Now that the kids are back in school and all the sports, dance and other extra-curricula activities are starting up as well as Back to School Nights, Parents This and Parents That Meetings, how do we find balance? It feels like either feast or famine in our busy lives; the quiet, sometimes boring, calm of summer plunging into this frenzy of 'we don't know who is coming or going' (I mean that literally, sometimes I need a spread sheet to figure out which family member is where at any given time). One of my clients told me that she was in the car chauffeuring kids from 3:00-7:30 on Wed. night (I happened to be doing the same thing at almost the same hours on that same night).
I’m smiling as I return to this post started a week ago and wondering, again, about balance. Where has mine been? (Has it really taken over a week to write a blog post?) My equilibrium was certainly out of whack Monday morning when I squeezed in a workout only to rush off to the grocery store (sweaty, of course) and then plunge into cooking, cleaning, laundry and preparing meals for Tuesday so I could get to my office that afternoon to see my clients. The craze of the Monday was intended to make the Tuesday run more smoothly? Is that balance? I think not.
I find balance when I make realistic plans for the allotted time and not try to cram everything into one small window. I also know that I find balance when I pause to take some time for me, be it a walk on these beautiful Fall mornings or meeting a friend for coffee to talk, listen and laugh. I find when I have recharged myself, I have more patience and energy for my family and my clients, or to do the mundane household chores that are always waiting for me.
I work with many women, like myself, who are trying to balance their personal, professional and familial obligations. My clients have shared that they don’t feel like they give enough time or attention to any area of their lives. One mom is always late to our appointments; she is rushing her kids to school, making work calls on the road and trying to get to therapy. She bursts into my office and wants to ‘hurry up’ and get calm. Those are the moments when I start therapy with a deep breath. My client needs to slow down and be present for her session. I model in the therapy hour what we need to do in our busy lives: slow down and be mindful of the moment that we are in.
It is good to also model this mindfulness for our children. I have seen many a teenager (and adult, present company included) sit in front of the tv with a laptop while texting on a cell phone. Multi-talented we are, but are we balanced and present in the moment? What happens if we were to unplug? Last summer when we lost our power we lit candles, played games and laughed the old-fashioned way, without Youtube prompts. I remember a time at my old job where I was surrounded by therapists. One afternoon the internet was down. There were several of us gathered in a colleague’s office laughing, sharing and spending time with one another. We commented on the fact that it took losing the internet to actually converse with one another.
Balance includes being present, slowing down and unplugging once in a while. It involves planning, prioritizing and sometimes saying "No" to a volunteer request or a neighborhood gathering. It might even mean saying "No" to your child who is asking for the fifth sleepover in six days in between practices, play-dates and birthday parties. Balance doesn't have to mean boring; if it eliminates some stress and adds some quality family time, or really good girlfriend time, less can absolutely be more.