For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a terrible sense of balance.
When I was five, I can remember many trips up and down the driveway on my bike, my dad trotting along behind me with his hand on my back. He would let go, and I would wobble and crash. Again and again, I couldn’t seem to stay the course once he removed his steadying hand. I was frustrated, but he refused to let me quit trying. Finally, he sent me off on my own once again, and this time, I wobbled but remained upright. I exulted for a few glorious moments, the wind blowing my hair … before remembering I didn’t know how to stop and crashing once more.
It didn’t get much better as I’ve gotten older, either. I regularly trip up stairs, down stairs and across flat surfaces. I couldn’t figure out waterskiing, stilettos are terrifying and I’m a nightmare in a canoe.
The balancing act of motherhood is no exception. Trying to maintain happy and healthy kids, happy and healthy husband, happy and healthy career and happy and healthy self brings the same wobbles, crashes and flat-on-my-face moments as the rest of my life, only the stakes are much higher this time. My own happiness, and the happiness of those I hold most dear, suffers for my clumsiness. My lack of balance is my Achilles heel, the piece of motherhood that brings me to my knees over and over again as I trip over myself, crushed by the weight of all I carry.
I’m pretty good at maintaining one area. I can forgo everything else and throw myself into my children. I can be patient and attentive, creative and fun. But then I’m so drained that by 8 p.m., I’m ready to crawl into bed. Work will have to wait, as will Jon and that book I’ve been wanting to read. Or I can throw myself into work, but since I work from home that means I have children climbing the walls (and the couches and bookcases) and a still-neglected husband.
But, just as I’ve learned to stick to wedges instead of heels and that I belong on the shore and decidedly not on that tiny seat in that deathtrap they call a canoe, I’m learning my motherhood limits as well. I’m learning, slowly and painfully, but learning all the same, how much of myself I can pour into one area before the others suffer. I’m learning how to portion out myself to everything that lays claim to me, and yet still have something left that’s just mine, too.
I don’t always get it right. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ve born witness to my clumsiness – falling, tripping, stumbling. If you’ve been loved by me for any length of time, you’ve seen my clumsiness there, too. Texts unanswered, date nights postponed, ragamuffin kids.
But the beauty is in the balance, or so I’m learning. Fumbling my way, trying my best and allowing grace to cover the rest.