Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Balance, Part I

Well, my hubby's sabbatical is nearly done, and life in the Baart home is about to undergo even more major changes. Aaron has one month left as the pastor of our church, and we have just over two weeks to wait for our little one to join the ranks of our ever growing family. Then school starts in August and our Big Boy enters full-time school as a first-grader while our Baby (who I can no longer call a baby--though I suppose he outgrew that nickname years ago) starts preschool. Whew, does life ever slow down?

I hope not. I love the bustle and go--even if it means time marches on. There is a blessed, bittersweet joy in watching the seasons unfold as God continues to grant us days we don't deserve.

But this post isn't about my sappy, pregnant musings. It's about balance.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Making it Happen, and I explained that the question I am most often asked is: "How do you find the time to write?" Well today I want to talk about what I would consider the second most common question: "How do you balance the rest of your life with your writing?" I recently received an email from a young woman who I would say wants it all. She titled her email: Life, writing, and changing the world. Ambitious? Absolutely. And I absolutely loved it.

Guess what? I want it all, too. I want a loving husband and a great marriage, adorable children, an exciting career, fantastic friends, the time and opportunity to travel, the freedom to pursue the things I love (cooking, gardening, entertaining, photography, reading, etc.), a passionate relationship with God, the energy to pour into ministries that move me, and the never waning desire to leave the world better than I found it. Whew. I get tired just reading that list. But I long for all of those things... And I refuse to give even one up.

So, how do you balance a career with a family? Or a great relationship with your spouse and the time it takes to foster deep friendships? I'm no counselor or therapist, and I'm certainly not a motivational speaker. But there are a few things I've learned along the way that work for me. Take my ideas and make them your own. Twist them, bend them, or use them as a launching pad to structure your own philosophy of balance. Whatever you do, approach this topic with determination. I don't believe balance happens accidentally...

1. Realize that there is a season for everything. When Aaron and I were newly married, I longed to travel. We had big plans to backpack Europe, tour Southeast Asia, and visit the slums of India. I'm sad to say that none of those grand plans came to fruition. Yes, we've been to Alaska and Hawaii. We've even toured southern Spain and central Ethiopia. And though they were all wonderful trips, I still want to see more of the world. And you know what? I will. Just not now. Right now I have young sons and a baby on the way. Right now my responsibilities keep me close to home. And that's okay. I'm trying to enjoy every minute of the season that I am in right now. But you can bet that when Aaron and I are empty nesters, our nest will be truly empty! We won't even be in it... You can forward our mail to Bali.

2. Don't be afraid of a schedule. We artists are a flighty bunch. We like to fly by the seat of our pants and let inspiration be our guide. Great idea if you're independently wealthy and have the luxury of lounging around all day waiting for the muse to bless you with her presence. Not so great for those of us who, uh, have lives. If you want to accomplish much, you have to be disciplined. Personally, I schedule my writing time as if I have a job. The time is sacrosanct, and though I would love to ditch my writing some days to hang out at the pool with my friends and their kids, I don't let myself. There are other days for that. Family time is family time. Period. Writing time is writing time. Period. If I'm making a gourmet supper for guests, the computer gets turned off and put away. I make a schedule and I try my hardest to stick to it.

I think I'm going to stop there for the day. This is a long post already and I have more to say! Stop back on Thursday for Part II of this post. In the meantime, it's your turn! Are you a well-balanced person? Or does your life feel off-kilter? Why do you think that is? What (if anything) do you plan to do about it?


  1. I crave balance, but it's the one thing I seriously lack right now (well, balance and eight straight hours of sleep every night!). We have a huge age gap in our house - a sweet two-year old and an active 13-year old. Keeping up with my full-time job, chasing after the little one, and the neverending activities of a teenager are keeping me off-kilter. I never know if I'm coming or going, and it feels like I have maybe five minutes to myself each day.

    I don't know if anything but time will help me achieve that balance I crave, but one thing I am doing is making sure I get more time for me. A walk (alone), reading, writing, even watching Food Nework (my favorite channel!). I just need to tip the scales in my favor...even just a little bit.

