Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Balancing act

The school year is in full-swing we're making the transition from a care-free and virtually 'timeless' summer to a life seemingly dominated by the rotating hands on the clock, but not without some minor revolts (mainly from the oldest and youngest members of our household!).  Each school year brings the opportunity to set goals, and I am not one to forego such an opportunity. 

There are plenty of *little* goals that I've set...being more thorough in my lesson plans, making more effective use of the little planning time I do get, communicating more with parents by way of the 'just because' phone calls I have left by the wayside since having little ones running (and shouting) around the house.  There are also goals I've set for myself in 'mom world', 'wife world', 'friend world', and the other 'worlds' in which I dabble.  But the overarching theme for these 'mini goals' centers around one word:


Seeking balance amongst all the various roles that I play has always been this just-out-of-reach dream that keeps me awake at night (in addition to the occasional *surprise* from a baby girl who likes to keep me on my toes).  With the re-introduction of the role 'out of the home working mommy of 3' finding its way back into my life, there are times when I fear the number of plates I have spinning in the air will outweigh the 8+ years of waitressing experience I rely on to keep things going (I also rely on this same experience to make dinner set up and clean up a far more efficient experience ;)

School days begin at 5:00 am (earlier if Raegan decides...), and wind down sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 pm.  The amount of work that I can accomplish in that window of hours can astonish (and exhaust) me as I sit back and think of it.  The fact that teachers are *on* is an exhausting and overwhelming concept in and of itself.  Add mommyhood and a household to run, friendships and relationships to maintain, along with the odds and ends of life...and you're left with very little time (if any) for yourself.  There's a new movie that I saw advertised this weekend called "I Don't Know How She Does It", that pretty much is the epitomical mantra of women--all women--mommies or not, working from home, away from home, and every combo in between...all women balance. 

My focus has shifted from not just 'balancing', but to achieving a more purposeful balance.  The pockets of time that I am blessed with each and every day to spend with my kids, my husband, my colleagues, my class of students, my friends...all are deserving a better *me*, a more present *me*. 

Too often it becomes easy to allow the clock to dominate our world, and of course there are times when it is absolutely necessary to 'live and die' by the ominous ticking, but in those (few) times of my day when the time doesn't necessarily matter, I've been working on focusing my energies in a more positive way--focusing more on being 'present'--rather than focusing on what's to come. 

Sounds like common sense, right?  It really is.  Each day, each moment, is a gift from God, so why not live it with a purpose, live it with appreciation for what it is. 

Reflecting on the mommy I have been, and comparing it with the mommy I strive to be, I find two varying schools of thought.  Every mommy has those moments of 'idealistic vs. realistic'.  I think the Realistic mommy showed her face far more in the past than the Idealistic.  Realistic mommy is a necessary side of motherhood, but if left unbalanced can rear her not-so-nice head and do some pretty regrettable things.  Snarky comments, being 'too busy' too often, discovering that 'shhh, mommy's on the phone' is in your repitoire a little too much, punishing without listening to the whole story, and generally exhibiting the idea of 'because I said so' are just a few examples of the downside of Realistic mommy.

Realistic mommy lives in the real world of motherhood.  The 'trenches' of mommyhood can be a scary, dirty, noisy, and lonely place.  Realistic mommy sees the practical side, responds with the quick-and-fast solution, and often times thinks about it afterwards.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Realistic mommy has a negative connotation--she definitely is a necessary side of the multi-faceted mommy coin. 

But what mommy-to-be didn't spend those blissful months of pregnancy envisioning what kind of mommy they'll be, catching mommies in action at the grocery store making on-the-fly (and often times not-so-great) parenting decisions and thinking to themselves (or verbalizing to their husbands) "we will never do that when we're parents".  I know I did. 

Enter children.  Enter reality.  As the years passed and the madness grew to a level that at times is far greater than I ever imagined for Randy and me...Realisitic mommy began to rear the less attractive side of her gray-haired and crow's feet speckled head--and far too often for my liking.

I spent a lot of time this summer gaining better perspective on my role as a mommy of 3, a working mommy of 3, and most especially a balanced working mommy of 3.  That leads me Idealistic mommy.  Idealistic mommy is the mommy you read about in the parenting magazines.  The mommy who creates decoupaged catepillars from old magazines and egg cartons while simultaneously vacuuming, makes homemade scented and edible play-doh, bakes fresh cookies three times a week, folds and hangs laundry the minute it exits the dryer (every.single.time.), and is basically the mom that Realisitic mommy loves to hate. 

But Idealistic mommy also realizes that Realistic mommy is validated in her decision to use apps on her iPhone to distract the kids so she can get just 5 minutes to use the bathroom without company, to set the clocks an hour ahead so you're only 15 short minutes from bedtime because your kindergartener can now tell time, and to offer to pay your daughter a dollar for each day she doesn't wet her pull-up (only after deciding to do this does Realistic mommy do the math; thus realizing single Pull-ups cost half that and therefore she's losing even more money--refer back to those on-the-fly decisions that are commonplace in Realisitic mommy's world).  And if  you're wondering?  Guilty.  On all three charges--and many more for that matter!

But I want to be better.  I want to be a mommy who appreciates the present, rather than reacts from it.  I want to be a mommy who is focused and balanced in her daily activities, who slows down and even stops from time to time to smell the roses.  I want to be the mommy who knows that yes, the 'to-do' list is a mile long and 'oh crap we just ran out of milk and I so don't feel like putting all three of them into the car for just a gallon of milk so I'll let them have soda for dinner', but is able to smile through it and cope.  I don't want to react.  Life happens, regardless of what you do, and it's the positive outlook, the ability to smile through it all, and be grateful for the small and insignificant 'woe-is-me-first-world problems'. 

My balance last week (and this) came in the form of my children (shocker, I know).  Last year, I'd get home from work and immediately begin the preparation for bedtime routine.  Dinner on the stove, cleaning up messes, de-cluttering, planning and stressing about the day yet to come.  Too often, I didn't sit.  I didn't play.  I didn't realize that bedtime was hours away, and my kids were craving attention from the one person who was busying herself with less important things.

Sure, things come up.  Phone calls happen.  Laundry needs to be switched.  Mail needs to be read and paperwork for school signed.  But it's the prioritizing and balancing and idealizing the present that is what I'm working on.  Notice I said working.  A work-in-progress, probably never to be perfected.  In the past, just saying that statement would have sent me into a mini panic attack, a tizzy, and possibly elevated my typically low blood pressure.  But it's ok.  The goal of 'perfection' is a non-entity.  "Balance" is my new mantra.

Bugga's into her oatmeal (I swear, don't let the face fool you!)

Dude is into his dinosaurs (and it's written alllll over his face!)

Princess is into be a mini-mommy (yet more inspiration for a more balanced mommy)

Legos dominate our after-school play

Baby sis looks on...

Snuggles from daddy (in our house, that's slightly better than snuggles from mommy)

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