February 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
When we were preparing to move to Seattle, I would tell people over a tea or coffee that it was the children I suspected would have the most challenging time. My husband knew people at work, and I would be fine anywhere, but it was the children who would have to walk into a brand new school environment, not knowing a single soul, and work out for themselves where they fit in.
The children have had their speed bumps and hurdles, but for the most part have managed beautifully, much better than my husband or I expected. My husband struggled a bit at first to find his personal bearings in a much larger company but seems to be navigating fairly well now. And then there is me. The one I thought would be fine, is not. I have been tripped up most unexpectedly.
Meeting new people through school, church and community – easy and enjoyable. Getting everything unpacked and the roots put down for the kids (doctor, dentist, etc.) – check. Figuring out what to do with my SELF. Work in progress. I say SELF because as far as filling time goes, no problem. As a mother of four, there is always lots to do…for others. Also as a mother of any number, it is very easy to get lost in ensuring everyone else is looked after, and misplace your own identity, your own purpose, your own passion.
From what I can tell, many mothers struggle with “balancing” what they call “work” and “home” (I see it more as “self” and “others”). There seems to be a paradigm that these two things must be separate.
When I look at my own family example, I see clear division of the workload. My husband and I each carry our share of the demands of a large family. Where it becomes “unbalanced” is when you look at the context of each side of the scale. Imagine both sides of the scale being of equal weight, but one side consists of apples, and the other of oranges.
When the kids were very young my husband and I used to argue repetitively about who had the greatest amount of “SELF time”, each one accusing the other of having more. Truth is when your children are newborns and toddlers, neither of you get that much personal time, but be re-assured that it is only for a season.
Now that we are out of diapers, sippy cups and strollers, from a task perspective, I would call it a wash. While sometimes managing a large family can still be overwhelming, my husband and I do a good job of conquering what needs to be done, and still find time for each other. However, when you look at the context of those tasks, the scales seem to have been blown off their centre.
My husband goes outside the house to work every weekday, and travels frequently. This means he gets less time with our children than I do, occasionally mourning moments in our children’s life for which he would have liked to be there, but he goes to great lengths, often at personal sacrifice, to be there when it counts and then some. The job that he goes to is his personal choice, intended to provide challenges to better develop his skills and experience and advance his exposure to new areas. His travel, while admittedly exhausting sometimes, has gifted him with tremendous adventures and sights he would have never had the opportunity to experience on his own dime. Many of the daily grind obligations common to most humans we know are looked after for him, such as buying groceries, preparing meals, sorting, cleaning, folding of laundry, house cleaning…you get the idea.
Myself. Well now, that’s a bit tougher to describe, cause it rather resembles the glue that holds everything else together. That last list of items that are looked after for my husband (and also our four children), that’s my job. Responding to tech support calls for their life routine from the lot of them, at any hour on any day, also my job. Ensuring that everyone is on their schedule (some days demanding much greater effort than others), another line in my job description. Volunteering at my kid’s school, that’s me too. And time with the kids, yes I get loads and am grateful to have it, but too many sweets will lead anyone to a sugar crash.
Do you see the pattern? My “work week” is curiously absent of self-betterment and skill developing challenges. A bit too heavy on the laundry and dishes side to be considered Dharma-infused.
Now please don’t get me wrong, a great part of my fulfillment is to see my family happy. I wouldn’t have embraced this “job” if that weren’t a significant piece for me. I cherish being my kid’s mother and my husband’s wife. Best gig I ever had!
I love it in the same way that my husband loves being a Dad and husband. And in the same way our kids love us as parents. And how we all love being a family together.
We aren’t talking about love.
We are talking about SELF fulfillment. Dharma. Purpose. Passion. Whichever term you relate best to. I am referring to the quality of tasks you busy yourself with each day that all mesh together at the end to become your life.
Now I have to tread lightly here, because all of those terms I just mentioned, they are not anyone’s responsibility but my own. It is not my husband’ job, or my kid’s job, or anyone else’s job to ensure my SELF is happy. That is also my job.
And I certainly don’t expect every day to be consciousness-expanding enlightenment, but there is a New Balance in order.
The epiphany that led to this post, is that is important to pay attention to more than just division of work. Running down a To-Do list is easy. The quality and context of those line items however, must always provide room for SELF. If it doesn’t, the train switches tracks very quickly from feeling “of service”, to feeling resentment. That is no good for anyone. I once read that in many cases the Mom is the barometer for the rest of the family. The metaphor runs along the same lines of the popular expression: Happy Wife, Happy Life. The idea being: If Mom is off kilter, that energy transfers to everyone else. I feel that goes for both sides of the equation: husband AND wife.
So my lesson learned today, I’m setting some goals. Each week, I intend to walk a few steps in line with my life purpose, and the highest good.
Not indulgence. Not, “I’m going to eat that second brownie cause I deserve it” kind of stuff. More like, committing to an hour of “study time” reading a book that will teach me something I want to learn, with the same unwavering devotion I give my family. Cause they weigh the same. That is the New Balance.
It’s a bit late for resolutions, but that is mine.