Here’s the buzz word: Balance.
Work life balance. Parenting balance. Household balance. Social life balance.
Is anyone feeling a bit dizzy?
I recently listened to journalist and author Mia Freedman speak on this topic. She’s written a book called ‘Work Strife Balance’ because she thinks the idea of a perfect balance in life is a pile of poo (she literally had a picture of a poo bitmoji when she spoke about this).
This got me thinking, how do our expectations on ourselves balance up to our real commitments and obligations? Must we be on this never ending see-saw, trying to keep equilibrium, or can we confidently step off for a while and think ‘Do you know what? That see-saw can exist without me, someone else can have a turn.’
My husband used to say to me that no one is irreplaceable and I stongly disagreed. I didn’t think my Year One class could cope without me. I didn’t think my household could run smoothly without me. I didn’t think my kids could survive without me.
So, I put this theory to the test. And guess what? The class still achieved learning outcomes. My house continued to stand. And amazingly, my children were still alive. (And annoyingly, my husband was right).
With this in mind, here are three reasons why it’s ok to put yourself first.
- We need to teach our kids that there is a season for everything, and it’s not always their season. Sometimes our attention needs to be with other people, including ourselves. Children need to learn empathetic skills, and this is how we teach them. Be explicit with your children so they understand why they are not always your number one. It’s OK to say ‘I can see you really want to go to your friends place today, but Grandma needs us to take her to the doctor’ or ‘I can see you’re feeling annoyed about missing footy training today, the problem is we need to help the neighbor with their broken fence so that their dog doesn’t escape.’ Some things take priority, and it’s only natural that your children will expect your priority will be them. However, by teaching them the value of flexibility, empathy and understanding – you are growing a resilient socially aware person.
- If you are not OK, you can’t help anyone else. There’s a reason why you put your own oxygen mask on first when the plane is going down… you can’t help others if you’ve got nothing left of yourself to give. Unfortunately, the relentlessness of parenting doesn’t always mean you can get that recharge time. What we can do though, is let our kids know that we are struggling. For starters, we are modelling how to rationally articulate our feelings which is what we want them to be able to. Letting kids know ‘I’m feeling very tired today because the baby kept me awake all night’ gives them awareness and consideration about the way they relate to us.
- We operate for the greater good. OK, so I said the world wouldn’t collapse without us, however so much of what we do is for our family, our work, our household. I have my own business which often means I’m out in the evenings. My purpose is to share skills and support other parents. If I didn’t prioritize this SOME of the time, I would be giving up so much of myself, my goals, my philosophies… it’s who I am. Sometimes what we do is so intertwined with who we are that we can’t separate it. If this means getting a babysitter, so be it (kids are resilient! And my babysitters play handball, which ticks a box with my kids).
It’s OK to feel like you haven’t got it all sorted… that’s called real life. If things are ticking along and everyone is happy – that’s worthy of a celebration! If things are feeling ‘stuck in the mud’ and constantly challenging you – sit down and address it through problem solving. Remember, everybody has a different life, different goals, different KIDS. Don’t feel like you need to keep that see saw balanced, because so often it’s not.
It’s your life… own it!