“Balancing Act” ~ mounted print (available here)
Balance has been a word that has rubber-balled it’s way through my life from the moment my kids came into this world. I’ve never been one to put complete focus and attention in one area. I am just shy of looking like a poodle on a unicycle juggling tennis balls most of the time. Not connecting with the perfect balancing act left me feeling inadequate, guilty, and in some instances the F word crept in as well…
Feeling like you’ve failed at things with your work passion is one thing, but the worry about screwing up the psychological development of your children can sit on your chest like a stack of parenting books. You know, the books that are hard to get to because you’re so busy teeter-tottering on a wobbly tightrope.
I have finally come to realize that balance is an illusion, and to best serve my career and family I must choose a different word entirely. I heard the perfect replacement word recently on a podcast: Harmony. It resonated with me, so I looked it up.
Harmony: agreement; accord; harmonious relations: congruity.
My own definition: things are going so well that it feels like a million me’s get it all done with reasonable amounts of effort.
In the search for this new friend Harmony in one’s home (he is not under the couch cushions…I checked), I’m beginning to understand that it involves two questions:
What do I want?
What do you want?
Asking for what you want sometimes takes bravery, as in:
“Instead of going to a thousand soccer games this weekend, I’d really love to attend this writing workshop. Can you be our family representative on the field on Saturday?”
Or it could take less bravery and more innovation, as in:
“It seems like 10 years since we’ve had a grown-up conversation without little voices interjecting demands. Wanna go on a adults only get-away?”
Granted, question one is a lot harder to ask then question two, because question one benefits one person and in the other it’s a win/win. BUT that doesn’t make question one any less important. Women are so quick to squish their own demands when it comes to a full calendar of living in the car and fluffing the nest. That saying still rings true in my house: If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
‘Tis true that your idea of harmony may not jive with your partner’s or your children’s grand pre-teen narcissistic ideas, but that’s where the question asking comes in. You’ll never know if you don’t ask! Of course, passive aggression can be a monster living under your staircase (He loiters at my dinner table sometimes). There might be emotion-stuffing, something I refer to as the Emotional Mute Syndrome, but take heart! If you ask the “What do you want to create harmony in our schedule and home?” as you smile sweetly, the answer might surprise you. When I ask this question of my girls, their expressions can look somewhere between complete shock or skepticism. When I asked my youngest what she wanted her Saturday to look like, she gaped at me as though I had poured spaghetti sauce on the floor and rolled around in it. I think kids are used to being told where to go, what to do and how it all is going to go down. Now, whether said Saturday resembled anything like what she envisioned is up for debate, but I did ask and got points for that. I really do try to cram in some 11-year-old friendly activities so that she feels listened to. That’s the goal–their ideas matter, as well as their negative feelings about how things are going.
Sometimes to recognize harmony, you have to have discord….like loud, boy-band, tone-deaf discord. We’ve had some “Hey, waaaaaiiiit a minute” moments when we have family meetings about the family climate.
There’s even a chance of someone committing the ultimate sin, walking away from the discussion.
Yet, there is always a coming back to home base. We figure out what’s working and what needs to change. Not everyone will be cheerfully doing a happy dance about things, but we do try to address all needs on the table. I like modeling that for my kids—it’s so important to show them that asking for what you want and listening to others’ wants should always trump throwing up your hands and hitting the road.
The self check-in is also a key to this Harmony Thing. I do this at least once a week…usually at 2:00 am when I wake with a nap jerk.
Is our schedule to full?
Am I liking this direction with my business?
Are we getting enough alone time as a couple?
Are my kids acting stressed out or tired?
Do we flop into bed at night satisfied with our days?
Have we eaten more than one meal at our dinner table as a family this week?
I use that inner compass to find the Harmony North Star…it’s out there, I just need to adjust my sails.