I’m frustrated. I really want to get more balance in my life–to have the life I imagine on a daily basis, where there is time in the afternoon for a cup of tea or time in the morning to sit and read the paper. But I’m starting to think that my problem may not be mine. It may just be a matter of mathematics! Let’s consider the numbers!
If you figure there are 7 days in a week, and each day has 24 available hours, that’s 168 hours allotted to us each week. If you take away 40 hours for work, minimum, you get 128 left, but I would have to add in an extra five a week, at least, for the extra hours that go into work each week. So, that brings us to 123. Then, if you figure tht most normal people (myself excluded) spend at least 40 hours sleeping during the work week and 20 on the weekend, that brings our remaining hours to 63. (And I have to take off the same number of hours here, since I never do a damn thing in the middle of the night that could be considered either balanced or productive–and I would be sleeping, if only I knew how!).
Next, if you take off 21 hours/week for meals (3 hours/day, since I’m including prep time, eating time, and cleaning up time), that brings us to 42–(or, 44, if you add an hour or two back for the mornings where your daughter is eating her bowl of cereal and bananas in the car on the way to school!).
If you figure you drive at least an hour per day just going places–school, work, the grocery store, to pick up someone somewhere–plus there’s got to be at least another hour per day spent doing stupid stuff that you have to do to get through life, such as calling to make doctor’s appointments (or to apologize for forgetting your doctor’s appointment) or working on your taxes or filling out the damn FAFSA or answering some stupid survey on the phone that you picked up because you don’t have Caller ID and then felt sorry for the poor college student asking the questions, you can take off another 14, leaving 28. And then, you might try taking off an hour a day for exercise, if you are really driven, but let’s say you’re normal and average only about 4 hours a week, on a good week, so now you’re at 24. And you’ve got to take about five extra hours off on the weekend to catch up on everything you couldn’t do during the week, so you end up at about 19.
So, that means that, best case scenario, you’ve got about a 2.7-hour window each day to talk about life, share a glass of wine, figure out how each member of your family is coping with any particular stresses they might be facing at the moment, wonder about your spiritual beliefs, read a book, write a book, dream about the future, goof off, watch t.v., figure out if you’re happy in your current job, look for another one, volunteer with your favorite local charity, hike in the woods, write someone a real letter (hah!), catch up with a friend on the phone or in person, or plan a vacation.
It’s time to face it: the numbers just don’t add up. Apparently, you can’t have a perfectly balanced life of the kind they describe in self-help manuals–which makes me understand why:
1) My house is a total mess (note that house cleaning didn’t even make my initial equation, since I’m happy to say that, in the quest for balance, I successfully and guiltlessly gave that one up long ago
2) I never see my husband except in passing
3) I can’t get my taxes done
4) I sometimes feel out of touch with friends
5) I long for a vacation and
6) I fear I’ll drop dead early, and from some stupid, distracted death like falling down the stairs because I was trying to save time by carrying a load of laundry that is piled so high that I can’t see over it, or from a car wreck caused by my being asleep at the wheel, or from just a plain old stroke because I never had time to take a daily aspirin!
I guess there are two possible responses: I can keep knocking myself on the head for being a lousy housekeeper, lousy mother, lousy fill-in-the-blanks, or I can think like a mathematician and move on past guilt to where I say, “Okay, I’m doing the best I can do, and that’s going to have to be good enough.”
I’m going for the second option. So here’s my new resolution: I’m going to try, as much as I can, to take the unbalanced moments with a larger grain of salt while also trying to make myself enjoy every single moment of balance I can get–the five-minute talk with my high-school daughter in the car, while driving her to school, or the cup of coffee with my husband in between meetings, or the stolen lunch with one of my other daughters, or the rare late-night talk with my son when he’s home on vacation, or the two minutes of reading a book before I fall asleep at night. Since these appear to be the best I’m going to get, at least for now, my goal is to really knock myself on the head and make myself remember to appreciate them.