I’m back at work full-time after a 3 month maternity leave. This not only means I can no longer wear leggings and sports bras all day, but it also means I need to find a new form of balance. I have come to value that word: balance. It doesn’t mean I want it all; I simply want to feel like me needs are in check, along with the needs of my family. This is something we moms often fault ourselves for craving. I deeply believe this is non-negotiable. Happy wife, happy life, they say. Well, I say “balanced life, let go of strife.”
Balance looks different for everyone and it shifts at different times. I became accustomed to many routines while I was home with my kids for three months, which made for a relaxed sense of stability. I didn’t have the need to make school lunches the night before. Waking up early to workout simply meant rising at 5:30. I could cook fresh oatmeal or pancakes for my kids while still makeup-free. The baby and I would run errands early, come home and cuddle and nurse, and then I’d workout and/or do laundry and prep dinner while he napped. This routine provided me time to launch my fitness business, to launch my blog, and to launch my family’s new clean-eating lifestyle. Above all else, though, this leave provided me with balance.
I began to see myself again.
For 9 years, I’ve been Teacher. For 7 1/2 years, I’ve been Wife. For 5 years, I’ve been Mom. I no longer knew Pamela, the person I am at my core, the person who finds great joy in those three other roles. As a result, I lacked balance and patience and a bit of my voice. This was my fault alone. I consumed myself in the tasks of said-titles, in the day-to-day, and only occasionally put me first. My three new endeavors, coupled with the three I’ve had for years and do love so much, tipped the scale in my favor. I can be a great teacher and wife and mom and still foster my own personal development.
But I’m back to full-time working mom. I am a high school English teacher, a job that demands early mornings out the door and late nights grading papers. I am determined, however, to continue what I’ve started. My family will continue to eat clean, healthy meals. I will continue to fit in my fitness. I will continue to blog, at least twice a week. These three promises require some effort, planning, and time, but the benefits far outweigh the possible chaos.
My mom keeps telling me I seem complete, more settled, in the last few months. She’s right. I’ve been writing about how Kellen’s health changed me. A more accurate statement is that his birth changed me. I’ve always envisioned our family as it is now: me, Mike, three kids. The outnumbering of little people in our household actually gives me balance. It has completed a desire to grow our family, which has allowed me to really manage my household. This is what our forever will be. I want to make it vibrant, healthful, loving, and balanced.
Becoming more organized was one step in this process of keeping all I love and still feeling balanced. While on my leave, I achieved some organizational tasks that I’ve only talked about for years. I reorganized and cleaned out our garage freezer, I restructured our pantry, I cleaned out everyone’s closets and drawers and donated bags of clothes to Goodwill. I even started a collection bin of items for our neighborhood’s annual spring yard sale. I put together a household management binder. I’ve been creating a meal plan each week and structure my shopping list very specifically and cleanly around it. These are to-do list items many of you probably achieve regularly. I did not. I was an organized mess, usually. Now, I feel actually organized.
This organization and meal plan routine (which I have written about before) gives me such relief. Life is already full of unknowns and happenings that are out of our control. As a bit of a control freak, I’ve found calm having these procedures in place.
But now, it is all shifting. I need to find new balance while remaining true to myself, my family, and the promises I’ve made. This, like me, is a work in progress. I will aspire to prep as many meals as possible–lunches included–on Sundays. I will aspire to have my kids’ lunch boxes stocked and in the fridge every night for easy mornings. I will workout early or late in the day and work on my own writing and fitness business when I spend one-on-one time with my Medela. These little actions and few half-hours each day will give me peace of mind, and that sanity makes me a better mom and wife, even a better teacher. As a result, I’ll feel more energized and capable, less guilty and selfish in my choices. I will more joyfully extend myself for the balance of others because I took time for me first. I will make as many warm, cozy breakfasts in my crockpot as I can so my three-year old son–the world’s biggest breakfast lover and feeler of all the feels–starts his day with happiness and calm, too. I will make time to play school with my daughter, even if I am just the office secretary while grading my own students’ work, because this makes her day complete. I will take my time nursing Kellen, soaking up all the squeezes and all of his smell. And I will indulge in a nightly coffee with my husband, his favorite evening relaxation, while we watch a show or do a jigsaw puzzle or just clean up the kitchen side-by-side. Now that I have found my balance, I can ensure those I love can have their’s.
Reality will strike. Some days, my “I wills” may be rushed, but I will fit them in. I’ll schedule them if I have to. These are vital to my happiness and health, which makes them vital to the health and happiness of my family. I am not saying I want it all; I just want what my family and I deserve. It isn’t wrong to have a balanced life, especially as a mom. I finally feel I have the tools and the voice to make that possible.