June 1, 2007

Lifestyles

Balancing Your Acts

by Melanie Morton


If finding balance in your life is about as likely as cash in your purse, you are not alone. Women’s Magazines constantly tell us how we need to find balance in our lives, a balanced Woman is a happy, less stressed, and more energized Woman; a Woman who goes through each day full of inner peace and joy. Personally, my idea of inner peace is not wanting to kill my children at the grocery store, and Joy is good dishwashing soap at a great price. So how do you find a balance when your life is more like the merry-go-round than it is the teeter-totter? You close down the playground and find yourself a circus tent.

There’s nothing quite like life under the big top—noise, laughter, junk food, clowns, acrobats, dancers, magicians, wild animals, and death-defying acts all around you. It’s nonstop, action-packed fun for the whole family, and if your house is as crazy as mine, you’ve got front row tickets to the best show on earth. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll yell, you’ll cheer, you’ll go to bed exhausted and be back in the morning for more. Sound familiar? Feel like charging your friends admission when they come over? Maybe it’s time to stop running recess and start running the show.

As mothers and wives, we are the ringleaders of the show. Sure, there are many aspects to putting on a successful show daily, but our main focus is those three rings and keeping the action going in each of them: family, work, and personal. I put my family center ring, and there’s never a dull moment—school, daycare, play dates, activities, performances, family time, church, meals, doctor’s appointments—its back-to-back action. In fact, sometimes I have to cut certain acts and reschedule others because there just isn’t time to fit everything into one show.

On the right hand side of family is my ring of work. This ring tends to need a lot more "hands on" management than the other two rings. Its production is time-consuming and complex, and it has a tendency to pull me out of other rings to constantly deal with the issues that arise. Sometimes I have to cut back on the size of work’s production and limit the amount of time I can spend there, so that I can keep all three shows running.

To the left of family is my third ring, personal. Unfortunately, personal is the weak spot in the show. With an action-packed family, and work constantly asking for help, personal doesn’t get the attention and support that it needs to have a consistently great show. I’ve learned that I need to step back from work and even family at times so that I have that extra time needed to spend on my personal production.

The key to a successful show isn’t giving all three rings equal amount of time and effort, but enough time and effort to keep the show moving. Sometimes it is all about the family, and at times it is all about work, but I still have to make time for it to be all about me. Remember that inner peace we are all looking for? How about going to the grocery store alone for an hour, even if you have to go at 11:00 at night? In fact, anywhere alone for an hour is a treat in my book. Don’t feel like cooking after a long day? Then don’t. A couple fast food dinners a week doesn’t make you a bad mother, and for the record, neither does forgetting to pick up your child from daycare, twice. Too tired to do another load of laundry? Unless your family is on a high alert threat of going out of the house naked tomorrow, it can wait one more day, or better yet, someone else can throw it in. Don’t pick up the kids early from daycare and go get that manicure. Take a hot bath when you feel like it, kick your son off the X-Box when your favorite show comes on, or put the kids to bed early one night and read that book you bought last year and never started.

We don’t need to always be everything to everyone in our lives, but we do need to have the energy and ability to "be there" when it counts. Too many of us are spread so thin we start to feel as if we are failing in multiple areas of our lives, when in reality we are only human and trying to do it all. Having more places to be, people to see, and things to do, is not the path to success, but rather a shortcut to stress. Once I stopped trying to do it all, and instead clearly set my three priorities, I started noticing changes in myself and my family. To be honest, at first I did feel guilty and a bit selfish at times, but then I started feeling better physically and emotionally. I began to have more patience with my kids and my husband. I started exercising again a couple times a week. I started making time to write again, and I signed up for an internet class I had wanted to take. In short, I started laughing more, cheering more, hardly yelling, and only crying during sappy movies and Save the Children commercials.

All in all, I think my show's having a pretty good run right now. Sure, things still come up now and then that threaten to throw it all off course, but it doesn’t bother me much anymore. Once I put the rings around what was important in my life, everything else just fell into place, and if it didn’t….oh well, on with the show.

Melanie Morton is a retail manager who writes for therapy and fun. She lives in the valley of the sun with her two kids, and loves books, shoes, and clearance sales.