Monday, October 24, 2016

Struggling to Balance It All

Today, I quit. I was working out on the living room floor, when mid-leg lift, I just quit. I was done.

Done with not getting enough sleep.

Done with tackling the never-ending pile of laundry and dishes every day.

Done with listening to the kids argue over who has more dominoes.

I was just done.

I go to bed too late and wake up too early every morning. I stumble out into a kitchen that's somehow already a mess, even though we cleaned it after dinner last night.

It's 6 AM, and I already feel behind.

There's the morning rush of getting everybody up and fed and dressed and off to school, and then I still have littles at home with me, begging for snacks before I've even cleared the breakfast dishes.

There are a zillion things on my to-do list today, all of which were swirling around in my head last night when I was supposed to be sleeping.

I clear the table. I change some diapers. I kiss a boo-boo. I make my breakfast and forget about it. I nurse a baby. I start to work out. Check, check, check.

But my mind keeps reeling off new items, faster than I can even remember them. My daughter needs a new soccer ball. I have to call our health insurance company about a strange bill. Yearbook order forms are due soon. It's getting chilly and all the kids' winter clothes are still up in the attic.

I get up off the floor in a huff and stomp into the bathroom. My to-do list won't leave me alone, even when I'm doing something (like working out) that's on it.

I lock the door, get in the shower, and just stand there letting the hot the water spill over my face, trying not to think of anything that needs to get done.

No matter how hard or how smart I work, there's no way to work long enough to get it all done. How am I supposed to find a balance?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Over the last year, I've read at least a hundred articles on productivity. I should know better by now, but every time I get suckered in by the headline that promises to contain the magic bullet I need to finally be everywhere, do everything, and accomplish all the things.

But the fact is that it's not a matter of working hard enough or smart enough. The problem is that I can't possibly work long enough to do it all.

And therein lies the problem: how do I divide the important from the unimportant when everything feels like a must-do item and there aren't enough hours in the day?

What do you do when every single thing you accomplish only makes you more anxious about the 100 other things you're not doing?

I ponder this question until I notice that the shower curtain's getting scummy and needs to be cleaned. So much for escaping my to-do list in here.

I turn off the water, I towel off my face.

Scientifically speaking, a living thing is alive because inside, there's a constant struggle to maintain balance. One chemical reaction after another, all aimed at achieving homeostasis, and that's life. The only time our bodies are truly at equilibrium is when they're dead.

Maybe I'm struggling to find a balance that doesn't even exist. Maybe everyone I know feels this way at least some of the time.

One day I might learn how to keep the plates all spinning more seamlessly, or maybe I'll just get better at figuring out which ones can fall without bringing down the whole act. 

For now I'll have to settle with a resolution to sleep more and pray more, and try to be patient with myself. 

And the next time someone stops me in the grocery store, gesturing to my kids and asking "How do you do it?" I'll just be honest and answer "I have no idea. But I'm open to suggestions."

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Kendall said...

I know this feeling, too. I sometimes wonder how anything gets done, how I'm even moving my body. I wonder if I'll ever do anything other than clean up behind other people, make a mess caring for them, only to then clean up behind myself.

And then, somewhere I get a break. Maybe it's a few unexpected moment to of calm or that I lock myself in the room.

I may not have as many littles as you, but I'm still figuring it out too. And, my truth is that I've accepted I'll likely never figure it out so (mostly) I stopped trying and now just do what I can. :mama hugs:

Alicia @ Sweeping Up Joy said...

I'm glad to know other moms have quit and kept going. Solidarity!

Right now I can't see a speck of counter in my kitchen, sort of a visual to-do list and reminder of all the ways I'm running behind in life.

I've been listening to "Simplicity Parenting" as an audiobook, and it's great! The gist is to clear out the clutter in order to make life better. While that's true, there's a certain amount of clutter and activity necessary to survive.

Unless everyone wants to run around with no underwear and only eat food directly from a can, there's stuff that has to be done.

I don't know if balance is possible...if you find it, let me know!

Unknown said...

