"Balance" and "motherhood" may seem like opposing concepts, but it's possible when we know our limits and stretch ourselves in only the most important things.
Years ago I was asked to do a radio show for KSL/Bonneville Communications. At first my head said no—I was a stay-at-home mother and couldn’t do a daily 3–6 p.m. job. But my soul said, “Wait.” After agreeing to meet later to discuss it—and a great deal of prayer and confusion in between—I met with their representatives. Within five minutes of talking with those wonderful people I felt the answer. Being my bold self, I told them I couldn’t do what they were asking, but I could do 12–3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as that’s when my baby napped. I still remember them looking at each other as one said, “Job share.” And that’s what happened. Three hosts instead of one, all doing it part time so we could focus first on our families.
Balance in motherhood is a fluctuating thing. But if we don’t have our priorities in place, we’ll find ourselves constantly being flung at the mercy of whatever fire is placed before us. Here are a few thoughts (not commandments) to help you get and stay more balanced.
Know when and how to be on top of your game. Sister Julie B. Beck suggested finding the times in daily life when you need to be at the “top of your game.” Often, that’s the late afternoon shift, when everyone is typically tired, hungry, and grumpy (definitely not you). But, she said, if you can prepare on the other two shifts and not use all your energy, you can be in tune and better meet the needs of your children at their most vital time. I’ve found this to be true, and now intentionally keep gaps in my schedule. This often requires using the dreaded word “No.” As you face endless volunteer lists, PTA assignments, carpool schedules and more, prayerfully practice saying, “No.” Keep your family time first and foremost, even if there’s nothing officially structured in the space. Families need downtime, alternating busy days with mellow ones. If we don’t, we’ll likely be stressed, and the time we do get with our family will be spent in frustration. Just this month, just this year, allow yourself to be involved in fifty percent less and observe the outcome. Those who have tried this have found more peace, more true quality time, and more enjoyment in being present.
Set appropriate boundaries. As mothers, we are the Energizer bunnies—we keep going, and going, and going. Or allowing impolite behaviors, lackluster obedience, or disrespect. One day, three of my children followed me to my bathroom and then waited outside the door. After politely asking them to go—several times—I finally said in exasperation for them to leave for my privacy. When I opened the door, the dog was waiting for me. Motherhood is constantly about setting clear and appropriate boundaries, calmly and repeatedly. But first, listen to your children’s responses then consider your own. Do you need to be more clear, more consistent? Perhaps say, “I respond to please and thank you,” “If you can calmly share your thoughts, I’m ready to listen,” or “Could you repeat that in a quieter voice?” My children express appreciation for my cooking at every meal. Why? Because if they complain, they get a double portion. Don’t play personal limo driver to each child. If my children forget a school paper they know the first time is a freebie. After that, they either pay me to bring it or exchange it for a chore.
Encourage your children to respect the office of motherhood—it’s the most vital role a woman can fulfill (remember, Mother Eve was so named before she’d ever borne children). But they won’t treat it with respect until you do.
Juice up the spiritual side. Sometimes we don’t understand how to best get that spiritual boost in our children’s busy lives (especially without the eye rolling and sibling pinching). But prayer, scriptures, and paying attention to promptings don’t have to be rote or stressful. Make it fun! Our family uses Scripture Strips every morning to springboard a quick discussion. Someone pulls a strip of paper with a typed scripture on it from the jar, reads it, and opens it for discussion (encouraging more varied responses than “Jesus loves us,” which translates to, “I’m focused on my cereal”). Delight in several family prayers each morning as children leave at various times. And if you’re running to and fro, have them listen to a general conference talk in the car or an impromptu testimony sharing. Whether you act out scripture story charades or share an article from The Friend, mix up your scripture study with variety and fun and something’s bound to sink in.
Balance is not a destination; it’s a process. And as we practice clear principles, our lives reflect more peace, simplicity, and joy. Try one of these principles and let me know how you created better balance in your motherhood this fall.
Connie Sokol is a mother of six, presenter, and author of Faithful, Fit & Fabulous. Enjoy her blog and tips, and share your thoughts at 8basics.com.