balance and intensity in family life

For many years while decision-making, I’ve fallen back on wisdom from my mom: “Moderation in everything.”

Often those sage words point me toward a path that will make sense for my whole family, whether I’m making out a learning plan for our school year, or trying to decide how clean the house really needs to be for my sanity, or monitoring my kids video games or phone time, or deciding how much time we can squeeze in on the beach this year. Wow, it can be tricky to decide where to go or what to do and how much of it will fit. But very often the best, most reasonable answer for our clan is not at the fringes of possibility but somewhere in the middle of that pendulum swing.

Balance in everything.Finding Balance in Motherhood

And yet, there is such intensity in family life, isn’t there? Those bedtime moments when everyone is losing it and you’re trying to bundle multiple little ones off to bed before the very.last.iota of your energy forsakes you.

Days where two or three or four kids need toting to all different places at the same time while also somehow you need to fit in grocery shopping and and a doctor’s appointment or a work meeting, plus laundry and dinner.

Days where a couple of different kids come off the rails emotionally and you set aside a lot that needs to be done for what really, really must be done right.this.minute. And the dinner burns.

Days where a child is sick and all you can do is rock and console and give baths and change sheets.  And the laundry piles high.

Times like that, there is no moderation or balance– or at least it doesn’t feel like it. It’s just triage –dealing with the very most pressing needs at that moment and letting the rest fall where it falls.

Those inevitable times of intensity in life can sometimes point out places where my family’s balance isn’t quite right. But not always. Sometimes they’re just signs of the season I’m in right at that moment.

When my house is full of tiny ones and I don’t yet have bigger ones to help, there will most certainly be times of day that feel chaotic and messy and not a bit scripted or organized. No matter how many systems I put into place (put the jammies and towels on the bathroom counter, set the sippies by the beds, follow a simple calm bedtime routine) there are just so many needs, and sometimes they’re gonna clash.

When my family is large and growing toward the teen years and I want to give each child opportunities and activities and time for friendships, I will be the car-mom in the afternoons and evenings, and sometimes I’ll wish I could split myself into two or three or four to meet those needs.September canning

When multiple teens are reaching lift-off phase, I’ll be spending lots of time talking through logistics and counseling regarding money, and doing practice-driving with kids, and showing kids how to write resumes, and coaching them to smile and shake hands and look potential bosses in the eye. It’ll take tons of mental energy and wisdom to think through ways to handle problem behavior while nurturing connection. I’ll be yawning late at night and looking at the clock and listening for cars to pull in the driveway and praying, praying, praying.

Then of course there are the times when projects create times of chaos. When painting bedrooms or canning tomatoes or sorting summer clothes takes up every speck of slack in your life and all manner of other things go by the wayside.

It doesn’t feel the least bit balanced in any of those moments of intensity, does it? It can feel like you’re just hanging by a thread, doing the minimum on most of life just to meet those most pressing needs.

Certainly the more balanced the underlying structure is, the more energy you’ll have to meet needs in those times of great intensity. A huge part of that balance is remembering my true priorities in life: faith in God and relationships with the people around me. But also I have begun to take comfort in reminding myself that in life, chaos happens. It just does. Doesn’t mean I’m doing a thing wrong. Doesn’t mean that I need to be casting about for some perfect fix to stop this from happening tomorrow.

No matter what I do, there’s gonna be time like this. It’ll all be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

So I keep breathing, keep praying, keep loving my people, and keep trusting that God has this all figured out.  That’s where the real balance is.

Come to think of it, my momma taught me that too.


  1. Toni Esparza says:

    Mary, I always learn so much from your wisdom. “…chaos happens. It just does. Doesn’t mean I am doing a thing wrong.” Wow. The freedom this provides, if we can absorb this!

  2. thank you for this post. you always seem to convey what I need to hear, when I need to hear it. that is why owlhaven will stay on my favorites bar 🙂

  3. This is so true. Balance is a great thing to strive for but chaos happens to all of us.

  4. Oh my word!! — YES! just YES!