Monday, June 13, 2011

Creating a Balanced Triangle

Lena Baron
June 13, 2011
GRADE: 50/50
“good job”

Creating a Balanced Triangle:

Strategy for Finding Balance within Work, Family, and Marriage

There is only one sure thing within family and that is change. As a newly married couple, it quickly became evident to my husband and I that married life really isn’t a fairy tale. We found that employment is not always stable, dishes don’t wash themselves, and pregnancy is often far from blissful. While visiting with Mandy, a working mother of four children, I found that she and her husband have come to similar conclusions within their married life. So how do we as a family roll with the ever-present tides of watching our expectations change into their realities, and still keep our work, family, and marriage relationships strong and intact?
In this paper, I will cover five different ways that Mandy has managed and then suggested to me to find balance within her work, family, and marriage relationships. I will also share a projection of my life in ten years and give several ways that I intend to find balance between work, family, and my marriage.
Mandy is a married woman in her mid-thirties. She and her husband are raising their four children all above the age of 6 years old. Their oldest is just entering into middle school. Mandy and her husband married young. Mandy has worked for the last ten-plus years as an Office Manager, and currently as a Public School Tutor. Along with working full time and caring for her family, Mandy has taken college classes steadily as she is working toward her teaching degree. Mandy’s husband, Bayden, is a police officer. Mandy and Bayden have had to come together as a team to juggle their employment and school schedules, raise responsible children, and nourish their marriage relationship.
Mandy says that one of the highlights of her working career was when she chose to take a pay cut and change her employment in order to be at the same school that her children attend. She is able to see them several times a day which helps her feel more available then when she worked as an office manager. She is also able to have the same summer and holiday schedule as her kids. When asked what role family played in her life she said, “My family plays a very big role in decisions about my life. The biggest reason for going back to school was to support my family if needed. I took the job at the school for less money knowing that the benefits of being closer to my children throughout the day was worth the cut in pay.”  
While talking about marriage with Mandy, we joked about “finding” marriage within the balance of things. It is easy to let the marriage relationship take a back seat while raising the children and building a career. Mandy had this to say about balancing her marriage and family life, “My marriage also plays a big role in my life. I am very blessed to have a husband who knows and understands my life goals and is on board to helping me achieve them. He helps around the house making life easier for both myself and my children. I have noticed lately that making time for each other is getting harder to do. It often feels that we are slaves to our children's schedules. I have felt lately that cutting back our schedules would benefit both our relationship with each other and our relationships with our children.”
Mandy shared five things that she and her husband focus on in order to keep their work, family, and married life balanced. Mandy felt that if she were qualified to give any advice at this point in her life on marriage and family life, these five things would be her suggestions.
She begins first by saying, “get organized!” When speaking about being organized she doesn’t actually mean organizing our home and work spaces perfectly, she focuses on organizing our priorities. This wasn’t always easy for Mandy. For a long time she would become discouraged and frustrated over her messy house, until she finally chose to make a change. She said, “One of the biggest changes I have made as a working mother, is to get organized and let my family know what is needed from them. Our home during the week is cluttered, but the necessities get taken care of. For example, the living room may not get picked up, but the dishes are done and the trash is taken out. My children have chores and are very willing to help when they know that the reward for doing so is more time with mom and dad. I have had to learn that some things are more important than a clean house...this is probably the number one thing that I have done to balance work, marriage, and family. I remember that in the grand scheme of things our relationships mean more than a dirty house. This is actually one thing I have mastered...I am getting very good at ignoring my dirty house.”
Mandy’s second suggestion and strategy for balancing work, family, and marriage was to make the time to sit together for dinner, preferably at home. She talked about how when her family sits together at the close of the day and shares their thoughts and experiences they feel strong. However, on the nights that they don’t make it to the table together they feel disconnected.
The third thing that Mandy and Bayden rely on to bring balance to their home is to plan their quality time together such as riding horses, or swimming, or taking a road trip. She mentioned that she is working on the goal of spending time alone with her individual children.
Mandy brought up her marriage while talking about her fourth suggestion. She suggested that every married couple have a date night every week. In her words she says, “My husband and I try very hard to have a date night at least once a week. Lately, our dates have been simply me riding around in his truck while he patrols the town. Very boring, and yet we hold hands and talk so we feel more in tune with one another. The trick is making it a priority over all other things...and with my husbands job that isn't something that can always be done. It is very hard to be married to a police officer because the reality is that there is always someone or something that is more important. I don't mean more important than me...just more important than my quality time. I have had to learn to fit quality time in with my husband where I can and not feel offended when the job takes him away from me. It is easier to let the marriage aspect go when faced with outside pressures. I can see why so many people end up growing apart and divorcing. I have had to get creative about spending time with my husband...and I have had to realize that it perhaps is the most important relationship I need to foster.
