Monday, April 25, 2011

Still struggling to find that balance

I started this blog as a way of trying to figure out how to balance my responsibilities as a stay-at-home mom with my passion for writing. I needed a place to record my thoughts--not only my thoughts about writing but about family life and other musings as well--so that I could step back and see where I could make changes or alter my days so that I have time to do everything I want to do. I needed a plan.

I haven't found one yet.

What I've learned most from seeing parts of my life "in print" is that I can't do it all. This is something I've always known, of course, but recording my thoughts here has made me see how true it is, and since I've always been a perfectionist, this truth really hurts. I see that I'm hard on myself for not being able to cross everything off my to-do list each day, and I suffer from a huge case of Mommy Guilt whenever I try to do something for myself. For example, if I decide to write a few paragraphs instead of playing a game with the kids, I feel almost crippled by the guilt. All I can think of is that I'm "wasting" their childhood and that I should be spending every possible minute I can with them before I'm no longer the center of their world.

And I learned that I suffer from another kind of guilt as well: Writer Guilt.  If I use naptime to try to keep up with the laundry instead of plotting the next part of my WIP, I feel guilty. If I opt to walk on the treadmill before the kids are up instead of working on the 100 words exercises I do each morning, I feel guilty. If I decide to relax by watching television when the kids go to bed instead of trying to edit or write another chapter, I feel guilty. The list goes on.

There are so many important things that I want to do and that I need to do, and I can't seem to find the balance.

It occurred to me today that maybe I just have a guilty personality. I've felt guilty about things all my life, some serious and some silly: guilt over going out with friends rather than spending time with my now deceased grandma; guilt over leaving my dog at home when I know that she'd really like to go for a ride in the car; guilt over opting to sleep in instead of going to church... I realize that everyone experiences guilt, but I think I take it to an extreme. I let it paralyze me until I'm unable to accomplish anything. Maybe it is just part of my personality, something innate, wired in. But I know I could learn to control it, if only I knew how.

Since I can't seem to find the answer--if there is one--I want to ask you. How do you achieve balance in your life? How do you decide which of your responsibilities is most important at any given moment? How do you "do it all"? Or if you don't accomplish everything, how do you find peace about the things that you're not able to do?


  1. I think mothers just tend to suffer from a lot of guilt in general, particularly when they have been told "you can have it all.". The truth is that it's hard and there really isn't time for everything, so I've been trying to give everything a little bit of time and let go of the rest.

  2. lets see. im just got home after driving 4 hrs, im sorting a megamount of laundry and trying to catch up on commenting at the same time. my kids are pretty self suff. and i hav way more time to myself. but i feel guilty too - i need to spend mor positive time, not just nagging, which is how it seems i deal with them all the time. wen u feel some guilt, do something with them. your wip may take longer to finish, theres time. dont beat yourself up!

  3. The first few months of my son's life, I drove myself crazy trying to do it all. There quickly came a point where I recognized it was unsustainable. The easiest thing for me to ditch was cleaning. I passed that off to Ba.D. as "his" duty, freeing myself at the hand-off to not stress about it if it didn't get done. Which most the time it doesn't. ;)

    Have you heard about SMART goals? ( Corporate acronyms are generally FTL, but this one really helped me organize my life and ditch my guilt. Part of the "R" ("realistic") was understanding there's only so much that can be done any given day. It's with "R" in mind that I set a monthly goal for writing instead of a daily one. If I focus on what I am and am not getting done on too small a scale--such as a daily one--I will be overwhelmed by what I'm not getting done. If I set goals on a slightly larger scale, I'm recognizing that unplanned contingencies and the like will impact my ability to get "want-to" tasks done some days and allowing myself the freedom to have those days. Guilt-free. :)

  4. Dana, stylish mommy writer, needs an award =)
    Come and get it!

  5. Tori: I agree. Most of the mothers I've talked to feel the same kind of guilt. I'm going to take your advice because something really has to change.

    Tara: Oh, how I beat myself up! I love your advice to just do what I can and stop punishing myself for things I can't get done. (Thanks again for the blogger award!)

    Deb: When I read your comment, I realized how hard it is for me to delegate; I want to do it all, and then I end up feeling resentful. I need to work on allowing others to help (and realizing that they can do just as good a job--or better!)

    I love your idea of setting goals on a larger scale. It seems like a much more relaxed way of working--which I need--and I'm going to try that next month. I hadn't heard of the SMART goals but will check out that link. Thanks!