Minnesota Mamaleh: On Balance

silly breakfast 300x213 Minnesota Mamaleh: On Balance

I'm kind of thinking no caption necessary.

A few weeks ago I announced to the world, well my Facebook world, that I had just had the most perfect weekend. EVER. My wonderfully amazing girlfriends immediately asked the obvious question: What happened?!

Feeling embarrassed and slightly blushing, but only to Jason, I realized that it did indeed look like I had wanted everyone to ask so I could announce…something. Something amazing. Wonderful. Life changing, even. Except, you know what? I didn’t actually have anything to share.

I did, indeed, have a perfect weekend. A girls’ night. A date night. A big, huge messier-than-necessary project with the kids. A day filled with good food and good friends enjoyed together as a family. The house was clean(-ish). We had eaten healthily(-ish). And I felt totally and completely content. Not in-want or in-need of anything. At all. I didn’t have any big news. What I did have, was balance.

It really is that rare to find balance that it warrants the words “best” and “ever.” In all capital letters. Life balance, where your schedule, mind and heart are all filled with the right proportions of absolutely everything that you need. That can be tricky to achieve. But it is within reach, within grasp. And you know what? I want it.

I’ve been striving for balance for a long time now. Before we had kids, Jason and I were the quintessential co-dependent couple. Before you roll your eyes at us, remember that this was post-what had seemed like forever of being long distance; so we clung close. Teaching was the other part of my identity that I threw myself into. Late nights at school were just the tip of the iceberg. If I did happen to miss a day of teaching, I would actually come back to read my substitute’s notes, to check on the classroom, to answer emails and phone calls because clearly (clearly!) my students couldn’t make it through the day without me. Now you and I both know that, obviously, yes they could. But I didn’t understand that then. I didn’t have balance. At all.

When Kayli was born, not a whole lot changed in my philosophy. I just wanted to be a mom and truly didn’t think that I needed anything beyond Jason and Kayli. I didn’t seek a whole lot else out. But after awhile we did start to want community, friendships, hobbies.

Fast-forward just a few short years later, and today Jason and I are probably just a tad bit over-committed. We both have friendships that we cherish and committees that we’re excited about. I’m still really protective of our family time. I feel truly rejuvenated with it and completely depleted without it. But I’ve learned how to carve out time to read books, go out with friends, volunteer, connect with our family and outside of it.

But it doesn’t come any more naturally. I actually have to consciously do it. Allowing ourselves balance is a necessary life skill. Especially as women, as care-takers, we don’t often gift ourselves the time to find our spark. We push our energies to support everyone around us. There’s so much give and take with time and commitments, that sometimes, we lose ourselves.

I wonder about Jason, and his balance. He works long hours and when he comes home I hardly hand him a drink and the remote. More like a kid (or two!) and the plea for help with dinner.

By the time our kids are asleep and there’s a semblance of order to our home, we’re both ready to pass out. It’s hard to peel ourselves off of the couch and go out with friends. Or each other.  Or curl up with a book. Or craft. Or write. Or exercise. But I do know that when I dig deep and find that energy, I have two-fold the next day.

I hope my kids find balance. With friends and significant others. Family and community. Judaism and Americanism (bad, bad word-choice there, right? But you know what I mean). Must-dos and want-to-dos. As I’m learning this skill, I hope that I’m also modeling for my children that it’s okay, that it’s a must, to sometimes put yourself first.

I used to think that celebrations had to be BIG and over-the-top WOW days. Last year’s Mother’s Day we attempted a free concert billed as a “concert in the park, but inside and kid friendly.” It was actually none of these things. The year before that we attempted brunch at a fancy-shmancy restaurant. Were these Mother’s Days memorable? For sure. But for the yogurt flying and the kids crying. Not for the special days that they were meant to be.

2008 300x214 Minnesota Mamaleh: On Balance

Mother's Day 2008. Can't you just feel the fancy-shmancy vibe that we're putting out there?

2009 300x225 Minnesota Mamaleh: On Balance

Mother's Day 2009. We had about 10 minutes at that concert. This was one of them. Before there was whining. And yelling. *And* crying.

