Finding balance is a mantra these days. It seems to be a universally accepted goal, every adult’s mission. Or perhaps it ought to be. So, whatever your current status is, evidently the path to healthy adult-ing is in finding balance.
I agree with this and find myself re-calibrating on a daily basis, trying to maintain a precarious equilibrium among my roles as wife, mother, colleague, friend, daughter, and sister. Inherent in finding balance is not losing your sense of self. This too, I wholeheartedly believe. In fact, I’ve never had a better sense of self as I do now, thanks to growing and maturing and finally reaching adulthood.
But here’s where I question the beat of the drum: I don’t want a lot of “me time” anymore. It exhausts me. I exhaust me. I’d rather stay in the game with all my people and tasks rather than have more time to think about me, myself, and I. Here’s how I arrived at this conclusion:
About four months after my first child was born, I self-assuredly proclaimed to a dear friend that I felt so clear-headed, so focused and singular, now that I had this wondrous, squishy little being to cultivate.
Her response: “Oh, yeah… That’ll go away.”
I was incredulous!
She was right, of course. Especially when I added a second baby into the mix. Now five and three, my children are my world, and no, I don’t possess that clear-headed singularity anymore. But I do have something I’d never had before.
For as long as I can remember, my brain was filled with irrational angst over a term paper, a boy, my body. And it was all about me. Sure, that’s normal for a teen or early 20-something, but I think my angst may have been just a notch more intense than the average teenager’s.
I’d pull all-nighters to write a three-page paper. It’s one thing to get your adrenaline going to create a masterpiece, and another thing entirely to lose hours of sleep over 3-pagers. I’d find a boy to crush on, and then live in the shadows of his life – track his classes, watch his sports practices. Speak to him? No, no, no. No speaking. Just crushing (but not in a creepy way).
Then there was my body. I will include the caveat here that every girl – at some point, or many, in her life – has felt a degree of insecurity about her body. It’s the world we live in, sisters. My issue? I am tall. Like, really tall, and have been since about third grade. Because of my tallness, I always felt like I was in the way, extraneous, non-essential. Of course that was not actually the case; that was just how my mind worked.
So where am I going here? How did I make it to functional adulthood with a partner, job, and children? I’m not entirely sure, though some talk therapy happened in there somewhere.
Fast-forward four years from that initial conversation as a tender new mother to another conversation with a different dear friend. She asked how I was doing emotionally, and the clarity of my answer surprised me: “I’m doing great, because there’s no time for the noise anymore.”
When I heard myself say that, I had an a-ha moment.
Instead of doubting myself because I spoke up in a meeting and received looks as though I’d suggested we start a basket weaving club, or beating myself up because I only worked out once last week, or berating myself for not getting the basement organized, I’ve got more important things to do.
I’m busy getting my kids fed, dressed, and off to school. I’m getting myself fed, dressed, and off to work to support my kids. I’m connecting with my husband in stolen moments, whether it’s to rekindle “us” or to recap the week’s events. I’m snuggling with our pup to ensure that she doesn’t think we totally forgot her. I maintain our house, our friendships, our health, and our aging parents.
With big stuff and small stuff, my life is full, and loud. There’s no room for the noise. Please don’t misunderstand my message here: I relish my quiet alone time, especially when my husband is out and the kids are in bed. These moments provide amazing stillness that let me catch my breath.
Perhaps the noise is different now. I’m not the same person I was at 17 or 24. Finding and maintaining balance to juggle life’s demands has forced me, despite myself, to come to accept and value myself as I am, or – even more amazingly – to see myself as my kids see me.
Being a mother has quelled all the what-ifs that used to paralyze me from participating in life. I have no choice now but to participate, and it’s a rich relief.