One of the hardest things for me is balance. No, I don’t mean walking a beam like some Olympic gymnast. I mean the kind of balance every woman struggles with–work, home, family, friends, and self. There are things we HAVE to do, like make sure the kitchen is clean enough to not turn our children into radioactive mutants, and things we WANT to do, like crack open a good book in a bubble bath without the audience of our toddler suggesting toys and asking about our anatomy. Somewhere in between the have-to’s and the want-to’s is the fact that chronic illness means there’s just simply less of us to go around. So what do we do? How do we do enough of the have-to’s to keep up with life and still have time and energy for enough want-to’s to maintain our sanity and well-being?
Oh, wait, you were expecting an answer, right? I wish I had it all figured out. But I do have some ideas that have brought me some peace in this balancing act. I’m not hiding anything, though. I lose my balance and fall flat on my face plenty of times, and on the really tough days, I’m lucky to stand up at all. But for the day-to-day of life with chronic illness, these suggestions should come in handy.
First, prioritize. And I don’t mean the Martha-Stewart-Perfect-Homemaker kind of priorities. I mean really take a look at your day and decide what is most important. This will change from one day to another. On Tuesday, my priority is getting my home ready to host our weekly small group. That means my bathroom needs to be clean and the living room vacuumed. Those things are non-negotiable. What is non-negotiable on today’s list might be nonexistent on tomorrow’s. Remember those have-to’s and want-to’s? It is absolutely essential that you realize that sometimes your top priority is rest, relaxation, and pleasure. On Thursday, my top priority is getting some down-time with my family. Whether we get some fast-food so we can eat together without cooking while the boys explore the play area, or watch a movie over our digital streaming service with some stove-top popcorn, #1 on our list is each other.
Second, enlist help. Yep, humility is a necessary ingredient of balance. Some of those have-to’s are just more than you can do on your own. For me, my first line of defense is my husband. We have a housework checklist laminated and color-coded, divided by day, so he can take a glance, see what still needs to be done, and lend a helping hand. That way I don’t have to lovingly and gently suggest what he help me with (that’s right, I never nag…ha!), and together our house is company-ready without either of us being overextended. And on those days where your #1 priority is lying down to get some rest, enlisting help will ensure that the rest of the have-to’s in your world get taken care of while you take care of you.
Third, plan ahead. When you’re feeling well, take advantage of the extra energy and enthusiasm to prepare for the inevitable bad days. One simple thing I do is to cook double-batches of whatever I have on the menu for supper. Then I freeze back the extra portions so we can have home-cooked, nutritious food even when I’m not feeling well enough to cook. You can even follow Step 2 by having your hubby nuke the frozen supper, and if he’s truly wonderful, he’ll even entertain Little Tyke so you can take that bubble bath without an audience after all.
Now I have the theme song of a popular preschool cartoon involving a bear and three special steps running through my head. In that show, in three tritely simple steps, all is well. The real world doesn’t exactly work that way. Like I said, I fall flat on my face plenty of times. But I do believe these three suggestions will help us all achieve a little more balance in our lives. Best wishes for clean kitchens and quiet bubble baths!
About Katie: Katie is a wife, mother of 2 young boys, a middle school special education teacher, and battles Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome aka EDS. You can read more posts by Katie on her own blog, For Such a Time as This
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.