This year Jason cooked a delicious breakfast while I slept in. The kids made cards and recorded mini-videos. Even Brody  made one. It went something like, “Ha Mama Day.” We went for a long walk down a trail near our home. And I didn’t wash a single dish. It was balanced. And I felt relaxed, content and happy.

outside 214x300 Minnesota Mamaleh: On Balance

In Brody-speak, "Out-shide."

kayli tree 213x300 Minnesota Mamaleh: On Balance

Hide-and-seek, not a bad hiding spot.

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And an *excellent* hiding spot.

I reached out to some of my fabulous mommy friends in Israel and learned that while Mom, Ima,  is totally and completely the center of the family, Mother’s Day is no longer celebrated there. It’s now Yom HaMishpacha. A day to honor the whole family. In that, there is the balance of including and celebrating extended family (not my strength). But I think that there’s the miss of allowing a special day just for Ima. It reminds me of birthday party invitations that say No gifts please. No, my children don’t need a slew of new toys, but they do need (at least) one day of the year that’s literally all about them. We all need that. Politically correct, or not.

While still a work in progress, for sure, I’m so much more aware when I’m sans balance. On days when my house is spotless, but I haven’t played with my kids. When we’ve been outside all day long, but no one has any clean clothes to wear. When I’ve been out late with friends, but I have no idea how Jason’s work day was. I know, and I refocus.

brody chai 300x225 Minnesota Mamaleh: On Balance

And you thought I was kidding about that. "Dip, dip."

So far, today has been a good, balanced day. I won’t make that my Facebook status, but I will tell you. Chloe, Brody and I splashed around in rain puddles and they played with worms (I, however, did not). We made air-pop popcorn, cuddled up and read oodles of books in our comfy-cozies. They played cars while I put the laundry away. We picked Kayli up from school and ate lunch. Now, they’re all napping or resting. I’m completely by myself.

Writing and enjoying a chai latte.

And no one is trying to dip their nuky in my cup. Nope, no one at all.

Balanced, indeed.

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About Galit Breen

Galit Breen is a Minnesota writer. On any given day she can be found juggling three kids, one husband, one puggle and her laptop. Galit has had essays published in several anthologies, is the editor of Pens and Paint, a series anthology of children’s poetry and artwork and co-directs Listen to Your Mother, Twin Cities. Galit is a freelance writer for allParenting, Everyday Family, Mamalode Magazine, Soleil Moon Frye’s Moonfrye, SheKnows, and The Huffington Post blog and you can find her monthly here at TC Jewfolk. Galit blogs regularly, tweets excessively and may or may not work for dark chocolate.

Comments. Add Yours!

22 comments

  1. Sounds balanced AND happy! What fortune to create it & then to recognize it & cherish it. Wise woman!

  2. Oh- Galit. This post. This post. I cried. I laughed. I’ve read it four times while my kids are outside who-knows-where and I’m still in my jacket and shoes from the bus stop. So thankful for this post- your honesty and beauty are unmatched. Also thankful when someone so eloquently states my thoughts exactly. Thank you for the post.

  3. Another wonderful post. I love the honesty in your writing. Hey, I tried that “no gifts, please” thing. Once. People didn’t understand because I wrote it on the invite in Gaelic slang or something. What did they bring? Gifts. And a crappy attitude about it, like I was the worse mother in the world. Whew! This is a blog post in your comments. I loved your photos. Thanks for sharing them.

  4. just tried to comment and it got lost, in short – great post – i agree that balanc eis key in life!

  5. For clarity: this mommy friend is not based in Israel, but in Toronto, Canada.

    I was born a Libran, the sign of the scales…thus balance. I’ve always needed to have balance, and truthfully still seek it in many aspects of my life. If the scale is askew, so to speak, them so am I.

    I give you credit for finding and recognizing balance in your daily life…okay, maybe not every day, but it certainly exists.

    Hope you have many more balanced days, and a very balanced and great weekend.

  6. Very sweet. It is always a juggling act with kids- hard to figure out how to best allocate your time. But somehow we do.

  7. Thanks for this, Galit. Balance can be tough to come by…hooray for keeping an eye on the big picture and the priority of the moment.

    It’s too bad that Israeli Imas don’t get their own day….they deserve it!

