Balancing It All
NOTE: This post was originally published at Brooklyn Berry Designs. By far the question we are asked the most is, "How do you balance motherhood and Mercy River?" Usually we just brush it off with a laugh and say, "Oh we don't do a very good job. You should see our houses and smell our vans!" But it just recently occurred to me that maybe the women who ask this really want to know. Not necessarily how WE balance it all, but how ANYONE can balance it all!
And so I ask...CAN we balance it all? Can we be great mothers and wives AND have acceptably sanitary homes AND provide nutritious meals AND coupon like crazy AND work full time AND volunteer at the school AND exercise regularly AND take violin lessons AND maintain a life-changing blog AND go back to school? Um, no. Please don't.
Here's the deal. We've HAD to find ways to keep Mercy River from taking over our lives. We're first and foremost wives and mothers--just like you. And just like you, we also consider our faith and our involvement in the church a pretty big deal. So where does that put Mercy River on the list? Third. Behind family and faith. And we decided years ago that if MR was truly meant to be, it was going to have to work in Spot #3. We've found that when we keep our responsibilities to our families and the Lord FIRST, we are blessed as a group. Now...all that sounds noble on paper, but actually DOING so takes quite a bit of planning, sacrifice, and discipline. So...allow me to present to you...
STEP ONE: IDENTIFY YOUR "BIG EXTRA"
Your list of your priorities probably goes something like this:
1) Your Family 2) Your Church 3) Your Big Extra (for me, this is Mercy River) 4) Your Little Extras (Things that are still important to you but get neglected a lot when items 1-3 are demanding. For me, this would be reading, exercising, girlfriends, etc.) What is YOUR "Big Extra?" Is it a job? Is it blogging? Is it training for a triathlon? Is it writing a novel? It's important to identify the one "extra" that could threaten to overshadow items 1 and 2 on your list. Identify it. Name it. Stare it in the eyeballs.
(And I would caution against having two "Big Extras" at a time. For me, this is when my house really starts to reek.)
STEP TWO: CONSIDER YOUR DESIRES
This step has helped me perhaps most of all. Elder Oaks gave an amazing talk that helped me evaluate what my true desires are. Have you ever really thought about this? What do you desire most? I can honestly say (sorry for the cheese) that my GREATEST desire to is to raise a righteous family. So. It's ok to have "extras" in my life...but I constantly evaluate if those "extras" are complementing or competing with my greatest desire.
I also use the "desire check" with the "extras" themselves. For example, WHY do I do Mercy River? A few months ago, when I was exhausted and burnt out (during recording season), I sat down and really thought about this. Do I do MR because I desire to one day be famous? No. Do I do it to make money? No. (Good thing, because it doesn't exactly pay the bills...) Do I do it to make some pretty songs? No. What I discovered was this: "I do Mercy River because I desire to be an instrument in the Lord's hands." Ever since I identified this, it has REALLY guided me.
For example, I wrote a song for the album that really meant a lot to me personally, but it wasn't receiving rave reviews from my producers. I struggled...wanting the song to go on the album...but then came back to my DESIRE. I would repeat to myself, "I do Mercy River because I desire to be an instrument in the Lord's hands." Did I need that song on the album to be an instrument in His hands? No. So I let it go. Identifying true desires gives you freedom to not sweat the small stuff anymore.
Think about it this way. Would we ever say: "I have this job because I desire to stress my husband out." "I do this hobby because I desire my children to watch too much TV." "I am blogging up a storm because I desire to be a really lame Enrichment Leader."
Nope. So...time for a gut check. What do you desire...and what is really happening? A good desire is great, but only if it does not threaten numbers 1 and 2 on your list.
STEP THREE: SET LIMITS
This is a biggie--you have to keep your Big Extra from taking over! With Mercy River, we have established some "guidelines." For example, we try to only do 3 performances a month, we take our kids with us almost everywhere, and family commitments trump MR.
Set limits with YOUR Big Extra. For example, "I will only blog when my kids are asleep." Or, "I will not run until my scriptures are read." Or, "I will leave my work at work." Or, "I will only scrapbook 2 hours a day." Limits will help protect your 1 and 2...so fiercely stick to them.
STEP FOUR: LEARN TO SAY NO
This one can be hard, especially if you are a people-pleaser. But just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD. Sometimes you just shouldn't sign up to take a meal in. Sometimes you just shouldn't take that free photography class ("but it's free!!!"). Sometimes you just shouldn't go to that midnight showing with your pals.
Here are a few things I've had to say no to: 1--Girlfriend "things." My girlfriends can attest that I'm the "loser" friend. The one that rarely attends book group or girls nights. This is a choice I had to make with such a "Big Extra" that already pushes my limits of being away from home. So...the girls get cut a lot. And yet, they remain my friends. They're awesome. 2--Sleep. No one loves sleep more than I do. But on super busy weeks, when MR is threatening to be in Spot #1, I get my hiney to bed at a decent hour and out of bed at the crack of dawn to compensate. Sometimes I have to say NO to my lazy body. 3--Other GOOD things! A few years ago I was asked to be PTA President. This is something I would LOVE to do someday--but I had already chosen Mercy River as my "Big Extra." And PTA President does not qualify as a "Little Extra." So I had to say no.
STEP FIVE: PLAN WITH THE FAM!
Without a weekly Family Council, the Permann family would come unglued. My husband and I HAVE to make time for this...otherwise we would have a week full of confusion and contention. More than once I've had to rearrange or cancel Mercy River "stuff" because my husband or kids had more going on than I knew about.
Family Council is a great opportunity to get a feel for how your husband and children are coping--and for you to take the pulse of your family's well being.
Ask yourself: A-What are my GREATEST desires? Are they righteous desires? Does my "Big Extra" complement those desires? B--Can I logically keep this "Big Extra" in Spot #3? C--Am I willing to neglect some of my favorite "Little Extras" to DO the "Big Extra"? (Because, remember? We can't balance it ALL!) D--Can I set realistic limits that are good for my family and learn to say NO when other things threaten to push those limits? E--Can I commit to a weekly Family Council to maintain order and balance?
If you answered yes to these questions, welcome to the world of responsibly managing a crazy life!! No, we can't have it all, but with a few steps and the guidance of the Holy Ghost, we CAN have it balanced and we CAN have it good. So go get 'em, Tiger.