Written by Kara S. Anderson
Growing up, I was a competitive figure skater, which meant I spent hours each day on ¼-inch thin blades, tracing intricate figures, spinning in neat circles or landing jumps after multiple rotations in the air.
In addition to our time spent on the ice, my fellow skaters and I took other classes, including ballet. The idea was that jumps and spins were fine, but without grace and artistry, they were simple perfunctory.
Skaters needed to hold their hands in a pleasing way. They needed to tilt their heads just so.
And they needed to be flexible.
What I learned spending 12 years of my life freezing my toes off is that balance is good, but it’s nothing without its partner in crime, flexibility.
I think about this sometimes as a homeschooling mom.
We have so many roles – we are wives and mothers, and the souls of our homes. We are chefs and chauffeurs.
We often have to drop one thing to do another, and on our best days, we change gears quickly with smiles on our faces.
But other days … other days it all feels like a lot. It feels more like juggling than skating. We feel like we’re spinning plates and everything is crashing around us.
One of the questions I get most frequently from fellow homeschooling mamas is how to “balance” everything.
How do you work from home, they’ll ask, and still manage to homeschool your kids?
How do you find time to put out fun projects for your children, and still manage to get them to do the “real” stuff like math without grumbling?
How do you balance everything, they’ll ask.
And here’s the truth.
Grab a pen.
I don’t balance everything, and I don’t even try.
Instead, I try to stay flexible.
When you strive to be flexible, you’re making a mindshift. You can suddenly focus on what needs to be done most in a given moment – whether it’s parenting, spouse-ing, homeschooling, working or housekeeping.
And you don’t have to feel bad about focusing on that, because you know you’ll switch to something else when it needs to take priority.
It isn’t always easy, but here are a few things that help me:
It’s a lot easier to handle multiple things when there are fewer multiple things, right?
So over the years, I’ve learned to say no more and more. Learning about essentialism has helped me a lot. It reminded me that it’s OK to say no to good opportunities that aren’t a good fit.
It reminded me to focus on what we need most here, and eliminate the noise.
Along with saying no, I’ve learned to prioritize.
I make to-do lists, and I star the top three things I need to do. Some days, those top three things include items like:
- read a book with my kids
- watch a show with my husband
- buy flea medication
- put in an offer on a new home
- buy everyone new shoes
Other times my top three priorities for the day are all homeschooling priorities or all work or home or life priorities.
What I’ve figured out in 9 years of learning with my kids is that when it comes to to-do list items, priorities shift every day.
But flexibility is about shifting your attention temporarily without losing sight of your larger goals.
Of course your kids and their learning is always more important than doing the dishes. But some days in order to feel sane, you need to empty the sink before you dive into history.
Speaking of priorities, if you want to be flexible, you need to make caring for yourself a top priority.
I don’t necessarily mean manicures – I mean you need to care for your own soul, so that you can better care for all the people you love.
Do you know what fills you up? Do you know how to make yourself feel whole again when you’re overwhelmed or exhausted?
It could be exercise, meditation or prayer. It could be an hour alone with a good book. It could be a long chat with a friend, or a date with your husband, or karaoke night with your sister.
Whatever it is – it’s OK. It brings yourself back to a place where you can find your flexibility again.
Making the shift
When I said that I don’t strive for balance anymore, I meant it. I think perfect balance is a myth, like Pandora’s box or people walking out of Target with just the one thing they went in for.
But flexibility is easier.
Flexibility is about honoring the choices that make up your day, and not feeling guilty that some days don’t look exactly the way you planned.
Remember, balance is nothing without flexibility. Balance is moving from place to place, but flexibility is grace while doing it.
And when the two meet, there is beauty.