Though this offers no magical answers, your post encourages me. We are not alone in the struggle to find balance in this life.

The Lady Okie said...

I am SUPER impressed you carve out time to do leg lifts! I can't even manage the most basic of working out right now. Someone once told me some good advice: write down 3 things you have to do that day from your giant list. Cross only those three off and you can feel accomplished with your day! Anything else is just gravy :)

Jenny Evans said...

Someone else recently recommended Simplicity Parenting to me, too. I've got to go check that out.

I struggle with that exact same thing. When people say "don't worry about the laundry, it'll still be there tomorrow" my first thought is, "Exactly. And so will my children, going to school in dirty underwear if I take that advice..."

Jenny Evans said...

Love to cross things off. I think that's great advice! Keeping it all in my head does not work.

Katy said...

You are not alone. It's refreshing to be honest, I think. Last night I got my son to his Boy Scout court of honor at 7:30, which is when his meetings start. For whatever reason (men?), the Court of Honor was at 7pm. I missed that somewhere. I felt so bad. But what am I gonna do? It was just one of 82 things to do that day and I goofed.

It was sweet how my kids tried to make me feel better. That's the beauty of your post, too. We can all make each other feel less alone and hopefully better. You're doing great, Mama!

AnneMarie said...

Haha! It's true, we really don't have it figured out at all. Anytime people ask me stuff regarding taking care of a baby, I always shrug with an "I have no clue what he needs right now. Your guess is as good as mine!"

I have long been a victim of a gigantic To Do list barreling through my head all day long, but there area couple things I've done lately which have helped immensely: I make sure to pray with Scripture when I feed Peter in the morning (this helps set a prayerful tone for the day and is a good way to prioritize God), and I use a bullet journal. I only recently jumped on the bullet journal bandwagon, but it has been extremely helpful-in a plain lined notebook, I have pages dedicated to "year at a glance," "month at a glance," (so some days I will schedule for certain items on my To Do list, and I don't work on those any other day of the month) and then my daily slots (which I fill out on the day). There's a nifty symbol that I can use to "migrate" tasks that don't get done, which makes me feel better if I haven't been able to get around to certain items. Like what The Lady Okie said, I also choose 3-4 "big" items that I'm going to work on, and then anything extra is great, but not hugely necessary.

Chaun said...

I think these are all signs that you're doing your best to be a very deliberate mother, and ultimately that's what counts, right? You are doing awesome Mama!

Marilyn said...

I have the same problem. Always feeling like I ought to be doing something else, even when I AM CURRENTLY DOING one of those things I need to do! My rational mind can say to stop it, but my adrenaline/heart rate/racing mind don't seem to be under rational control.

It's hard! Being a mom is hard. Wonderful, of course. But hard. I'm trying to work on my self-talk, at least. Even if all I can do is repeat to myself, "it will all work out. Things always get better" and hope I'll someday believe it. And like someone mentioned above, there are those moments of respite and renewal, where you really FEEL the truth and calm. Sometimes at the temple, or on Sundays, or when I'm driving alone, at other unexpected times. I wish I knew how to summon those feelings at will, but I just have to wait and hope for them!

Queen Mom Jen said...

I hear you. There is no magical solution for getting it ALL done, so that means no one is doing it. I promise you. We are all trying our best, sometimes our best needs to be in different areas though and sometimes it's not in keeping our houses clean. Sometimes it's that, but mostly it's like you wrote, conquering and doing our best in the most important tasks that are on our list. Hugs!

Jenny Evans said...

I could have written your comment, every word. Except my mantra is usually, "I'm doing my best. I'm doing my best." This is usually said through gritted teeth while I drive to somewhere I'm already 10-15 minutes late for!

Jenny Evans said...

Some people say you can learn to decipher the different cries, but after 12 years and 6 babies I've determined that's either a lie or I'm really unobservant.

I've heard so much about bullet journaling but have yet to jump on the train. I have a hard time with "pretty" lists because I hate to mess them up if life happens and I need to cross out or whatever. Welcome to being a perfectionist. It sucks.

