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Garlic powder and the quest for balance

Survival tips for busy families

by Tinkering  |  6404 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

By Julia from Tinkering

Several of my friends have brand-new babies, and visiting them has reminded me that parenthood is hard. Okay, I have a toddler, so this is not something I’m really liable to forget. But seeing that wild-eyed look of the first few weeks does bring back memories.

I fear that I may call down the furies by putting this in print, but in the past several months our family life has reached a manageable and apparently stable level of chaos. This shift from crisis to normalcy coincided with two important milestones: weaning and a reliably decent night’s sleep. But I credit it primarily to garlic powder.

Also frozen vegetables, pre-sliced deli meat, paper towels, disposable diapers, and a hundred other mundane shortcuts. This is not an infomercial for convenience products. It is an admission that, for the first time, I’m really learning that it isn’t possible to do everything well. Balance is a nice word, but the reality is not so pretty. I think what it comes down to is deciding what you really care about, and giving up on everything else.

Which sounds easy, and is, of course, the work of a lifetime. It’s surprisingly hard to know what really matters to you. I enjoy chopping garlic. I like its slipperiness, and the smell of it on my fingers long afterward. And I like cooking fresh, fragrant meals with it. I like being the kind of person who does this. But on weeknights, when all of us are hungry and harried, taking that time and dirtying those extra dishes just isn’t worth it.

Some of the decisions are pretty simple. Cleanliness in our house is at an all-time low. I’ve figured out exactly how much clutter and grunge I can tolerate without losing my mind, and that’s exactly how much cleaning we do. Our clothes are always wrinkled, our yard is always full of weeds, and our car is always overdue for some TLC. Which is fine with me.

But some of them are a whole lot harder. I care about regular exercise, and cooking from scratch, and tending friendships near and far.  I care about gardening, and reading, and sex. Everybody knows that life is a series of choices, but when discretionary time is narrowed to naptime and after bedtime the tradeoffs become comically clear. “What shall it be today, dear? An afternoon frolic, or putting in the tomatoes?”

The process of growing up is a gradual paring away of dreams, a pinching back of sprouts of yourself that never took off. For me, these tend to pop up in my New Year’s resolutions. I will learn an instrument. I will get really fit. I will practice yoga regularly. I will find a church community. I want these things, year after year. But I don’t want them badly enough–-at this point in my life-–to follow through on them.

About the Author

Julia Solomon for Tinkering

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4 comments so far...

  • I swore my kid would never eat chicken nuggets. Ha! I knew nothing then. You hit it spot on. The best advice we ever heard was in our baby class when we were advise to "lower our standards." We didn't realize how true that was. I only have one ... who is now 15 months. I look at parents of multiple children and don't know how they do it - how they find any balance or time. While it is all worth it, I can't imagine ever going through those first few bleary-eyed months with a newborn ever again (mine was colicky til 4 mths). I think you're right ... focus on a few things that you can accomplish that will keep you sane ... and remember that this precious time flashes by much too quickly to worry about some clutter.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jess on 26th February 2010

  • u did an excellent job at capturing how i spend my days. i love the analogy of paring down parts of your old self. i think part of my frustration is not embracing the new me and realizing that i have to let go of some parts of my old self in order to function effectively in this season in my life. thank you for such a concise and well-written piece. i plan to apply your logic starting TODAY!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by from the desk of on 25th September 2009

  • Wow. This reminds me of when my first child was born. I had always looked down my nose on prepared foods...until Nick was born. After months of sleepless nights, and a prepared dinner brought over by a well-meaning neighbor, I changed my tune. My non-cooking husband could now cook for me with ease and you know something? It tasted great because someone else had cooked!

    As for the clean and organized house, that went, too. The trade off is a thriving writing business, happy children who are not stressed out by a neat freak mommy (which is what I was b.k. - before kids), and a peaceful family life. Yes, we have our moments, but they are not related to finding time to be with each other due to chores. Yes, chores get done, but they don't ALL have to be done at a certain time. If the beach calls on one of the last good days of Autumn, we forget our Saturday cleanup for a while, pack a lunch and grab our beach chairs.

    Life is way too short. Enjoy!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Rosemary on 24th September 2009

  • So well put and so very true. Getting to the point where we admit we can't do it all? Some of the most painful lessons come in the route to getting there :). Thanks for the reminders!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Bethany Rule Vedder (SaneMom) on 24th September 2009