Balance has been a word that has rubber-balled it’s way through my life from the moment my kids came into this world. I’ve never been one to put complete focus and attention in one area. I am just shy of looking like a poodle on a unicycle juggling tennis balls most of the time. In my quest for simplicity, I have felt a little inadequate, guilty, and in some instances the F word crept in as well…
Feeling like you’ve failed at some things is one thing, but the worry about screwing up the psychological development of your children can sit on your chest like a stack of parenting books. You know, the books that are hard to get to because you’re so busy teeter-tottering on a wobbly tightrope.
I know now that balance is an illusion.
To best serve my career and family I must choose a different word entirely. I heard the perfect replacement word recently on a podcast: Harmony. It resonated with me, so I looked it up.
Harmony: agreement; accord; harmonious relations: congruity.
My own definition: things are going so well that it feels like a million me’s get it all done with reasonable amounts of effort.
In the search for this new friend Harmony in one’s home (he is not under the couch cushions…I checked), I’m beginning to understand how to do it.
1) What do I want?
2) What do you want?
Asking for what you want sometimes takes bravery, as in:
“Instead of going to a three hour long track meet this weekend, I’d really love to attend this writing workshop. Can you be our family representative on the field on Saturday?”
Or it could take less bravery and more innovation, as in:
“It seems like 10 years since we’ve had a grown-up conversation without teenage voices interjecting demands. Wanna go on a adults only get-away?”
Granted, question one is a lot harder to ask then question two, because question one benefits one person and in the other it’s a win/win. BUT that doesn’t make question one any less important. Women are so quick to squish their own demands when it comes to a full calendar of living in the car and fluffing the nest. That saying still rings true in my house: If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
‘Tis true that your idea of harmony may not jive with your partner’s or your children’s grand pre-teen narcissistic ideas, but that’s where the question asking comes in. You’ll never know if you don’t ask! Of course, passive aggression can be a monster living under your staircase (He loiters at my dinner table sometimes). There might be emotion-stuffing, something I refer to as the Emotional Mute Syndrome, but take heart! If you ask the “What do you want to create harmony in our schedule and home?” as you smile sweetly, the answer might surprise you. When I ask this question of my girls, their expressions can look somewhere between complete shock or skepticism. When I asked my youngest what she wanted her Saturday to look like, she gaped at me as though I had poured spaghetti sauce on the floor and rolled around in it. I think kids are used to being told where to go, what to do and how it all is going to go down. Now, whether said Saturday resembled anything like what she envisioned is up for debate, but I did ask and got points for that. I really do try to cram in some 12-year-old friendly activities so that she feels listened to.That’s the goal:
All family members’ ideas matter, as well as his or her feelings about how things are going.
Sometimes to recognize harmony, you have to have discord….like loud, boy-band, tone-deaf discord. We’ve had some “Hey, waaaaaiiiit a minute” moments when we have family meetings about the family climate.
There’s even a chance of someone committing the ultimate sin, walking away from the discussion.
Yet, there is always a coming back to home base. We figure out what’s working and what needs to change. Not everyone will be cheerfully doing a happy dance about things, but we do try to address all needs on the table. I like modeling that for my kids—it’s so important to show them that asking for what you want and listening to others’ wants should always trump throwing up your hands and hitting the road.
The self check-in is also a key to this Harmony Thing. I do this at least once a week…usually at 2:00 am when I wake with a nap jerk.
Is our schedule too full?
Are we getting enough alone time as a couple?
Is clutter creeping back into the house?
Are my kids acting stressed out or tired?
Have we eaten more than one meal at our dinner table as a family this week?
Do we flop into bed at night satisfied with our days?
I use that inner compass to find the Harmony North Star…it’s out there, I just need to adjust my sails.
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What questions do you ask yourself to readjust your own harmony sails?
Great post, love the realistic approach you have taken towards family time, as well as “me” time. The idea of balance really is a myth; there is no balancing, there is paying attention to what needs attention and what that might be in a family is always changing. Things are forever in flux and learning to adapt to others needs as well as our own…well, that’s the lesson of a lifetime.
You nailed it—it’s about paying attention…in everything, don’t you think? I’m hoping this generation does a better job of creating harmony in their own families.