As with most things, balance is key. It’s great to be a saver… unless you are a miser. It’s great to be generous… unless you give unwisely. It’s vital to help others… until you act like a martyr. It is important to have boundaries… unless you never step outside yourself. I could carry on with this, but I think you get where I’m going.
Type A “I’m sure there is a perfect way to do something and dadgummit I will find it” mothers can have a hard time with balance. Or maybe it’s just me. We can make a plan or structure, stick to it, and almost feel like a failure if we need to deviate or change course even a little bit.
I know that the lack of balance in my life has often caused me inner turmoil and I actively try to fix it. I frequently think of the verse that says “whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” (Eccl. 7:18). I have found that I need to let myself off the hook to find balance. And when I realize I’m imbalanced, know what I typically do? A pendulum swing to the other extreme. Wow. Why is it so hard to learn vital lessons?
In parenting, in order to raise well-adjusted children who aren’t driven by their own anxieties, I think we need to run our house with balance in view. Here are some thoughts on balance in our home as it relates to parenting, discipline and life in general.
1. It is neither failure nor a virtue to always be spontaneous.
I am not a particularly spontaneous person. I like the quote I read that says “I love routine. Until I get bored then I love excitement. Until I get overwhelmed then I love routine.” Because of this I often find it hard to let go of routine and do something in the spur of the moment. I almost feel as though I’m letting my routine down. Of course that’s silly because my routine serves me and not vice versa.
However, when speaking of balance I realize that we are probably all located closer to one end or the other than the middle. I need to let myself off the hook and know that it’s okay – actually it’s better than okay – to be spontaneous sometimes. I also need to realize that my kids don’t have less fun simply because I’m not always spontaneous. They are well-adjusted and well-behaved in large part due to their routine. But of course, a change is sometimes just as good as a vacation.
2. It’s aligning and combining short and long-term goals.
A goal of routine and structure is to bring stability and security to the little ones. Order also helps keep us tired moms sane. However, one way that we can really attempt to remain balanced in our parenting and lives is to be sure and balance our short and long-term goals. At times the two may seem conflicting. Long term goals may say to save a lot so we can do x. Short-term goals of daily enjoyment or giving children various experiences may say to spend money.
It is combining and aligning these two types of planning where we can find balance. The big picture thinking. So we don’t do one to the detriment of the other. Sure, it’s a goal for my children to sleep well, but that doesn’t mean they never miss a nap or never have a late bedtime. That would mean that in the short-term they are robbed of many rich experiences. Do I let them get sleep deprived? No. Do I become a sleep bulldog? No to that too. Well, maybe a little…
3. It’s sacrificing wisely but not at the expense of your priorities.
I read a great post on Good Sacrifice vs. Foolish Sacrifice and believe this is key to living a balanced life with our kids. As mothers we are faced with many decisions throughout our day that can change our course. Commitments and opportunities come and go and during this crazy time of life we can find it hard. Our children need us, but so do others.
We could be busy 24 hours a day, but we need our own rest and relaxation too. Part of balancing well is knowing what things to give up and what things to keep. Particularly when our children are little we must let some things fall by the wayside. It’s important during this time to really determine what things are worth the extra effort it takes to keep them around.
4. It’s knowing that our choices have a cumulative effect.
I often think that the future balance hangs on every single little minute individual scenario. As in, if this one time I don’t require my daughter to do what I said then she’ll never respect me. If this one time I scrounge around the kitchen to try to find something – anything – that my boy will eat then he’ll be the pickiest eater on the planet. It’s like I am the most exaggerated person I know.
Balance and wisdom know that our choices have a cumulative effect, but that one parenting decision or choice won’t mean the end. Maybe there’s a no candy before dinner rule. It just might be okay if every so often we break it. It even just might be okay if we eat cake for dinner. As in, there is no dinner. There is only cake. Would I do this every night? No. Does it wreck our whole parenting balance by going off the rails a time or two? No. It shows our kids we’re human.
5. It’s knowing deep inside what is truly important.
I think our balance is largely determined by our own view of what’s important in life. Sleep is important. Church is important. Would I rather sacrifice going to sleep or going to church? These are simplistic examples, but they paint a larger picture. I believe that knowing deep inside what truly matters to us – individually, since we are all unique – will help us be able to make wise decisions.
It is not one step that takes us off of a wise path to the destination of our choice. It is numerous steps, one right after the other, that send us in opposite directions. There will be times and seasons when it seems like we aren’t moving forward where we want to go. But even in the winter plants seem dead. Doesn’t mean they don’t come back to life and bloom in the spring. So it will be in life. At times we focus heavily on one thing, like a newborn. At other times we’ll focus on something else, a sick member of the family. Knowing what is important and putting our energy there will ultimately keep us on a balanced track.
Do you have any keys to remaining balanced in life and parenting?