    - Tracy

  2. It's difficult to find a balance... there's so many things that are beautiful, and wonderful, and enjoyable, and not enough time in the day to do them/experience them.

    I like what you said about there being a season for everything--something I've never really thought of before, because I've always thought of having it all, all at the same time.

    Looking forward to part 2!


  3. Tracy, I think you're totally right. Sometimes even a slight tip of the scale in our favor is enough to make us feel totally refreshed and blessedly balanced. I admire your ability to juggle a job, a teenager, and a toddler! Wow! I can't imagine how busy you must be, but I do know what it's like to long for even five minutes... A couple of the things I do are: 1.) I keep a book in the bathroom. And no, it's not for when I'm actually using the bathroom. Instead, when I'm feeling really frazzled, I tell the kids, "Mommy needs to be alone for a few minutes." Then I lock the door, sit on the edge of the bathtub, and give myself a few minutes of sanity. 2.) I make myself something. A cup of tea, a mug of hot chocolate, a quick snack. And as long as the water is boiling or I'm slicing an apple, I make the kids do a solitary activity. No bugging mommy for five minutes! 3.) I go on regular dates with my husband. Sometimes people think we're crazy for getting a sitter and leaving the kids, but I'm more interested in a good marriage than in what other people think. Anyway, just thought I'd share! Good luck to you as you try to find some walking/reading/writing/Food Network time! (BTW, I love the Food Network, too!)

    Heidi, it took me a long time to accept that my life is going to be filled with seasons. There finally came a point when I realized that I was grasping everything like a little kid with fistfuls of candy--I was crushing my own dreams by trying to hold them all simultaneously. Letting go was one of the most glorious things I've ever done... :)

  4. It's balance or bust for me. I identified with all of the things you wanted to do, Nicole. I could spend days just reading; take trips for the thrill of the 'photography competition' that ensues between me and my husband; or spend all my time with close friends as this is one of my highest priorities. But balancing all these things with a journalistic career is tough. Then I have to add in a chronic illness that can change everything very suddenly. It's easy for me to feel like I'm spinning out of control.

    I recently decided to change my entire day around. I am so NOT a morning person and usually 'wake-up' while on the computer, catching up with emails and on facebook. Often I don't start 'working' until early afternoon.
    Now I'm spending more time praying at the beginning of my day and on Facebook at the end. It's a better, healthier schedule for me.

    Of course when tennis is on...like Wimbledon, well, there goes that plan for a few weeks :-)


  5. I just recently came across this blog after reading "After the Leaves Fall". I enjoyed it and admire the work you do internationally also. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to catch a glimpse into the personal and professional life of a person who is accomplishing their goals. This blog on balance is helpful, your post as well as the others comments come at a time I am learning the importance of balance and also desperatly in the need of discipline to be balanced and accomplish the things my family desires. Thanks for the post!

  6. Nice to hear from you, Doris. :) I can totally relate to the whole morning person thing... It's not who I am naturally, but over the years I've grown to love the morning. There's something really special about starting the day with the sun. It's a much healthier pattern for me, too.

    Jody, I'm glad you stopped by! I'll be talking more about balance on Thursday--if I don't have anything new to add to the discussion, you can bet my readers will! It's a brilliant group of women who graciously take the time to read my blog. I'm continually learning from them. :)

  7. I'm horrible at balancing and scheduling myself. It seems easier for me to stick to a schedule that's mandated by work and school. If I try to schedule another job-type figure into my life (aka writing) it often gets put on the back burner, and by back burner I mean it's taken me three years to write about book that I've only accomplished to start and re-start and re-start and re-start. I have yet to finish a first draft, which is really depressing, but at the same time I know I will never give up on this story until it is fully written just for the sheer fact that I've stuck with it so long without becoming disinterested, which is something that would've happened to me in high school. I like knowing that I'm not afraid of commitment and I try to use that to my advantage. No matter how harrowing this journey of writing my first ever serious book may seem, I at least can feel confident that I won't give up on it. I've found that virtually impossible in the past. No matter how hard I try and no matter how many times I tell myself, I will not, can not, let go of these characters and this story. It will come out of me if I have to beat the words out of my fingers with a wooden spoon.