Balancing Act

Do you know how hard it is to stand on one leg, Cat in the Hat style, holding up your entire world with one hand? Have you ever tried to do so while cooking supper, washing dishes, working on your computer? I’m sure we can all say that we have had these moments where we are balancing multiple things at a time and it feels like the ball beneath us will give way.

Now, when you’re pregnant, you’re already off balance (literally and metaphorically) so any little thing can tip you over and knock you down. This sends your pile of responsibilities, worries, and maybe a tray with dinner on it, flying in various directions, only to land on the ceiling, walls, and floor. While you are in tears trying to clean up this mess of your life, you realize one thing: The only thing that matters is what you think matters.

The only thing that truly matters at the end of your life is your family. The only real thing that we need to make sure we are balancing first is our children and spouses. We have our jobs, careers, stresses about money, and everything else that is always on the forefront. Until we prioritize, we will live a very stressful and hard life. Sometimes things happen that just make you look at your world in a new light. Sometimes you need to fall off the ball in order to truly see what you will try to save first from plummeting to the ground.

There are many things in my daily life that I can handle, but much less when I’m pregnant. My brain is focused on how I’m going to manage a 6 and 2 year old during the day when I’m up all night with a newborn. I’m focused on restocking my pile of Swaddlers and building up a clothing collection, as I can’t dress my baby boy in pink dresses.

My husband is luckily amazing, but he has his stuff to balance, too. We each pile our own fears, worries, and responsibilities as high as we can without falling. Now when I try to balance his with mine, even though they are similar, I often put mine down in the corner and forget about them. Then, one day, I realize my pile of stuff has been forgotten and discarded. So I’ve learned to be very careful about what I’ll take from him, and usually it’s without his permission. But without being able to help myself first, I can’t help him.

Now, usually my blogs are full of real life events that have inspired me to write or witty (at least I’d like to think so) observations of the world out there. Today, on this morning, while I’m sitting on the couch, sick, tired, and overwhelmed, I realized something: when everything is falling around me, I will choose my family any day. I have to because I’ve chosen to be a mother, and that’s always first.

Being a working (pregnant) mom, or any working parent for that matter, it is extremely difficult to figure out which order to place things on your balancing pile. It’s tough when you feel guilty doing work while you put on a movie for your kids to distract them. It’s painful to sit on the couch and cuddle with your baby with the sense of guilt that you should be doing 53 other things. It’s hard to make the choice of which should come first at home because if you don’t do your work work, you will be behind and stressed there. If you don’t worry about your children’s needs, you will be leaving them with half a childhood.

So, as I face the rest of the school year, I’m thinking about how can I split myself to help everyone- not how can I help myself so I can help everyone. It’s difficult to ever put myself first in my pile, but until I do, I cannot do it for everyone else. Figuring out priorities when you’re a working mom is likely one of the most difficult things. Some nights my kids get frozen pizza for supper (don’t worry, I throw it in the oven first), some nights they have a mom who is couch ridden because her brain literally cannot filter any new things. Sometimes, they get a fully balanced meal, full attention during homework time, and a calm and relaxed person. I don’t know how to keep it the same every day, but I’m trying.

I am always trying but something loses out and in the end, something’s got to give. So, I did what any 28 year old woman would do- I called my mom and talked to her about it. What she said to me kind of struck me: “Women’s lib kind of backed us into a corner.” Now I have to say that while I really enjoy the right to vote, working any job I choose, or the right to not be abused- I have to say that we, as women, have let go of the most important thing: being a mom.

Our society looks at ‘stay at home moms’ often as unsuccessful. Now, many of us working moms will say we envy all of you stay-at-homers or say that we couldn’t do it- but why is that? Why can’t we stay home with our children? I know that I’m a busy person and if I don’t have 15 things lined up to occupy my mind, I will go crazy.

Or will I? I’ve never tried it any other way. I mean, even in high school when I wasn’t much of an overachiever (or achiever at best), I balanced a social life, two jobs, and school. Ever since I’ve started my career, I’ve always had kids, worked a part time job on top of my full time, been a companion, a daughter, a sister, a housemaid (luckily I got fired from that job haha), a cook, a nurse, and done the best I can at teaching. I don’t know the last time I’ve truly quieted my mind.

Take today: I’m pregnant, sick as a dog, and as I’m laying on my couch ‘resting’ I wind up answering emails and dealing with work problems. I don’t allow myself to just rest because if I’m resting, I’m not being a great teacher/ mother/ wife. But until I really analyzed the situation I realized that resting means I’m being a great mother to my unborn child, who needs me relaxed and stress free, which I have not been at all recently.

But resting and choosing my children over my career is not ‘cool’ anymore. It’s not admirable. I’m being a bit facetious here, as I understand the connotation of my words, but really- if I stop climbing the ladder at work and stop saying yes to everything there, I will not be a successful teacher, which is what I’ve chosen to define who I am.

There is a huge push for humans to be ultimately so busy that there’s no time for anything. Many people ask how I balance it and I joke: I don’t clean my house. That’s not much of a joke, but I’ve also let go of relaxation and a quiet mind. My mind is never quiet, not when I wake up at 3 in the morning worried about one thing or another- but the reality is that my mind has no room to think of my family’s future. I don’t worry about what happens when my oldest is faced with a bully or what I will do if she becomes one herself. I don’t worry about how what my kids eat today will affect their health forever, I instead hit up the drive thru because “That’s all I have time for.” I don’t worry about how I’ll pay for their college or what I’ll do if they make a bad choice that could change their lives forever.

So, daily, I choose work. I choose to stay late and finish a project, attend a meeting, busy all day and go home so stressed that I can’t even be patient enough to answer my 6 year old’s simple questions. I can’t handle it all. There, I’ve said it. Not only can I not handle it all, I’ve let the wrong things fall to the floor. This may be a harsh reality, but it’s one that I made, on a sick day while I should be resting.

So, what happened? Where did women lose the right to be moms? I know we still respect stay a home moms, but I wonder when I chose my career over my family. When did I let it take me over? For the longest time I’ve felt so inadequate in both places. That inadequacy makes me feel as though I’m a failure all around, when in reality, I’m raising pretty well rounded girls and I’m pretty good at my job. I will never be 100% at both places, but that’s okay.

The one thing that always takes the backseat is me- and in the trunk is my┬áhusband, poor guy. So, my rambling means one thing to me, and likely to the others reading this and understanding where I’m coming from, is sometimes we need to stop balancing, and lay everything out in front of us. We need to then look at the size of our plate. After we do that, we need to put the things on our plate that mean the most to us, and not allow a pile. Once the plate is full, we need to leave everything else on the floor. We need to make the decision to walk away from the buffet with plates that are sensible. We need to not overstuff ourselves as we will continue to meet everyone halfway. (That’s only a metaphor- when you hit up a Chinese buffet, you should eat until your sick).

Sort your priorities today, maybe you’ll have a nice, relaxing, sick day, if you do!