Finding Balance: Where Do I Begin?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This is the first in a series about how to find the balance between work, family and your own health and fitness goals.

Starting over is hard. You had a regular exercise routine, a healthy diet and were working toward your health and fitness goals. Then life got in the way. Maybe you got off track because you got busy at work, bought a new house or if you're like me, had a new baby. Your own goals took a backseat to other priorities, and some of those old habits started to creep back into your life. Now the new year has you ready to make a fresh start and find the time to put yourself first. But the question becomes: Where do you begin?

If you're like me, you know that taking care of yourself will make you a better wife, mom, daughter, insert your own title here. But somehow, when I'm surrounded by mouths that need to be fed, diapers that need to be changed, and laundry that needs to be folded, I don't take time to think about myself and what I need. With that in mind, I've decided to set some goals for myself, both short term and long term for the coming year. By making a plan for where I want to go and how I'm going to get there, I'm much more likely to follow through.

Running is my passion. It helps me relieve stress and feel strong (both physically and mentally), which is why one of my goals is to run a marathon this fall. This is something I'm doing for myself, but it's also for my kids because I hope they'll become inspired to run with me someday. The marathon is my long-term goal, I'm going to follow a training plan to help me prepare for the race, and I've also set some short-term goals to run a 15K and half marathon in the spring. By setting a long-term goal, creating a detailed plan of how I'm going to reach it and some short term steps along the way, I'm setting a good path for success. I also need to get agreement from the important people in my life that they will support me as I work toward my goals. For example, my husband has agreed to watch the kids while I go out for my long runs (which can be quite lengthy since I'm not a fast runner).

When I told my husband that I was going to start writing this series, he snickered. "What's so funny?" I asked. "Don't you think it's a little ironic that you'll be giving people advice about finding balance when you have such a hard time doing that yourself?" It's true; I'm not good at putting myself first or finding the balance between being a wife, a mom and being me. But I'm working on getting better at it. And for those of you who also struggle with finding the balance, maybe we can work on it together.

Setting my goals and developing a plan is my first step toward finding the balance. Do you struggle to find a balance in your own life? If so, what's your first step going to be?

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Since the economy has been bad and my hours at work have decreased I have decide to focus on me and keeping me heathly. The money doesn't matter because I have cut back with eating out, I am cooking at home. Sometimes things happen in our klives that we do not want to happen but to change it around and make it postive can be an advange to you. I see more of my kids bake for thier events and an there when they need me. Takeing care of myself is no selfish but wonderful for me amd my family. Report
Defininely, I need to take more time to myself. Report
Good article. Report
A very good article and it makes me think about setting some goals. I'm having a difficult time doing that because I'm afraid I won't keep focused on them. Report
I'm a guilty of having issues with life balance. I am trying to be less focused on seeming "productive" (ie - all work, and no play...) and more focused on what I want... Report
I am very much looking forward to this series. I dont' work for medical issues, but I'm just as busy as a working person with medical appointments, volunteering, church, counseling etc. Report
I get very involved in my work, and I sometimes have a hard time tearing myself away from it to go and work out. However, when I started this job last April, after leaving an incredibly stressful one, I realized that I needed to do something different to heal myself from the stress and pain of my previous job (yes, it was that bad). I started taking long daily lunch time walks. I have been doing that ever since, and it has now become an entrenched habit. The only change is that I have moved indoors for the winter and I have expanded from just walking into some (slow) jogging (thanks for the 5K training program!), and spin classes a couple of times a week. Lunch time works for me because I am terrible at waking up in the morning, and by the time I get home from work, I'm tired and my husband and children want time. Right now I am enjoying the best balance I've had in 10 years. Part of it is that my new employer has an unspoken respect for the lunch hour that my employer of the previous 9 years did not have. Another part of it is that my kids are 14 and 12 now and are becoming more independent. It was much harder when my kids were the age that yours are now, when they need you for everything, and you can't ever leave them alone. In terms of establishing a new exercise habit, I think a critical component was doing it at a time when I was still new at my job, and felt like I was making a fresh start. I also credit my primary care doctor for warning me that all my numbers were moving the wrong way -- nothing bad yet, just moving the wrong way -- and Sparkpeople for helping me to stay focused on my goals.
It's good to have you back! Report
Guilty! I know I need more time for myself but I never seem to follow through. Report
The first paragraph really hit home. I was doing great until last December when I hurt my back at work. Talk about life getting in the way! I finally was able to go back to the gym yesterday, so this article was perfect for me, as yesterday I officially "started over". Thanks for the great article! Report
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, for writing this blog! The only thing balanced in this house often seems to be the laundry stacks, waiting to be put away! I know how fortunate I am to be married to my best friend, partner, and soul mate, so I try hard not to complain when no one else ever does dishes, or laundry, or even runs a vacuum cleaner!

