Motherhood: Striking a Balance

oregonmem024.jpgFinding the center. Give and take. Sow and reap. Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer. Striking balance.

Easy to think about, but more difficult to execute.

“If I just eat a little less…move my body a little more…”

“If I spend a little less time doing this…I’ll have more time to do that…”

“If I can just be a little less [fill in the blank].”

There is always something that I can do a little more or a little less.  There is always a place where growth can happen.

It takes noticing.

Something has to catch my attention for me to see that I need to start working on that part of me. We become so accustomed to the way things are, the way we are. We even say it to ourselves and others (or about others), “that’s just the way I am”. It is easier to shield our eyes and not look. It takes courage to turn and face the things that feel ugly. It takes even more to decide that there is no ugly too ugly to change, so that we don’t just glance, but rather stare and soften and have compassion toward ourselves and others so growth can happen.

Sometimes it is hard to see change or commit to change, because there are others we have to sacrifice our own “self-improvement” for.

My life right now is motherhood. Three young kids, a small home in a beachside town, a very modest one-income family. And, really, most of the time, I love every bit of it. There is little stress. Summer really feels like a vacation when we stay up late making fires and playing on the beach almost daily and roll out of bed late in the morning, drink coffee and sit around the kitchen table together. What we don’t have in money we make up for in time together. My kids have a pretty incredible childhood home and that makes me happy.

But

there are still the nights where I lay in bed, baby suckling on my milk filled breasts and I dream and list the things I want to do, to change. Projects and trips and desires I don’t dare speak, because maybe if I say them, the dream will die and they won’t happen. So I close my eyes again and save them wrapped up tight in my chest, where my heart is burning with fire and remind myself that this little soft and fleshy version of us – myself and the man I share a bed and family with – won’t always be so little and vulnerable and needy.

And being a mother may be the most important thing I do, because while dreams are meaningful and working with our hands and minds are good for the soul and the world, caring for the humans who will inherit that world should be ranked so much higher on the list of “valuable things to do with your life”than it is.

So, for now, I sacrifice a little for something I know will pass by quickly, and really, I believe I’ll be better for it – not missing out on something.  My husband shared a piece he was reading the other day, and I don’t remember anything about it other than the words, “having kids may be more for our formation than their own.”

These years are precious, because I won’t be who I am going to become one day without them, and the more I lean into it and try to live a graceful life, the more we will all benefit. Motherhood begins to feel less like a sacrifice and more like an investment, where I am choosing each day and moment how much I am willing to give.

-b.e.

 

 

 

finding balance

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I have had so many thoughts swarming my mind, but every time I sit to write, nothing really seems to matter enough to put into words.

I have been tired and slow and fast and life is wonderful and hard and challenging and easy.  Balance is found in the tension and some days are harder than others, but I have found that when I become less preoccupied with all the things I want to get done in a certain time frame, and slow down and not try to accomplish so much so fast, I see more moments.

moments like the giggling and cooperation of my children playing a game together, when my older is displaying patience and gentleness toward his little sister.

the little expressions that I am never ready to catch on a camera, but leave an imprint inside of me, perhaps more deeply because I know its the only record of it.

small conversations that are mundane yet important.

the deep soul look into my husband’s eyes that allows us to re-connect and remember why we are here together and sometimes it speaks more than the words.

Many blogs and articles I have seen popping up on feeds and blogs I follow have seemed to follow this theme of balance.

I couldn’t agree more that living a life that is balanced is essential to our health and that of those around us.

But I also feel like many of these posts have been pointing to this idea of never being extreme, never allowing ourselves to believe in something deep enough that we become a little “obsessed” for a while, because something else will suffer and thus, we will find ourselves “out of balance”.  But some times, something is already suffering and we don’t even realize it, because it is our “normal”.

I don’t advocate obsession.  My husband has a habit of becoming very one-track minded.  I have known this about him since we first started dating, and over the years I have gotten used to this tendency and in our relationship we tend to balance each other out (me going every direction, him only one) but at times, it still drives me crazy.

At times, however, becoming more focused on something in particular is beneficial.  What are we doing when we enroll ourselves in school?  We are focusing in on something specific for an extended period of time in order to master the subject.  We place authority figures (teachers, mentors) above us in order that we are put in a place of accountability to help us maintain this focus and discipline.

Do we expect to do this forever?  Of course not.  I don’t think we would do it if that were the case.  Think of medical students.  I can only imagine what they feel after the years of intense training they go through, and how they stay motivated in the midst of it.  After schooling is over, when the discipline has been learned to an extent, it becomes a part of us.  We can now use those skills and depth of understanding we have learned in a practical way, and soon there is a new area to learn balance in.

I have seen this in my own life many, many times.  Some times I share the things that we decide to try and I am sure to some I have come off as legalistic, extreme, and foolish.  For me, doing is integral to learning.

And many times, after doing something a bit “extreme” for a time, I see firsthand the benefits or cons in my life and adjust. This is how I learn to balance.

Balance does not mean that every day I spend a certain allotment of time doing specific things.  I believe life is more holistic than that.  There are seasons.  I think of the Jewish calendar and how it has so many feasts and holidays to observe through out the year.  They signify different times of our life, a rhythm.  There is time to rest to feast to fast to celebrate to mourn.  They are reminders to hold us accountable so we flourish, so we stay humble, so we remember.

I don’t have any clear answers of what this means on an individual basis.  What it looks like for you or me to live a balanced life.  We learn what to say no to, what to embrace, some times we follow a gut feeling.

For me, I know that I am not perfect, and to appear as such is not my goal.  I know I would love everyone to think that I am always gentle and kind and disciplined and self-sacrificing, but while I occasionally can be described as this and have come a long way in the past few years, I am not.

I can be very mean-spirited and judgmental.  Some times I treat my children like a mean older sibling would their younger.  Some times I sit around in my pajamas half the day and hardly get anything done.  I’ll eat extra pie. I say mean things about others.  I gossip.  I think up all sorts of great comebacks and comments to justify myself against someone I think has me all figured out (thankfully I don’t usually think of these until much later when I am not able to say them, but still I am intentionally thinking up words to harm someone).  I think awful thoughts about others to make myself feel better about myself. I compare.

Thankfully, oh so thankfully, I have a loving and supportive family that sees beyond these awful traits to something more valuable.  They remember me at my best and over time, forget and forgive the worst.  Some times balance comes over a long period of time, as we test and try and learn and become more refined.  It is a constant process.  We need to be willing to be wrong at times and change our minds and make the best decisions we can about what we will do and pursue.

It is hard, because it will not always be understood by others, and at times we may not really be sure about what we’re doing ourselves.  Here we need to extend grace not only to ourselves, but toward those who see things differently.

To be willing to listen, because perhaps we are wrong,

learn to discuss without tearing each other apart,

be open to having parts of our lives challenged, although I’ll admit that I am not always at that point or ready for it,

and to realize that things can take time and some things will never happen during our lifetime.

– b.e.