When the scales of life tip too easily

A friend asked me yesterday if my work/life balance was going as well as it sounded like in this blog. “Yes,” I said. A fuss-free newborn and part-time work schedule has provided us with a pretty sane household. “But it’s a delicate balance.” And last week, the first week I’d hoped to fully dive into our new family schedule, I realized how easily it can be thrown off.

First, the kids and I came down with colds. Thankfully theirs were minor, but I’m still sick. I forgot my husband had a three-day convention to attend in town, leaving me to single parent for two evenings. I decided to host a garage sale before the weather turned too cold, adding another straw to the camel’s back. Then I had a family emergency.

That’s when the camel’s back officially broke.

Sapped of energy and emotionally drained, the first thing I let go was the three weekly gym workouts I wanted to make a priority now that my OB has OK’d me exercise again. The laundry, dishes and other household chores were the next to go. Because I wasn’t on deadline, I was able to cut back my scheduled 12 work hours to seven — something I’m thankful I could do, but won’t always be practical.

I realized that the work/life balance I’d established for our family was too easily tipped. While we did encounter more than our fair share last week (some of our own doing, some unavoidable), any one of those things would have thrown the balance out of whack. Right now, our family life will only stay in balance if nothing goes wrong. And something always goes wrong. That’s life.

For some reason, in the midst of all this, I started thinking about an article I read awhile back in a parenting magazine, written by a mom whose family was chronically late. She sought help from a professional organizer/scheduler. The mom explained how they always set a time to leave that should get them to their destination on time, but they were constantly behind. The organizer asked her what her “load time” was. The mom had no idea what she was talking about.

The organizer explained that you need to allow the amount of time it takes for everyone to get on shoes, get out of the house and buckled into the car. If you start to load when you should be leaving, you’ll always be late. So if your arrival time is 8:30 and your leave time is 8:15, your load time might be 8:05.

I began wondering what other “load time” principles I could apply to our life to help achieve equilibrium. I’m hoping two books currently on my nightstand, “Simplify Your Life with Kids” and “How to Raise a Family on Less than Two Incomes,” may offer some suggestions.

On Monday, I seemed to get some of the balance back, working two hours in the morning, and getting almost all my chores done in the afternoon while the kids napped. I still haven’t been back to the gym, but the four of us went for a walk that evening.

Then one of the pets peed on our bed, soiling the comforter and sheets I’d just washed that day. Ugh.

Maybe I need to accept that complete balance isn’t possible all the time. Maybe what matters is that it evens out in the end.