Starting the day with scriptures makes such a big difference. I wish I were more of a morning person and could make that my habit - as it is I fit it in wherever I can during the day (usually while I'm sitting with my 4-year-old to get her to nap, which means I fall asleep myself half the time!)

PurpleSlob said...

Jenny, thanks for sharing so honestly with us. And you're getting so much support, because we've all been there!! Who needs leg lifts when you pick up the baby, (and toddler, and the 4 yo probably!) 50 x a day?? You've got that one covered, just by Mom-ing!
Singing Scripture songs really help me! Bonus, you will be teaching Scriptures to the kids, without struggling!
Hope this helps.
Also, when they're all grown, and moved out, you can take naps. It just takes 30 years, give or take, to get there! HUgs!

Shawnie said...

I once had someone tell me she didn't expect much from herself for the first year (or more) of having a new baby because of all the adjustments. This really helped me recalibrate my expectations because I was trying to do it all after the baby was just a couple months old.
Every once in awhile, I sit down and make a very detailed list of everything I do in a day - every clothing change, snack, dishes, clean up, book read, game played, scripture read, phone call made, errand run, etc. If we're going to kick ourselves for what we haven't done, we really should also acknowledge every single thing we have done.

Jenny Evans said...

I often do this in my head just to pump myself up at the end of a particularly long day! It really does help. And I agree about the first year after baby being a time when you don't do much. I know people who say they're back to normal after a few months, but I've never thought it was that fast for me.

Purfylle said...

I think the only thing you can do at that stage is simplify and delegate as much as possible, but I'm in awe because I don't have children and I feel overwhelmed with it all as often as not and so don't feel that anything I could say could possibly help or be relevant. You won't always be swimming in children. Take a deep breath and know that this is a life phase that will pass in time and you can survive it.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that whoever is writing these "simplify your life" and "increase your productivity" books does NOT have 6 young children! I had my 7th in June and I'm in the same boat. The Lord has a sense of humor and let me know that I didn't need to work harder or smarter to keep up with my to do list. What I needed was a miracle! (to rival the loaves and the fishes) ;) He didn't expect that much of me, so why did I expect it of myself? I also had a mild case of undiagnosed post partum depression to add to my feelings of failure (apparently it's more common after boys?). My doctor got me on some temporary anti-depressants and now I don't have to try so hard to be happy and stop obsessing over what I can't do. I felt just so, chemically imbalanced. I'd never had that before. I knew I was being unrealistically hard on myself, but couldn't stop. Sorry for the tangent! I love your blog! It helps me feel like I'm not alone. There's value (and humor) to what I do everyday, and if the Savior was in my home, He'd be right alongside me helping me with all those dirty dishes and loads and loads of laundry, because He loves my kids and doesn't want them in dirty underwear either! ;)

Laurie said...

My Mom used to start singing "Zippity Do-dah" at the most stressful and annoying times, and I hated it! Since becoming a mom, she told me that this was her equivalent of your mantra. It helped keep her going, and sometimes really did help everyone be more cheerful about our "wonderful day"! I probably need to try it myself!

Jenny Evans said...

I love that idea! If nothing else, it would relieve some tension.

Jean | said...

Jenny, I had to come over to your blog when I read your comment on Christine Everyday: "So sad to see you go! Can I even see your Instagram stuff if I don't have an account (I'm so bad at social media, it's like I'm in 1996 and I'm 90.)" That's exactly something I would/could say! Regarding this post: The Lady Okie has it right. Just pick 3 things that must get done. And feel good about it when you cross them off. You'll drive yourself crazy otherwise!

Julie @ Just the Joy's said...

I'm with you. The struggle is REAL! You are far from alone. Don't you wish you could clone yourself? The sad thing is, the to do list will never get smaller. You get one thing accomplished and another thing pops up. It's a vicious cycle. But, such is life! Every day I try to set low expectations for myself and anything I accomplish beyond that, makes me feel extra ambitious! Keep up the good work! Your doing a fabulous job managing all those kiddos and the household on top of doing some leg lifts. Phew! Tell me all the secrets! ;)