Friday, January 7, 2011

Hat Juggling

No matter whether you're a parent or a teacher or a real-estate developer in the middle east, you're quite likely juggling a number of roles in your life.  Currently, I'm juggling roles of wife, mother, teacher, employee, and learner.  Each one of those roles has a subset within it as well, because each is a complex range of actions I perform and keep up with to ensure everything gets done.  As a mom, I ensure my kids have the material items they need, nutritious meals, are bathed, do chores and homework, get love and affection, have down time and work time and play time.  Of course that's a simplified version of what I do each day, but you get the idea.

Lately I'm feeling more like I'm juggling my head than my hats.  I've got a lot on my proverbial plate and am starting to wonder again if I've gotten in too deep.  You know the feeling where you didn't say no when you should have?  Yeah, that's where I am.

I've personally been learning a lot about my own limits in the last year or so.  I've learned that if I don't say no, the work will keep coming.  I've also learned that it's up to me to decide where to draw the line, because otherwise the day will never be done.  There will always be more laundry to do, more dishes to wash, more lessons to plan, more material to read.  I am the only one who can determine when I've reached my maximum capacity.

I've also learned that if I overload, which I quite frequently do, I'm a miserable person to be around.  I get anxious and moody and irritable, much like a stressed-out child.  I'm prone to temper tantrums (the adult kind--you know, where you snap at your spouse or call your friend to complain or stomp off to your bedroom and kick your shoes off your feet).  Most recently I've been learning that I do have a priority list.  We all do, and I knew consciously I had one.  But I didn't realize I had a subconscious one as well--one that includes things like playing with the dog and going shopping and making sure my children have school supplies and that the markers in the art center work.  Why is this important?  Because I've recently begun to understand that quite often, I'm the first person to be dropped from any and all priority lists, both conscious and subconscious.  And sometimes, when I'm overloaded, I don't make it on a list at all.

A lot of adults, particularly women, struggle to put and keep themselves on the priority list.  There's so many hats to juggle that it's easier some days (or months...or even years for some of us) to just toss our hat out of the equation.  But at what cost?  How can I give my children more when I'm completely drained?  Just as importantly, what message am I sending my children about self-care and about life?

I am so pleased to know so many moms and dads who are better equipped to juggle their hats these days without overloading; parents who model appropriate choices and limits for their children.  But for some of us, it's a regular struggle to figure out just how we'll get everything done.  For a person like myself, it's hard for me to put myself into the hat-juggling ring knowing that it means I might have to juggle somebody else's hat a little less effectively for awhile.

But it's a good thing to remember...that our roles as individuals are as important as our roles as anything else.

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