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Balance, Shmalance: A Denver Doctor Mom’s Funny Take on Having it All

It’s not often that I quote Ashton Kutcher…well, I never have.  But a quotation from a speech he gave at some awards ceremony went viral on the web and I kind of like it.  He said:  “I believe opportunity looks a lot like hard work.”  I really like that.

I also believe in the sister principal:  “Balance looks a lot like chaos.” (That’s my version)

As a doctor, wife, and mother, sometimes I get asked, how do I do it all?  All I can think is: don’t look down, I accidentally put on 2 different shoes this morning.

Pondering Beets: What’s On Your Plate?

Everyone has heard, and probably spoken, the phrase “I have too much on my plate right now.”  I know I’ve said it hundreds of times in my life, but for some reason it’s really resonated with me lately.  I was talking with a friend about the concept a few weeks ago and that conversation helped me finally understand what it means.  Ever since this conversation with my friend, I’ve been evaluating what exactly is on my plate right now because I know for sure it’s completely full.  I’m talking no room for even one scrawny string bean.

So, I started thinking about all of these things on my plate, hoping that I could find some wiggle room:  kids, husband, job, the organization I’ve been building this year: Raising Little Heroes, marathon training, friends, household chores…Grey’s Anatomy (sort of kidding) and before I could finish the inventory, I started feeling overwhelmed because I realized that not one of these things is something I want to or can get a smaller helping of.  They are all vital to my happiness in this moment.  I felt frustrated because while I know all of these things are important to me, I couldn’t help thinking about the beets growing in my garden….

How to Balance It All (Yes, It’s Possible!)

balance scalesSupposing all priorities were created equal, your day may look something like this:

  • 4 hours at work,
  • 4 hours with kids,
  • 4 hours for hubs,
  • 4 hours blogging,
  • 4 hours for me; and
  • 4 hours for sleep.

But guess what? All priorities are not equal. Plus,

What kind of mother ARE you?

When it comes to motherhood, there are martyrs and there are saints, those who bend over backward and those who are not quite so flexible, as well as all points between. There are Marion Cunninghams and Carol Bradys, Marge Simpsons and Peg Bundys, each figuring out her own way to balance mommy’s needs with the needs of those whom she loves.

What about you? Answer these four questions.

1. You have a chance to meet your favorite author who in town for a book signing — a to-die for experience! The problem is, the signing is at the same time as your daughter’s soccer game, in a different part of town. You can’t make both.

a. You go to the book signing — you’ll catch next week’s game for sure.
b. You go to the game. It’s important that your daughter knows how much you  support her.

2. It’s your birthday, and you get to choose the restaurant. You pick:

a. Date Night. Get a sitter and do it up good!
b. Family night at Olive Garden or TGI Fridays or Tres Margaritas. A cuisine you like at a restaurant that’s kid-friendly.
c. Chuck E Cheese. Your kids will be so happy and that makes you happy.

3.  You’ll spend the extra “Fall back” hour on Sunday:

a. sleeping, reading, or indulging yourself somehow.
b. getting caught up on your To Do List.
c. playing with the kids, of course.

4. Your spouse has a work trip planned to a city you’ve always wanted to visit. You can get there on frequent flyer miles and the hotel expenses are paid for by the employer. You:

a. immediately begin researching flights and brainstorming babysitting options (not necessarily in that order).
b. sigh deeply and wish you could get away, but it would just be too disruptive for everyone.
c. go about your business. Get away? Why would you want to get away?

This is the part where you think I’m going to say what the answers mean, isn’t it? That if you answered mostly A, you are self-centered and need to grow a heart, or that if you answered mostly C, you have lost yourself and need to grow a pair of, um, warm fuzzy socks. For yourself.

But no, I simply want to ask you if your answers accurately reflect your values. Do you do what you want to out of love and joy? Or do you find yourself acting out of duty and obligation some of the time? much of the time?

What are some ways that YOU balance the needs of those you love with your own needs? Do you identify more with Mother Teresa or Mommie Dearest (or one of the infinite other points on the spectrum)?

What kind of mom are you, and what hints can you give about getting everyone’s needs met (including your own!)?

Lori is the daughter of a Carol Brady but somehow developed into a Peg Bundy. She writes regularly at about living mindfully and parenting in open adoption. Every chance she gets, Lori leaves her children Tessa, 10, and Reed, 8 in the care of Carol while she goes on business trips with her husband.

Image: Vlado /

Mother Nature and her semiannual day of balance

If you’re old enough to remember the old Elitch Gardens, you are old enough to sense that seasons seem to rush by more and more quickly with each passing year. In just 4 days, it will finally be Spring again. At 5:21 pm on March 20, the spring equinox* will be upon us, as we in the northern hemisphere will reach the halfway point in the ascent from winter to summer.

Trivia question of the day:  do you know the difference between a maze and a labyrinth? The best explanation I found is that “a maze is multicursal, or a series of paths with dead ends and can be quite frustrating. A labyrinth is unicursal, meaning it has only one path and no dead ends.”

Maybe you are now asking yourself: What do paths around the sun have to do with paths through a labyrinth? And why is Lori bringing them up now?

Because you might want to consider a meditative way to mark this special point of the earth’s path around the sun. Whenever possible I spend solstices and equinoxes* in a labyrinth on a walking meditation. Doing so allows me to feel the rhythm of Mother Earth and her place with Father Sky. Here is a diagram I carry in my head:

The wave represents energy itself (vibration and ripple are two other physics and metaphysical terms), and it reminds me of the significance of the parts of the cycle: the two extremes and the midpoints. You could superimpose the four weeks of a menstrual or moon cycle here as well.

March 20 marks the day the earth is at the in-between point. A time of subtle shift. A time to become fluid and open to the path ahead. A time of rebirth, of promise, of growing light.

As I walk the labyrinth, I feel a few moments of connection and peace. I offer gratitude for the early signs of return to life, and I offer condolences to freaks of nature people like Amber, who mourn the passing of winter.

A deliberate and mindful walk into and out of the labyrinth can take 20-30 minutes, and doing it on a celestially meaningful day seems to supercharge any intentions I have during the walk.

So even if you can’t walk the old Elitch labyrinth with me that day, do try to take a moment to notice the shift and contemplate this day of balance for Mother Earth, Mother Nature, and mothers everywhere.

* Cheers to our readers in the southern hemisphere who will greet their vernal equinox that day.

Images: © May be used with attribution and linkage.