Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Balance

A few days ago, Lisa over at Black Women Blow the Trumpet wrote The Self-Love Self-Sacrifice Paradox.

I responded, in part, with the following:
I think for me as a young mother, the balancing act is challenging. You are balancing taking care of finance, taking care of children and taking care of self. What I have found is that you have to be committed to yourself first, working at being your best self, for anything else to work well.

I think this challenge is shared by all women--both those who work outside the home and those who are stay-at-home mothers.

When I think about what my priorities are, i.e. what I devote most of my energy to, I visualize a triangle. Now, we all know that properties of a triangle are that it has to have 3 sides and 3 angles adding up to 180 degrees. But there are all kinds of triangles:

Acute - all angles measure less
than 90.

Right - one angle measures
exactly 90.

Obtuse - one angle measures
more than 90.

Equiangular - all angles measure
the same. (60)
This is the same
as the equilateral

If I had to describe my life right now I'd have to describe it as an acute triangle with the largest angle representing the children, the middle angle representing me, and the smallest angle representing the hubby. I didn't know it before I had children:
children require and deserve a lot of time, energy, resources I would be a bold faced liar if I said that there are never days when I want to drop these kids off with someone for a day or two . . .

When the hubby is at work, I am ON. And I stay ON even when he's home. It's the nature of mothering.

Let me show you with an example that happens in my life every day. So around 7:45/8:00, me and the children start getting ready for bed. I put Z1 and Z2 in their pajamas which is about a 15-20 minute deal given that Z1 is 3 years old and Z2 is 1 year old. Both are immune to reasoning and generally have their own agenda. On any given night, Z1 may decide that "robot pajamas" really suck and he wants to wear "lion pajamas". But the lion pajamas are in the basement in the dryer. I will spend the next 5 minutes begging and coercing Z1 to just put on the damn robot pajamas (the ones, by the way, that he adamantly insisted on wearing when it was the lion pajamas he was to put on). Meanwhile Z2, is in his playpen/crib tossing toys out and occasionally hitting big brother which pisses big brother off. Big brother then pushes little brother (who doesn't really care about being pushed). So then I have to explain to Z1 why it is not appropriate to push Z2. Finally, Z1 is in his pajamas. I ask him to pick out books. He complains that "it is too dark in there and there are porcupines". I get up to turn on more light for Z1. Z2 panics and thinks I'm leaving and starts to bawl. I come back to Z2 and pick him up, comfort him and start to put on his pajamas. Z1 is saying that he can't find his favorite book. Just pick a damn book already! While my head is turned to give Z1 suggestions as to where he can find his book, Z2 scurries off because he likes to be diaper-less. He also has a diaper pin in his hand. I wrench my knee trying to keep him from falling off the bed and sticking himself with the diaper pin. Z2 gets extremely pissed off and starts kicking and flailing his arms refusing to stay still for me to pin the diaper. Meanwhile, Z1 has *finally* picked a book. We *finally* head off to the bathroom so that I can brush Z1's teeth and get ready for bed. Z2 is absolutely not feeling being in the exersaucer in the bathroom but if he's not in some containment device, we can't get anything done in the bathroom. So he's pissed off. Z1 may or may not want to open his mouth so I can brush his teeth. I do some pleading. Some bribing. Teeth brushed. I sit him on top of the toilet so I can get ready for bed too. Z1 says he has to pee. I take off the pajamas and the diaper (he still wears a diaper to bed) so he can pee. I realize the last time he went to the bathroom, he also pooped. And 3 year olds do *not* do a good job of wiping. I commence to wiping (and make a mental note to check the underwear he just took off and put in the hamper--they may actually need to go in the diaper pail), put back on the diaper and put the pajamas back on. Sit him on top of the toilet. Start brushing my teeth. Z1 gets off the toilet and starts spinning his already pissed off brother around in the exersaucer. SIT ON THE TOILET Z1!!!! DON'T MOVE!!! I take a deep breath. Wash my face. Reach over exersaucer to get towel. Z2 thinks I'm going to pick him up. Takes his banshee wailing up a notch. Toner. Moisturizer. Put on pajamas. Oil feet and hands. Put on silk scarf. Troop back to bedroom. Get in bed.

Mom, I have to pee.

Troop back to bathroom. Pee.

Troop back to bedroom. Get back in bed. Read books. Turn off light. Tuck everyone in. Pass out like someone clocked me.

It takes a concerted effort on my part to brush my teeth, wash my face, and oil my feet nightly. It takes a concerted effort to not forget to take care of myself. It takes a seriously concerted effort to be the wife my husband needs me to be.

But I make the effort. It's worth it. I'm worth it. My husband is worth it. My children are worth it. In my heart and in my mind, we are all equally important. Just like I feel about eating well, exercising and sleeping enough. All three weigh just as heavily in my mind.

When I say I put taking care of myself first, what I mean is that if I didn't I couldn't be the excellent wife and mother I want to be, I am becoming, I am. I said over at Lisa's blog:

What I have found is that you have to be committed to yourself first, working at being your best self, for anything else to work well. If you are bone tired and don't have anything that you do for yourself, that belongs only to you, that feeds your spirit, what can you realistically give to those you love?

Practically speaking, the triangle is not equiangular right now.
But as time goes on and the children need me less, I know it will be. I am looking forward to that time but also savoring this time. Because Z2's first year of life went by way too fast for me to be looking ahead instead of paying close attention right now.

If you see me in the street, and I don't look like I stepped off the runway, don't look like the hotness . . . be easy on me. I'm trying. But it's not always easy to find the balance.


Anonymous said...

You ain't neva lied...balance is hard and since I took on the new job out of the house as rewarding as it is, time is even harder to come by. Right now I am none to proud to say that my husband gets the least after me, kids, work, and the house. I am trying to change that but with a spirited kid who hates to sleep (how come 9 is a early bedtime with this girl?) its hard.

Only reason I probably don't look a hot mess anymore is because of my job...LOL

Miriam said...

"Mom, I have to pee.

Troop back to bathroom. Pee.

Troop back to bedroom. Get back in bed"

LOL! That is so my house!

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