Balancing Act

Balance is important to me. Really important. My whole life, I have struggled to find it. The dictionary defines balance as “mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.” Emotional stability? Works for me. Calm behavior? Sure, sign me up. Maybe it’s because I’m a Libra! Astrology has never been something I truly believed in; I can’t even remember the last time I checked my horoscope. But I was born under that sign, the scales, so that could explain why I try so hard to find balance. Maybe it’s because I grew up in an alcoholic household. I’ve been told that adult children of alcoholics ‘guess at normal’ behavior and find the concept of stability very appealing. I don’t really know why I crave balance so much, but I do!

When I was in my 20’s, the balanced life I was seeking would have been equal parts of hard work and pleasure. Climbing the corporate ladder was challenging, but I managed to find plenty of time for partying and falling in and out of love. I was burning the candle at both ends and being exhausted and frequently stressed was the price I gladly paid. When I met the man who would become my husband, I knew I had found ‘Mr. Right’. Balance became all about maintaining my professional success and investing lots of time and attention into this new loving relationship. In my mid 30’s, my biological clock was ticking and getting pregnant became the priority. Work was more of a necessary evil, a way to have good medical benefits to pay for loads of fertility treatments and ultimately, the birth of two children. By the time I was turning 40, I was once again exhausted. 50 hour workweeks, two in diapers and daycare and no time for me or the hub! I ultimately gave up a six figure salary in exchange for the life of an academic- teaching originally was a way to cutback and have a shorter work week and summers off!!

So there I was, working a bit less, spending quality time with my kids, maintaining an adult relationship with my husband and trying to get a little ‘me-time’ in the form of exercise, reading or time with friends. I tried to dole out bits of free time as mini rewards for my efforts. A weeknight chick flick with a girl friend would be ‘paid for’ by spending a Sunday morning grading papers. A day volunteering at my kids’ school would have to be balanced with working an evening open house at the college. As my kids grew, the challenge to live a balanced life became even greater. Games, practices and dance recitals were time consuming and required lots of scheduling and even more compromise. I learned the benefits of multi-tasking (who says you can’t grade exams at a swim meet? Yes, I saw how you cut milliseconds off that last lap, I think.)

Today, I have two adult children who are thriving, a husband of 30+ years who I cherish and a rewarding job teaching at the college level. It is sometimes a struggle to find time to spend with friends, workout and write the Great American Romance Novel, but I’ve learned that it’s the price I pay for wanting to have it all. The knowledge that no matter how we slice it, there are still only 24 hours in a day. A happy home is more important than a clean one and time with friends and family always take precedence over everything else. Maybe I’ve confused ‘balance’ with perfection. Maybe my life has been pretty well-balanced after all!

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