Generally speaking, I like to throw myself into whatever I am doing, and do a good job of it. "It's not worth doing if it's not worth doing right" or whatever. It seemed to be easier when I was working full-time, before kids. I threw myself into my job, while at work, and threw myself into maintaining my relationships with my hubby, my church community, friends and family. I would get overwhelmed from time to time (like the time I realised I had over-committed myself at church and had to back out of teaching kids' church and leading Missions Team and focus just on leading a home group). But it seemed a little more manageable. Maybe it's just hindsight, and I don't remember it as I actually experienced it. But I recall hubby and I having a goal-setting and review session every few months, mapping out all the areas of our lives and evaluating how we were doing with keeping our priorities in check. Sure, there was always plenty of stuff to work on and make changes to, but we managed to have these sessions fairly regularly. Since having kids? Well, ha ha...
Having children has changed our lives in a massive way. They are a wonderful change, but a huge change. I don't think that there is any way to be prepared for the enormity of that change. There is suddenly so much more to juggle. How can one tiny person bring so much change? For me (and, as I understand it, for many other women too), having my first baby ushered in an identity crisis that shook up all I had ever known as 'me' and turned it inside out. Now, I consider myself to be a fairly psychologically-minded person, quite self-aware even. I knew becoming a mummy would introduce a new element to my concept of self, and would take some time to process. I knew having a baby would change how my hubby and I relate to each other. I did expect a transitional period, of course. I just did not expect it to last years.
I did a lot of soul-searching, as I tried to figure out who I was now that I was a mum. My sense of self changed in so many ways - my body image, my fashion choices, my sense of competence (or lack there of), my relationship with God...as I worked through these changes, I found that I tended to throw myself into one aspect of my new role at home after another. At first, it was housework - keeping a "good house". I worked hard at setting up new housework routines (which had to change each time Miss E reached a new stage of development and mobility), ironing my hubby's work clothes, packing his lunch, because that's what a "good house wife" should do. Then, developing an exercise routine - I walked an hour a day for a good many months. Then, I discovered gardening, and threw myself into that (to the detriment of aforementioned housework routines). During my first trimester of my second pregnancy, I grew far too exhausted for gardening, and so I rediscovered my love of making things, and starting putting a lot of time and energy into it. But each time I started focusing on something new, I had to give up something else.
I can't count how many times I've said to hubby, "How do other women do it, I just can't seem to do it!" Sure, I can manage to dress nicely each day and put my make-up on and have the children clean and nicely dressed - as long as I don't try to keep the house clean. Or, I can maintain the garden and make nice meals, as long as it doesn't matter if I am in daggy old home clothes all day every day. Or, I can exercise and take care of my body, as long as I worry about cleaning the house...I just can't do it all. So I had better be clear about my priorities.
I got to a point where I felt relatively content with my balance of priorities...and then, my life (and my identity, and my marriage) was shaken up again with the arrival of another beautiful little person. In case you have never heard, the birth of a second child can be just as life-changing as the birth of a first child. This has certainly been the case for us.
If you've been reading for a while, you will have witnessed some of my struggle with priorities over the last few months. My son's first birthday is fast approaching, a fact that is forcing me to stop and reflect on the last twelve months. While I could sit here and notice all the ways that I have failed in my attempts to live a balanced life, I am not going to do that...
I am not going to focus on my short-comings, but look forward to the future and laugh with excitement at the possibilities. I am not going to hate myself for the times I have failed my children and my hubby, but surrender them to God and draw the strength from Him to face one day at a time. To truly be in this present moment with my children. To breathe in all the sweetness they exude, and not take their failings personally. To hold them close, tickle and cuddle them, laugh with them and JUST BE WITH THEM.
There is no rule for a balanced life. There is no perfect formula. There is just one day at a time.