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Balancing Act

January 13, 2013

I’m getting busy. Really busy. I know, I know, everyone is busy these days. We live in a very busy culture. I’m not so sure that is a good thing, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m taking on more time at the part time job I am working. I’m officially launching my own business, and joined a program to make sure that I stay on track with it. Those two things are relatively new and could easily take up all of my time, except that I still have all the things that used to take up all of my time. I have three kids to raise and house to maintain. I also have an ailing mother in another state. And I have a creative streak that is a vital part of who I am… and a body I try to keep healthy… and friendships I am trying to foster and maintain… How can I keep up with it all?

Yesterday, I told Joe that the next several months are going to be a bit like a residency for me. See, Joe actually went through a medical residency in which he worked 80 hours per week (at least) for 5 years. The way I see it, even though my work doesn’t look anything like his, and I happen to be home more often, I need the discipline and long hours of a residency to accomplish my goals this year.

But then I remembered something I wrote in 2007 during the peak of Joe’s residency. It was an essay for the NPR program “This I Believe.” (I’m an NPR junkie, if you haven’t noticed). I submitted it, and nothing ever happened, but it is still true. My life looked a little different then, but it was good for me to revisit my belief as I look toward the near future:

I Believe in Balance (For NPR’s “This I Believe”)

I believe in striving for a balanced life.  I am a mother of two toddlers, a consultant for nonprofit organizations, someone trying to stay in shape, fuel my creative spirit, be a global citizen.  I could write an entire essay about any one of these things.  But, I have come to realize that the most important thing is just trying to keep all of them in my life.

Oh, did I mention I’m also a doctor’s wife?  My husband, Joe, is an orthopaedic surgery resident.  My belief in balance has been confirmed over the past two years – six if you count medical school – as I watched my husband’s life be consumed by medicine.  Don’t get me wrong, medicine is a noble profession, but I can’t imagine having such a singular existence.

Tonight, Joe came home after a 32-hour shift, too tired to give our kids the quality daddy time they so desperately want.  He fell asleep in a chair after dinner.  So, our 2 and 3-year-olds helped me take daddy upstairs, tuck him in bed, and kiss him good night.

Besides work and sleep, Joe doesn’t have time for anything else.  Typically, he doesn’t even have time for three meals a day.

I believe that people need many things in their life to be fulfilled.  I believe extremism in any single facet of one’s life is limiting to the human spirit.  Joe’s extreme work situation is constraining his creativity, spirituality, relationships.  I know he misses spending time with the kids and me, and doing things that feed his soul like playing the guitar, building things, and even making a good home-brewed beer.

As for me, I try to find balance in my life.  In addition to raising our two children, doing my work, and maintaining our home, I’m also trying to go to the gym regularly, take voice lessons, volunteer at church, learn a new language.  Then I realize I’ve achieved extreme busyness.  True balance means also having some down time, some reflective and relaxing moments along with the busy times.  I’m not sure I’ll ever find the perfect balance, or even that it exists.  But I find fulfillment in having many facets to my life, and to my self.

Right now, having quality time with my husband is one of the things that is out of balance, for both of us.  Although, the other night, he stayed awake to spend a half an hour singing duets with his guitar for old time’s sake.