Finding the Balance: Tricks of the Trade

It's the age old question all working moms are faced with: how do you find the balance between work and home life?

It's an easy question about a complicated subject.
And mostly my answer is: It sucks. I suck at it. I feel as though I'm failing at it 100% of the time. Not only am I constantly trying to keep the balance, but I'm juggling 500 balls at the same time as I'm walking this freaking balance beam.

But, in order to get through a week, I have learned a few tricks of the trade. As long as you promise you won't go selling these tricks as your own, I will share with you.

Trick #1 Bowls-o-Fruit
We have six kids...five of them boys. Two of them getting to be teenagers. So, as you can imagine, everyone is always hungry. We could go broke just feeding them, and if we let them they'd be in the pantry at all hours of the day eating cookies, crackers, and snacks. To minimize that messiness (I can't stand kids helping themselves to the pantry! They are boys and much like all the grown men I've ever known, they rarely notice when they spill.) the rule in-between meals is: drink a full glass of water first, then you can help yourself to the fruit bowls. I have a fruit bowl in the kitchen (more of a fruit box, I suppose) and a fruit bowl in the dinning room. I make sure they are filled with kid-size apples, bananas, and mandarins. They love the mandarins, but I often find peels under beds and in bathroom garbages. Better than candy and cookie wrappers I suppose.

Trick #2 Chores
As I've stated before, I utilize the kids for chores around the house. To teach them responsibilities and how hard work pays off...blah blah blah. Really? For my own sanity. Not only do they all make their own beds and clean up after themselves, but they also set and clear the table ALWAYS. Always. And if they want to buy anything they use their own money. We have chores that will earn a few bucks. Nobody gets an allowance just for being adorable. Gotta earn your money in this house, kiddos!

Trick #3 Laundry
I have stopped doing the laundry on the weekend. I wait and do two loads Sunday night, then one load each day Monday thru Thursday. That way I too can enjoy a bit of fun on the weekend instead of spending all day Saturday in the basement doing load after load of laundry. Ugh, I'd probably loose the pigment in my skin and go blind if that was the case.

Trick #4 Bathrooms
Like laundry, I do it all week. I have boxes of cleaning wipes and supplies in each bathroom and to avoid spending all morning Saturday cleaning the bathrooms, I wipe them down really quick every other day. And again, the boys!!! Yes, they miss, the mess, and it's gross the stuff I've had to clean. They are dirty and much of the time I make them clean their own bathroom at least once on the weekend. And the little ones' I've started asking them to wipe down the toilet after they pee. I've found #s 5 and 6 peeing at the same time laughing their heads off. Needless to say, it was a MESS. They cleaned up after themselves though. Good boys.

Trick #5 Looking Good
I work in a career, in a city, that requires me to dress professional every single day. As you can imagine, this is hard when you have kids. My shortcuts are: hair up in buns. Accessories make the outfit, so focus on wearing lots of scarves and big earrings. In the winter stick with boots and leggings. And, black is the new black. I have lots of black and gray basics. Nothing I need to iron in between wears or dry cleaning visits. Everything can be mix and matched. That way I can pull things out of the closet and put it on with my eyes mostly closed in the morning before I've had my coffee, and things still match. It makes for a blah color pallet, but ease in dressing.

Trick #6 Mornings
Outside of making sure I have coffee, I do also have a few shortcuts that make mornings easier. One: lay out all the kids' clothes for school the night before. Two: take showers and baths at night to save on getting ready time in the morning. Three: Simple breakfasts (Kashi cereal, Odwalla Superfood juice, and non-fat milk everyday), Four: no TV or play. Period. Otherwise their is stalling, fighting, and not-wanting-to-go-ing. Who needs that?

Trick #7 Homework
Dirty secret of mine: I let the afterschool program work on the homework. It's just so much easier!!! I check it, make sure it's done, run a few "test" questions at the kids to make sure they were the ones that actually did the homework, but after that, I am fine with not spending the 3 hours I get to see my kids each night on their homework. Through games, stories, reading and crafts we work on things they might need to have help with. Other than that, the freaking afterschool can take care of

Trick #8 Avoid the PTA and Other Mommy-Guilt
Okay, I would love it if we could afford for me to not have to work. I'd rather spend all my time hanging out with other moms that don't work and talk about the sad ones that do, the tragedy of how they are letting other people raise their kids, and judging them on most everything in their lives. But, reality is I like to work, and frankly I have to work. I learned early on: avoid standing around and talking to the other mommies at drop off time at school, in the kids' classes or at activities on the weekends, and above all, avoid the PTA LIKE A PLAGUE. It will only make you feel bad, make you feel guilty, and who needs that? I have enough going on, and I know I'm doing the right thing for my family, and a good thing for my family, by working right now. So, bugger off ladies. I don't need your guilt!

[Disclaimer: I do "talk" to my kids' friends' parents, and I don't ignore other parents. I'm nice, I just avoid standing around chatting with non-working moms I don't know. It makes me feel like crap. Something about the dissaproving look in their eyes, or the comments about my dress and how they "used to" get to look nice like that back when they were working...before they had kids. Yuck.] 

Trick #9 Minimize Extra-Curricular Mayhem
Oh, I know, our poor, poor children. We have them signed up for very little in terms of extra curricular stuff. Its just too much for everyone. We have one in band, one in Tai Kwon Do, and one in afterschool program. But all those things are connected to the school district and are put on by the schools, so we don't have to bus and drive kids around everywhere. On the weekends, they all play together--all day. That's about it. Very little in terms of play dates and weekend activities happens. But, they have built in playdates, and instead of taking them to soccer, we make them all put on their coats and go outside to explore and play for hours on end. I think they'll all be okay. If not, I've started saving the money that we would have spent on their extracurricular activities and put it into high-yeild savings bonds for their therapy when they are older. It's win-win.

[Again, I feel the need to add a disclaimer: those last two sentences are what we call sarcasm, and not true. If we actually had that much extra money, we'd totally go on a vacation with it, just the two of us, ALONE. The kids can pay for their own therapy, like I had to. I'm thinking Bahamas...]

So, as you can see. Balls flying everywhere. Balance almost always lost. Sanity definately gone quite a long time ago.

For now though, I go to bed each night looking back on the day, thinking: "Phew. Barely kept the balance on that one."

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