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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Striving for Balance

As women we all wear many hats. We are our mother’s daughters, our husband’s wives, our children’s mothers, our bosses workers, sisters, friends, mentors, and on and on. But what are we to ourselves? On life’s priority list, where do we, and our writing, fit in?

We invented multi-tasking before there was language. As soon as primitive woman figured out she could feed kindling into a fire with one hand while she had a baby perched on her hip, both jobs became hers, and ultimately ours.

So, are we destined to do only for others? Is there even one minute in the day we can call our own?

I know you’ve heard it before, but I’m going to say it again, and this time you’d better listen, chickies. YOU CAN’T TAKE CARE OF EVERYONE ELSE IF YOU DON’T TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. (shouting intentional). Unfortunately we can’t just tell our families, bosses and communities they’re on their own and head off to our own personal islands. We must strike a balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves.

How do we start, you may ask? First, by understanding that we are not bad people for wanting something for ourselves. Humans need solitude to think, to decompress, to regroup. Are you setting aside enough time for yourself? You may need to take out a piece of paper and draw a twenty-four hour clock on it, and block out where your time goes, or you may need to enlist your in-house time-suckers (and I say that lovingly, because there’s nothing more beautiful than a healthy, happy family) and negotiate some “me” time. Ask yourself, do you really need to sit on the couch with your mate while he watches a documentary on the History Channel? Do you really need to watch the children/grandchildren color?

I’m not suggesting you declare your independence by camping out on the front lawn or ignoring household chores until the refrigerator is empty and there are no clean clothes in the closets. What I’m suggesting is that you decide on a course of action, perhaps one-half hour each day or one evening each week for yourself. Don’t demand this time, negotiate it over a family dinner or special dessert. Your hard-working spouse or significant other may have been wondering how to ask the very same thing for himself.

Even if you’re single you may need to have this talk with yourself. If you come home from work each day tapped out from being available for any and all disasters for eight or nine hours straight, or care for family members or neighbors, you know what I’m talking about. You may need the same schedule of “me” time as everyone else. Those who write full-time or work out of the home may be laboring under the illusion that all their time is “me” time, but don’t fall into that trap. Everyone has responsibilities, everyone has challenges (busted pipes, car trouble, clogged gutters, etc.). You still need time for creative endeavors.

Once you’ve negotiated what you need, go at it with enthusiasm, but remember, there will be interruptions and the details may need to be renegotiated as time goes on. In the meantime, use that ability to multi-task that our long-ago mothers perfected: listen to craft tapes or CDs while cleaning; dictate into a lapel mike attached to a digital recorder while walking; ask your significant other to help you act out a tricky love scene.

Everyone has the same twenty-four hours each day. Why not use some of them for yourself? We’ll all be better off for it.


At 9:55 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Here! Here! Karen. Very wise words, particularly for women who are not married and raising families. I'll bet it is hard to perceive that your time is given away when you need it for yourself.

I find that the internet poses even more demands - emails to answer, blogs to read :-)...we (I) can fritter away our writing time by the demands of the internet. So add the internet to one of those things you need to balance!

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Your blog couldn't have come at a better time. Earlier this morning I was planning out my day based on what I needed to do to get my house ready for my daughter's slumber party, other household duties, and my own writing time. The writing time tends to get the hits, but it shouldn't.

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Karen said...

You don't need huge amounts of time to make progress, either. As I learned during my chapter's "100 Words for 100 Days" challenge, it's possible to knock out 100 words in five minutes, if you're motivated and know where your story's going. Even doing just a little keeps you moving forward.

The same might be applicable to housework, but I'm unlikely to try that one out any time soon. I'd rather eat tree bark than lose my housecleaner!!! I'd much rather write than clean the toilets.

At 10:48 AM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

Oh, Karen, great blog. I've actually gotten pretty good at making me time, having recognized that I need it. And the family has learned to appreciate that I'm much more positive and energetic when I take that time. Everyone wins.

And Diane, you couldn't be more right. The Internet can be a huge time thief. That and TV. I could certainly improve my discipline in both those areas.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

Hi Ladies,
A very timely post. The start of school impresses itself as a time of renewal, whether you have kids in school or not.

my thoughts on striving for balance, because I'm a Libra, and we're always struggling for it:

I always thought you could have it all, if you worked really hard. Age and experience have taught me that's not always so.

