Minnesota Mamaleh: On Balance
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.
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.
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.
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.