Seeking a balance

First published Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday evening in this house means one of two things – either a peaceful winding up of the weekend, or a round of seemingly endless chaos as three noisy children launch into full on hyper mode resulting in bath time making the bathroom more like a wet room, followed soon after by the deployment of various delaying tactics on their behalf as they try to stall the inevitable bed time. Various different approaches have been tried to make this particular evening of the week run more smoothly but as yet to little avail.

That said, this weekend, for what is almost certainly the first time this year, the boys have been able to play outside, in a strange phenomenon known as sunshine, and the cul-de-sac at the top of the street has been filled with children playing football, running, riding bikes and scooters, and generally doing what kids do best, namely being noisy. It has been refreshing to see them all outside playing, imaginations creating empires and dens, rather than inside glued to electronic devices, little minds becoming oblivious to the outside world.

It seems increasingly difficult at times to find balance of any sort in this world. Children are threatened with poor health and obesity as they no longer get out to play as much as they should, sometimes due to a lack of time on behalf of their families, sometimes due to concerns for their safety. Young adults are expected to deliver great grades at GCSE and A Level, and so have to try and find the balance between study and downtime – parents demanding more of the first, student wishing for more of the latter. Carry on through to the next life stage, university or work, and things don’t get much better. It seems that there’s almost an unwritten expectation that each one of us will have to battle it out with ourselves to find a balance in life between work and play, uptime and downtime.

Crazy. We are an increasingly advanced race, technological advances, scientific advances and more racing ahead as we learn more, explore more, understand more. On the flip side, we yearn for the great outdoors, or some other undisturbed space where we can switch off, tune out. We seem to work more and more, promising that the increase in pay gained as a result will enable us to ‘buy’ some time off, a chance to relax, unwind. Yet when we go on holiday, the temptation to just check email or answer that phonecall seems almost overwhelming. It’s like some kind of addiction – we want or are expected to be ‘connected’ at all times, but also want to kick that habit and break away.

Is a balance between work and play possible? Probably, yes. It doesn’t come easy though. It takes a commitment, an exertion of effort to make time to have time. It doesn’t always go to plan, and when it doesn’t the temptation to blame oneself (or someone else) for that will no doubt be there too. For me, it’s a work in progress. I try very hard now to keep my weekends with the boys as free of other commitments as possible, and whilst it’s not always perfect, I think I’m getting better at it. I don’t check my emails anywhere near as much as I used to at the weekends, and make an effort to do stuff with the boys – this weekend that’s included reading several chapters of a book out loud they wanted me to read as we all sat in my bed, bouncing on the trampoline with them, and sitting down to watch cartoons. At the same time I am still learning how to balance everything else I do – work, running a home, and voluntary work – with making some time for me too. It’s important to do this – the last time I put myself bottom of the list I ended up in A&E, carried in by a colleague.

So, when it comes to balance…… it is possible, it is ‘doable’. It does require some effort, but it’s worth it in the long run. On that note, I’m off to watch more cartoons with the kids before reading them a bedtime story.

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