            My interview with Mandy ended with her sharing the fifth and last suggestion that she had for me in order to find balance within my work, family, and married life. Her suggestion was simply this, “learn to say no.” She said, “I have learned to say no. Sometimes it is so easy to get sucked into doing for others. I have had to learn to tell people no and not feel bad. There is a time and a season, and right now my life revolves around my family and my husband. If there are things that I can do where I can take my family then I am more likely to say yes. If not, then I have had to cut them out of my life. This was very hard for me at first. I felt very guilty about saying no. However, someday it will just be me and my husband roaming around this house and I don't want to look back on all of this with I am content when saying no because I know in my heart that every minute I spend with those I love is a minute of pure happiness!” 
            The five suggestions that Mandy gave of how to balance work, family, and marriage were not grand or elaborate; they were very basic and applicable. That is what I believe is key to Mandy and Bayden’s success up to this point, they have established the SSS Approach within their family and marriage. They have established their priorities and are working as a team to support each other in their responsibilities. They share the tasks at hand equally and are flexible when necessary. Finally, they meet together to strategize and plan. These three steps are key elements in maintaining balance within a work, family, and marriage relationship. 
Ten Years down the Road, I will have a 16 year old, a 13 year old, and a 10 year old, all boys. If I am lucky, I might have a 6 year old daughter. My husband will be finishing up his 10-year schooling career and entering into his profession as a Nurse Anesthetist. We will have purchased our first home and will be setting up our hobby farm. I will continue to home school our children. My husband’s work schedule will most likely be more family friendly then it has been in years. And we’ll all live happily ever after, right? Not, likely, I know. However, I do know one thing the happiness part is possible.
            My husband and I have established a motto within our family of, “We are all on the Same Team.” By applying this motto in a few different ways, we hope to maintain a balance within our family between work, family, and our marriage.
In order to keep our family relationship healthy and strong we need to be aware of one another, focusing on each other’s needs and how we can help meet them. It is also very important to be aware of ourselves and aware enough to recognize the need for change. Accepting the need for change has already become a tool within our marriage. As my husband and I practice the principle of recognizing a need for change, committing to change, and then acting upon our commitment, this will continue to strengthen our marriage and family relationships.
            Healthy communication skills are vital in order to maintain a balance between work, family, and marriage relationships. Being able to express our needs and feelings clearly and maturely will not only help my husband and I within our relationship, but it will teach our children how to function within their relationships, and ultimately strengthen our family.
            Finding equality within our roles as husband and wife has established a feeling of trust and respect within our home. My husband is very helpful around the house and in caring for the children. This validates my needs and feelings and motivates me to reach out and help him in the yard and within his school and work responsibilities. We also find that by sharing our responsibilities we find opportunities to spend quality time together rather than being divided into our own places and things.  This unity strengthens our marriage as well as our family relationships. Which in turn gives us the energy and peace of mind to do our best within our work and school responsibilities.
            Ten years from now, it is my hope that we will have overcome many of our negative communication patterns and mastered the skills necessary to resolve conflict effectively. I hope that I can be less critical. I hope that my husband will maintain his positive communication skills and be patient along the way. My husband and I have a strong commitment to each other as well as to our marriage relationship and its health. This will be important to maintain as we journey down this road together.
The SSS Approach to             balancing work, family, and marriage is an easy and applicable way to remember what it takes to keep things within a family life balanced. Our family will be pulled in many directions in ten years time. My husband will have people at work relying on him to ease their pain during life and death situations. My sons will likely have different extracurricular activities to attend. We will have our home and animals to care for, and then there are our individual relationships as husband and wife, parents, children, friends, and family. In order to fulfill our family Motto of “We are all on the Same Team”, we must create a support system as a family through communication and action.  This will require that we meet together often to plan and ensure that everyone knows where they fit in the scheme of things. I will take my friend Mandy’s advice and make sure that we eat dinner together every night. My husband and I will also nourish our relationship by spending quality time together, including getting away on retreats together to strengthen our love and bond and create new memories just between us.
            As we support and strategize with one another on a daily basis, it will be most valuable to establish a safe zone within our different relationships for open sharing and communication. This comes back to establishing a clear understanding and willingness to make changes. 

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