We talk a lot about life-work balance. But parents especially hit times of intense juggling, and when all those balls are up in the air and we’ve found some strange rhythm that keeps them there, then we are loathe to let go.
If a ball drops
Yes, if one balls drops, we will have to stop the juggling. Imagine.
Or we could just stop, set them down, see which one might go…and then take them up again. Find a new rhythm.
Come on — we know when one has to go.
The trick is, trying to figure out which ball. And it is impossible to consider this question when you have them all up and in motion. Sometimes, there is no other way to find an answer to this question without setting them all down.
STOP the juggling
This is about giving yourself time to breathe, to evaluate.
It’s too easy to convince ourselves that all of the balls are of equal importance. But open your mind to the idea that the balls are, in fact, not quite equal.
Yes, it might feel like the Dramatic Climax moment in a movie, the point at which the protagonist has to choose between two wonder-filled things…or two horrible things. (So much more difficult than choosing between good and bad — if only life were so easy!)
But let’s take a real look at these things you’ve been flinging and circling around. (I could add the word “mindlessly,” having been there too often myself.)
I think about the time in my own life when I was pregnant with my first son, studying in an “honors” program at university. This program required me to stay with a 6 course load; if I dropped one course, I had to drop the program…which I could not do, because it was a program with extensive research-paper-writing AND no final exams…and my due date was the day after the winter term ended…so that carrot of “no exams” was…well, a sizable carrot to go after. You can see how the “balls” were all connected? And. And. And…
On top of that, because I’d been self-employed for a number of years, I was not eligible for maternity pay. I owned a small hair salon, and worked around my full-time studies. I continued to work at least two days a week through the pregnancy to pay off debt and try to save a bit to see me through my early months of parenting…
I was into my second trimester when I found myself in tears day after day for over a week, just exhausted. I had books stacked in my bathroom for reading time. I felt guilty taking an afternoon nap, but my body didn’t give me a choice. (Good for it! As should be.) And I began to feel the same — guilt — over the tears. What sort of mother was I going to be? With all this negative stuff, I could not see….
A way out
And then I had an insight. Something that had never occurred to me. The one, the only piece that I could let go: my grades.
Who said I needed high grades? I needed enough to pass, obviously. I did not want to find myself repeating any classes. But if I could do “well enough” — that could be enough.
I assessed in this way:
- not being pregnant was not an option
- quitting school was not an option. Neither was quitting one class.
- quitting work was not an option. (My hours were already down to the fewest I could do)
- I’d already cut time with friends and family
- so that left me with what I came up with: let grades go
Given the limitations of the pregnant attention span, reportedly seven minutes in duration, another “ball” I could adjust would be to come up with essay topics that really caught my interest.
Do I need to say that these mental adjustments on my part were not easy? But I fixed my mind on them — they were superior to daily tears — and found my path.
Assessing your juggling balls
- write them out, name them: what are they? Dig deeper, beyond the obvious
- do not see them as all being equal! Remind yourself, some have to be more significant than others. What can you truly not stop? What do you have to keep up in the air?
- list that or those. See what you are left with
- if you cannot determine this, sit down with someone who knows you well, and share this process. Ask what they see. You don’t have to accept their answer, but it might be useful
- find at least one ball to drop. Don’t hesitate to set them all down, long enough to see them for what they are, to make a decision, and to let one go before you pick them back up again.
Find that new rhythm.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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