  8. Wonderful post.
    Did you know that Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of each Jewish month is supposed to be a women’s holiday. We don’t need mother’s day when we can do something, even tiny, special once a month.

  9. Thanks for the link!
    Ahh…balance…that mystical utopia. Can’t say I ever come near balance in my life. I think it’s difficult with kids – one day you spend too much time on homework, the second day you spend too much time on laundry and cooking, and by the third day you are so fed up you spend too much time on your own hobbies, ignoring them entirely! I’m also a big procrastinator, so balance eludes me even more.

    But as usual, I will take your post as inspiration for the day!

  10. I agree, Galit. Balance is a priority, but one that we can so easily forget. I also feel most content and happy when I keep balance–when I don’t give too much at the cost of not giving to myself, when I go to bed early enough to feel rested, when I have spent time hanging out with Mia and chit-chatting about nothing, when Alan and I get to cuddle on the couch after a long day. This is the busiest time in our lives, but also the most wonderful! Excellent post. And I am honored that we were a little part of your great weekend :)

  11. You write so clearly about what it’s like to be a mom, and trying to make everything work – marriage, friends, three little ones. I think you’re a hero.

  12. thank you *so* much people! you truly make my day with every little comment e-mail that i get! :)

    sarah– thank you!what kind, thoughtful words! truly appreciated!

    kee– i heart you, your kids, your jacket *and* your shoes! xoxo

    erica– thanks as always, you make me smile and i’ll remember to keep that crappy attitude to myself next time i go to a no-gifts-please party! :)

    neil– indeed, it seems to be the “secret.” wonderful to hear from you.

    pearl– hello! i *love* the sign-connection that you made! i absolutely shudder to think what my pisces sign says about me though! thanks for the well wishes. they’re much appreciated and, of course, returned!

    jack– keep juggling, keep juggling. i know i am, too, for sure!

    chris– thank you for the kind comment! hooray, indeed, for *all* lovely moments!

    batya– great to hear from you! thank you for bringing up rosh chodesh. indeed, there are many ways to get at the same sought after feeling of special!

    shira– you’re very welcome and utopia-shmootopia. we’re all constantly striving, right?! and btw, unfortunately i, too, am a huge procrastinator. not one of my finer points, for sure!

    lisa– it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that we see eye-to-eye here! and you and yours were, indeed, a HUGE part of our “perfect” weekend! i’m already looking forward to the next one, whenever that may be!!

    jenna– a hero, not so much. but i’ll take a compliment from you, nonetheless. thanks for the comment! :)

  13. Hi! found you on Mommy Bloggers and so happy I did! What an awesome blog you’ve crafted for yourself here! LOVE it! Great post! Being a mom of 3 I could totally relate! Hope you’ll come say hi! =)

  14. genevieve, hi! thanks so much for the visit and comment. it’s always nice to “visit” with someone in the same boat! :)

  15. What a great post. I think balance is something many of us strive for and never quite find. At least that makes it all the more serendipitous when we do, right?

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  16. I agree, Galit. Balance is a priority, but one that we can so easily forget. I also feel most content and happy when I keep balance–when I don’t give too much at the cost of not giving to myself, when I go to bed early enough to feel rested, when I have spent time hanging out with Mia and chit-chatting about nothing, when Alan and I get to cuddle on the couch after a long day. This is the busiest time in our lives, but also the most wonderful! Excellent post. And I am honored that we were a little part of your great weekend :)

  17. I love your posts. You pick the perfect wording to express things I’ve felt but never took the time to materialize into thoughts or words.

    Balance. I think that will be my word for 2010.

    …and I LOVE the nuky dipping picture. I, for one, did not for a second think you were kidding :)

  18. robin– for sure balance is “hard to get” and a true prize. btw, serendipity is only my favorite word. EVER. thanks for the note, lady!

    & debbie– your gingi and my blondie– twins separated at birth?! :) thanks for the kind note; it’s much appreciated!

  19. Great Read! I just loved how you explained the obstacles of sustaining balance. I just googled balance today to get some tips. Thanks for sharing. I am going to walk away with some great advice.

  20. alicia, hi! thanks much for the note! so glad to connect and learn from each other! that’s what it’s all about, right?! :)