Press Pause

Work. Marriage. Kids. Housekeeping. Friends.

So many things demand our time and attention. Struggling to maintain a balance is not new or unique, but it is a challenge. I used to think that this particular challenge would get easier when we were out of the baby stage. Then when we were out of the toilet-training stage. Maybe when they are all in school. But no. Struggling for balance doesn’t go away, it just changes as life moves along.

If I focus more on housekeeping, I enjoy the feeling of being organized. It gives me a sense of calm and peace when the kitchen counter is cleared and I can walk across the floor without collecting crumbs on the bottoms of my feet. But when I let that task take over my time I can slide into the nagging zone and transform into the “THIS-IS-NOT-A-DAYCARE-JUST-PICK-UP-YOUR-STUFF-WHY-ARE-THERE-COCOA-PUFFS-IN-MY-UKULELE” ranting mom.

That is not balance.

The weekend rolls around and this time I decide to say “yes” to the invitations to have breakfast with a friend followed by a walk with a neighbour and then an at-home date night with my husband. But giving the social side of me the priority leaves me feeling guilty for neglecting the kids and the housework. And out comes the scary cleaning-machine-mom.

Still not balance.

When the week has been long and filled with work, stomach flu, and extra errands to run, I just want to curl up in my pajamas and forget all responsibilities. So when Friday night finally arrives, I decide to give myself a break. We shove aside the Legos and Hot Wheels and eat take-out pizza in the living room. It’s a fun and relaxed family night.

And it’s exactly what we need. What I need.

I’m not going to find the perfect balance. I think it’s an unattainable goal. It’s a worthy goal, and for our own mental health and peace of mind, we need to strive for some balance. But a truly balanced life? I don’t think so. And I’m learning that’s okay.

We will always be pulled in multiple directions. Crises will arise, friends will need support, people get sick. Sometimes plain old daily life is too much. So instead of feeling guilty for not finding the right balance, I’m learning to pause.

When the state of the kitchen makes me want to scream, I can pause and pull out something easy for dinner, giving me time to get ahead on something else. When a child is sick, I can pause my work goal for the week and just accept that sleep isn’t really going to happen, but cuddles will. When I have to back out of a commitment because now I’m sick, I can put aside feelings of culpability, pause, and take friends up on their offers to help.

Pause and breathe and let go. It’s working.

The payoff is less guilt, less stress, and more joy, more laughter. And insight. Pausing let me spend time with one of my favourite little people who shared this gem as we enjoyed a hot chocolate together.

“Jesus and Yoda are alike because they’re both very wise and humble and sometimes confusing.”

The house might not be as tidy as I’d like. I might not have a homemade dinner on the table every night. I still feel overwhelmed sometimes and lean into the cranky-zone, but it’s worth it to give up on finding the perfect balance and allowing myself to pause.

 

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Family Mascot

Every family has a mascot, right? RIGHT?

If you do not already have one, I highly recommend it. And pets do not count, neither do children. Maybe an uncle, but I don’t recommend it.

Nothing says, “togetherness” quite like a mascot. It fosters a sense of belonging, trust me. It’s like a modern coat of arms. And it’s portable.

The selection process is important. You don’t want just any old thing to represent your family. Take your time, make sure you find the right fit. You could put it to a vote, but democracy is highly overrated in family situations. After thoughtful deliberation, just announce your selection to your loved ones.

Sometimes fate steps in and the mascot chooses you. That’s what happened to us.

One day I was angry-cleaning and muttering about not being the maid tidying up after my appreciative family I realized we had a new resident. He’d been moved around from hallway to bedroom, back to hallway and then finally the laundry room. This guy wasn’t going anywhere. On some level I knew that this was the mascot I’d been searching for. That’s when I decided to make it official.

Our mascot has adapted well to residing in our home. The transition has gone very smoothly and now it’s hard to imagine life without him.

Meal prep isn’t so lonely or tedious. Plus, Keith never complains about what I am serving.

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In the past, if I was too tired to read at bedtime I just had to power through. No longer necessary when you have a handy mascot. Thanks, Keith.

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Keith is a great listener and he doesn’t sass back. His demands are few: change of scenery every now and then, an occasional dusting. He’s the lowest-maintenance member of our family by far.

Welcome, Keith. I didn’t know our family was missing someone until you came along.