble for doing perfectly reasonable things like losing my glasses and never cleaning anything, ever. As a grown adult with a household to run, however, this is a toxic and terrible combination.

Chaos never bothered me until I became responsible for managing it. Now it drives me insane. I cannot handle clutter, noise, or unexpected visitors. Around 9 am every morning I start getting anxious, because the day is already not going the way I want it to go. I know that, much like my toddler, I am in desperate need of a schedule. Not a detailed, rigid schedule even, more like…a rhythm. Just a rhythm to life, so the kids and I will know what comes next.

Yes, I’ve read A Mother’s Rule for Life. For three days I was sure it was perfect for me, that it would change my life forever. Then I became so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of schedules I had to schedule that I scheduled a week-long Doctor Who/emo music marathon, and promised myself never to schedule all the things ever again.

I’ve also read Large Family Logistics, and all kinds of blogs, and once I even tried to do that dreadful FlyLady nonsense. The problem with all of them is that it feels forced and unnatural, and after a week or two I get incredibly depressed by the idea of doing this same thing, every day, forever and ever, amen. It makes me want to jump off a bridge, but since I don’t actually want to jump off a bridge, I just rebel against the schedule and do whatever the crap I want for a few weeks, before I get anxious about the chaos and how out of control everything feels. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In December, I decided the problem was my perspective. I was trying to find a way to become someone else, someone who was able to manage the cleaning and the cooking, the kids and the homework, the writing and the reading, the date nights and the sexy time, all without breaking a sweat (except during the requisite daily workout, of course). But no amount of scheduling or horrible self-help books can transform my personality and overcome my flaws, I reckoned. Instead, I decided to work with myself. Rather than do all the things the right way, I would just do them intentionally. I would live intentionally.

In my mind, this meant that if I said I would get up at 6 am to go for a run, I would get up at 6 am to go for a run. Because intentions. If I said I would clean one room a day, I would not go to bed until that room is clean. Because intentions. If I said dinner would be ready by 5:30, I would start making it at noon to be sure, because intentions. If I said I would blog every day, I would not sleep until I blog every day. Because…yeah, you get the point.

Anyway, it’s the same story with this, including a fresh and exciting batch of failure guilt and an intense desire to punish myself with a thousand brownies. I have actually gotten up to go running at six a few times, but each time one of the minions conspired to wake up stupid early too. I’ve blogged a few times, and started a few posts, and then taken the kids for walks to try and think of something to write about, which meant that once I did think of something, I had no time left to write it.  I’ve started dinner on time three times, and then once I put it off to finish a blog post, lost track of time, and didn’t get dinner on the table before the Ogre had to go back to the writing center. Since then, we’ve eaten a lot of corndogs and grilled cheeses. I’ve cleaned one room a day one day, and then half a room the next day, and then random parts of rooms I could get to while everyone was relatively occupied, until I couldn’t handle the slow-and-steady approach anymore and rage-cleaned the whole house while the kids barricaded themselves on the couch and had a whispered convention about “why Mommy is so mad.” (The consensus was that Charlotte had misplaced the Hulk Mommy bracelet, and Mommy was stuck in Hulk mode until she could find it. Which she did. After the house was cleaned, luckily.) Living intentionally is great and all, except when other people get in the way of my intentions. Which – being small, irrational, and adorably in need of affection – is my children’s specialty.

Today, though, I was thinking about how impossible it actually would be to do everything I feel that I should do and everything I want to do, in any given day. I mean, I have all this guilt about how I don’t take my kids outside to play enough. I really want to take them outside more. But I can’t figure out where to fit it in. And playdates. Playdates are crucial for Liam right now, since he’s old enough to want friends but not yet in school. But between getting ready, getting to the playdate, playing, and coming home, I lose half a day. This means I can have a playdate in the morning, and cook dinner in the evening, and that’s it. That’s literally all the hours of my day that don’t get eaten up with this pesky mothering business.

This is why it would be great if American parents would take a collective deep breath, let it out slowly, and then go back to sending kids out to play until the sun went down. I mean, kids need social skills and outdoor adventure time, and they don’t really get either of those with parents hovering around.

Mostly, though, I need them out of the house so I can clean, cook, write, fold laundry, work out, and maybe even shower. And even if they were out of the house, I still wouldn’t get it all done. I’ve started to realize that I can either be an engaged, attentive mother, or I can have a clean house. I can either cook, or write. I can either read at night, or have sex. But how do I choose between things that all seem equally important?

Honestly, I’m pretty tired of trying to figure it out. At this point, I just feel like picking the things that bother me the most when they’re not done. Except that if my kids started wandering through the neighborhood, offering to trade boxes of books for dinner because their mom locked them out of the house, I’m betting someone would call CPS. And somehow I doubt they would be very impressed with my clean floors, prolific writing, and great sex life.



photo credit: Alison’s Eyes. via photopin cc

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