Archive for April 19th, 2009

Living the Balanced Life

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

One blog I enjoy reading is Octamom: The Musings of a Mother to a Multitude. She asked last Monday that her readers write about:

Balance.
That elusive fulcrum between the duties and responsibilities of life in tandem with the relationships and experiences that make our lives worth living. That attempt to keep all the little boxes of life stuff in perfect sequence and harmony, creating an equilibrium between the obligations and amusements in life.

I clearly have no answers. I’m just trying to get my laundry caught up while occasionally exercising my brain. But I would love to hear your thoughts on the balanced life, where you struggle, where you succeed, what you’ve learned along the way. Write a post on this topic and put the url of that post and your name in the Mister Linky’s box below and leave your gems of wisdom in the comment line. I want to know how you manage the trapeze!

Once you write about Balance on your blog, kindly sign Mr. Linky over at Octamom’s blog so others can read what you have to say.

From reading such books at the Little House on the Prairie Books and even from talking with my grandmother and older friends, I realize that the activities of each day, week and season used to be clearly spelled out. A typical week might mean:

  • Laundry on Monday
  • Ironing on Tuesday
  • Baking on Wednesday
  • Housecleaning on Thursday
  • Bathing on Saturday
  • Day of rest on Sunday

Each season had its particular work as well, such as planting the garden in spring, weeding the garden spring and summer, harvesting the produce summer and autumn, and then canning and drying the produce at season’s end. Animals were slaughtered when it was cold enough outside to keep the meat frozen over winter, or else the meat was canned.


This work required much more physical labor than we currently expect. For example, the old wringer washing machine might be on the back porch. Water would be pumped outside, and brought in to fill the large kettles where it was heated on the wood-burning stove. Perhaps the soap for washing the laundry was made at home, too. The water would then be poured into the washer. I remember my grandmother saying something about doing the least soiled laundry first, reusing the water, and moving on to the more heavily soiled items. Water was wrung out of the sopping laundry after rinsing it, and then of course the laundry was hung on the line to dry.

One of my older friends, who grew up in the backwoods of Minnesota in a lumber camp environment, told me that people had a lot less clothing back then. They would hang it up to “air out” after wearing it, until it absolutely required washing. As far as bathing went, too, this was a lot of work. She told me that people just could not be as clean as they are now. The standard of cleanliness was a lot lower. It had to be.


These activities, plus the daily need to heat the home and put food on the table, left people dead tired at the end of the day. As far as recreation was concerned, we read of needlework being done to decorate home items, perhaps whittling being done, or a book being read aloud to the family at the end of the day. On very special occasions, there would be get-togethers to help someone raise a barn or harvest a crop. There might be church socials or harvest dinners. All in all, though, it seemed that the focus was on doing necessary work when it needed to be done.

At the current time, in affluent countries such as the United States, we have the assistance of electrical appliances do our laundry, do our dishes, and assist us with many other chores as well. We have indoor plumbing, and water heaters. We can, with relative ease, keep ourselves and our homes much cleaner than could have been imagined a few generations ago, even with the utmost labor and even the help of servants.

With more free time, we now have higher expectations for other areas of our lives:

  • The children need to participate in a variety of sporting events and lessons.
  • We need to attend concerts, go to movies, and go out to eat, perhaps frequently.
  • We need to go on at least yearly vacations, visit historic locations, or simply travel to take in the beauty of the countryside.
  • We need to participate in book discussion groups, go to the gym to exercise, and take painting lessons.

In a very real sense, we are charting new territory. We no longer have the stability of long-established daily and seasonal routines upon which to rely. We have more time. We have more resources. We are assailed with sometimes overwhelming input about what comprises The Balanced Life, the good life, the worthwhile life. If you don’t really know the guidelines, it’s difficult to know how you’re doing. Many homemakers are overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and insufficiency.

I’ll talk more about this in another post. Why not join in and give your thoughts on this subject as well?