What is balance? Merriam-Webster says balance is the stability produced by even distribution. If you ask a mom what balance is, I think she might tell you balance is the stability produced by juggling ever-changing (uneven) variables and is sustained with compromises and flexibility. The thought of needing to evenly distribute motherhood is overwhelming. I’m not even sure that’s possible. But what I do know is we keep showing up and we adapt, and we do what we can to keep life as balanced as possible.
Sometimes balance isn’t about prioritizing activities or schedules. Sometimes it’s approaching an idea completely different than you ever thought. For me, I recently found a balance with chores and allowance. I never thought I’d be the mom to give an allowance. I’m a firm believer every member of the house should take an active role in keeping the house, and I didn’t think chores were worthy of compensation. But I ran into a little problem…my thoughts were not backed up by action. My son will be ten this fall and he’s never had a chore. I admit to myself, to others, and to him that I do everything for him. And I’m happy to do everything for him.
But I can’t do everything for him.
He just finished third grade. About two days into the school year I quickly learned third grade was “real school” and with that came some new responsibilities for my guy academically. For me, I made a conscious effort to encourage responsibility at home and with school work. I had a few good weeks introducing chores, but then my focus was shifted to other things. And well, I think you know what happened…
Fast forward to now. I’m working from home for the summer. Unlike the beginning of quarantine last year, I had time to plan for this transition to home. I knew on XYZ date I would be working from home and my son would be out of school. I know when we will be out of town and when camp is scheduled. And I know I don’t want my kiddo buried in electronics the weeks we are home. I also know summertime is when we get to “slow down” because we don’t have practices, or games, or commutes, or early dismissals, etc.
What we do have is an opportunity to establish new habits.
So about a month before the transition home, I started brainstorming chores the dude could do. And I had my list ready. I told him the chores were coming, and we would start in June. Pretty sure this went in one ear and out the other. Who could blame him, mom wasn’t consistent before. Then on the third day of summer break, he hits me with “mom, can I do some chores for money? I want to get the battle pass on my game.”
Those stupid games just suck them in and take ALL THE DOLLARS. I hate them. But those games are important to him, and that’s totally fine, but mama is not a “buy all the crap” bank account. And while I don’t allow him to spend his own money every day on the games either, I certainly appreciate his initiative! Speak up for what you want. And that’s when the balance happened. He knew I wasn’t fond of allowance. He knew my position on household chores and being an active member of the family. But I recalibrated and made an offer. There are 5 chores he has to do every day for no allowance. There are 5 chores he can do throughout the week for an allowance. If he does not complete the 5 mandatory chores daily, the allowance opportunity for the week is forfeited. We created a Chores Journal he must date and initial once a chore is completed.
Encouragement, motivation, and reminders from mom are free!
I have lots of ideas and checklists. Many ideas do not come to fruition, and I’m not sure I’ve ever completed a checklist. But one thing I’ve learned over the past ten years is if I really want something done, I can’t get distracted. That’s a hard task for someone whose brain literally NEVER SHUTS OFF. I’m pretty sure I think in my dreams. And while that can be overwhelming at times, I always try to keep an open mind. I always try to not pause and keep going even if that means adjusting. Complacency isn’t really an option in this house. So, I could have been a stickler with my no allowance belief. I could have said no. But I decided to try something different. Because keeping things interesting and new is how I keep my balance.