I could not get everything done when my 2nd child was home. Even now that he's in school full-time, I'm catching up on what didn't get done when they were home over the summer. I wouldn't trade that time with them for anything, but I did have to get away and go write or go do my writing stuff.

What I learned was that I could do some of what I wanted. For example, I focused on my children's writing, because it fit better into the short bursts of time. My house would be somewhat clean half the time, and without a maid, that had to be okay so that I could write and exercise, too. What I've found I don't like is email. I'd rather pick up the phone and get it over with or laugh for real instead of LOL.

So what's worked has been to go with the flow and recognize that change can't be stopped and to find my way in the direction I'm going.

So I'm deleting 1400 emails by the end of the week and starting fresh ; I'm purging backlogs of magazines by putting them on the "free" table at my husband's work; and I'm picking up a longer work to start on while I work out the kinks in my new picture book series.

I have to remind me, and my kids, I am an author. One day soon, I'll get paid for this writing I do that I love so much.

I like the 100 words a day challenge. I think I'll take it :)

PS check out my revamped blog on having a more passionate life

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Great blog, Karen! I didn't learn to take me time until recently. Taken time for myself is the absolute best thing I ever did for myself. And I don't think there's such thing as too much me time. Yeah, people need to eat and clothes need to be cleaned, but my kids are older now and my kids and my husband can cook some meals, too.

I have sooo many friends who do everything for everyone else and never do what they want to do. These people are not happy. It's very sad. Life is short!

At 8:36 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I have to agree, O Divine One, because I am widowed and have no children it is easy for people to assume I have all the time in the world to do every little thing THEY need me to do. It even comes across as "helping" me to occupy my copious spare time! LOL

I had to learn to put my foot down and say "NO!" I tell them the only way to get out of a job I HATE is to spend as much time creating a job I know I will love (writing for a living) as I do at the job that threatens to turn me into a postal worker complete with AK47 and ugly shoes!

Now that so many positive things are happening, my extended family - Mom, the brothers, the SILs and the niece and nephews - are far more understanding when I say I want to spend my days off writing, rather than spend every single one of them driving to Birmingham to visit them.

One of the things that DOES threaten my balance is this beat up old mobile home I live in and five acres of land that don't repair and / or landscape themselves. I feel guilty sometimes that I am spending time writing when I should be working on the plumbing! LOL

I think I need to chart my time and that way I won't feel quite as guilty or torn.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Louisa, you reminded me of one rare weekend years ago when life was much more hectic. My husband and kids were all going to be away and I was going to be blessedly alone to do whatever I wanted to do.....until my extended family took pity on me and invited me to dinner so I wouldn't get lonely. I did not have the heart to tell them no.

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

Even though it's now just "me" and DH, I still need "me" time. Time when I don't worry about the piles of papers that need to be sorted beyond pulling out the deadline-approaching bills. Even this morning, I was doing my normal 30 minutes on the recumbent bike routine, reading a favorite author. My exercise time was up with about 20 pages to go. If I'd come home (no way do I keep exercising!) and sat down and finished those pages, that's "me" time, because I've got all my normal household and writing responsibilities. Or do I wait until my sporadically scheduled 3 PM "me time" break?

When the kids were little, Sunday mornings were deemed "Big Paper Days" and DH was in charge. Kids were instructed he was the go to guy, and I would hole up in the bedroom.

And talk about selfish "Me" time. You know what Mother's Day was at our house? It was the day DH took the kids AWAY. Anywhere. Movies, fishing, anything. I had the house to myself, and they'd come home and cook dinner. True, we had some strange meals, but I had an entire day to do what I wanted when I wanted. And if I wanted to do the laundry, I could do it without a sense of "having" to do the laundry.

At 8:29 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Terry, that's what I would want for Mother's Day, too. Sounds like we're on the same boat when it comes to ME time! :)

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

Theresa, I figure I'm Mom all the other days, 24/7, so why not get a break? Hubby didn't mind because he didn't have to shop. Although he always used to say, "But you're not MY mother."


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