My husband is constantly after me to take time for me, but it is impossible for me to do most of the time. I can't justify to muyself taking an Ann day, when the house is a disaster area, laundry needs to be done, beds made, yada yada yada...

My goal is to be able to run... In high school, I ran the mile for the school track team. Came in dead last every race, but I finished every one! I was never fast, and know I will probably never be, and that's okay. I would love to run a marathon, but my first goal is to be able to run a mile non-stop. If that goes well, I would love to sign up for the Maine Event, a 10K race back in my hometown of Brookfield, New York. That's held every year in October, so I should be able to pull myself together by then.

Okay, first step... Register for 10K Maine Event. Second step, start getting ready to run by adding jogging intervals to my walks every day. We can do this!!! Report
I know what you mean I have to review my goals more often just to get myself going. I am doing some more walking and more of the boot camp workouts on a regular basis. Not been consistent until recently and am determined to keep at it. I just need to lose about 10 to 12 pounds to meet my goal weight.
This is the year I am determined to make that a real goal!!!! Report
Best of luck on your training!!! I just completed my 2nd 1/2 marathon on February 1st and will be running 2 more 1/2's and a full marathon this year!!! Running is what gave me is the only thing I truly do for myself!!! Report
I just started babysitting and I have had all sorts of time to myself or so I am supposed even when not working there just doesn't seem to be enough time. I decided I would work around the babies schedule to make sure I get my aquafit in. It is working out I do the household chores while she sleeps and do my sparking during a different nap. So far so good. Report
This is perfect right now. I'm definitely struggling between everything I need to get done, everything everyone NEEDS me to do FOR them & just making ME time. I have never made me time... until recently. I have decided my 44 yr old hubby & 21 yr old daughter are old enuf to take care of themselves. Good grief. It's time to look out for #1 for a while.
Can't wait to read more in the serious. :) Report
I can really relate to this right now. I had a baby January 3rd and I am having some serious doubts about being able to accomplish what I want to right now. I'm not even sure how I'm going to be able to walk the dog when hubby goes back to work next week. She's a very large puppy with alot of energy so it's not like I can walk her and push a stroller at the same time. and I can't count how many times in the last month I've found myself standing in the middle of the house trying to decide which thing to do first and feeling completely overwhelmed. Taking care of myself is constantly put on the back burner while I look after baby, do laundry, dishes, walk the dog, straighten up the house, complete the latest task my 19 year old needs me to do which is often a ride somewhere and the list goes on.

I'm looking forward to reading this one and hopefully finding some inspiration to help me deal with my situation. Thank God for Sparkpeople. I'd be lost without all of it's help. Report
I'm really looking forward to reading more. Report
I am at a complete loss on finding balance in my life...I work fulltime 3-11 but have been doing alot of 11-7 shifts to fill in, I end up sleeping most of my day away just to get ready to go to work! I am a single mom, finding time for the kids and work and working out is a pretty difficult juggling act for me! I always feel like I am letting someone or something down when I focus on myself, normally I am the one that falls through the is imperative to support my family and my kids need me! Balance is a mystery to me! Good for you that you are able to find the path to it, maybe one day the path will come into view for me too! Report
I certainly struggle between a 40+ hour work week, two nights a week and Sunday afternoon swim workouts, singing rehearsals every Monday night, and just being me. I want to do it all, but I am realizing I can't. My long term goal is to get financially stable and I have a pay off plan in the works. My other long term goal is to get my house in order--decluttered and redecorated. I have worked out the estimated costs and labor on the first set of rooms and I am executing that plan daily. Of course, I want to maintain my healthy lifestyle at the same time and I am getting exercise cleaning, scrubbing, sorting, hauling, spackling, and painting. I should probably set a goal for incorporating strength training, but I haven't yet. That will be next after I am making good steady progress on the first two goals. Report
Glad you've started this series of blogs/discussions. Thank you! I think setting goals is a great and reasonable first step. I have a horrible time setting a goal & then actually remembering & following through on it...not proud of this; but it is what it is. So perhaps my first goal should be to determine a better goal follow-up routine in general. Determine what method I'll use in order to ensure that I pay attention to it regularly and thereby actually succeed with it. Sounds harrrrrrd. :-) But is the right thing for me to do. My first step will be to write down a short list of goals and make sure they are not just an action item list, and find a public place at home to display them so that they don't become buried in my office clutter with all the other lists of things to do. Hmmmm, detecting a pattern here? Report
When I read the introduction to this blog, I felt like I had wrote it myself. I started getting serious about my weightloss last May (2008) and I was doing great. I was losing weight beautifully, I was getting compliments and I was even strength training but all of a sudden I lost the drive to do anything. Even as the new year has started it has been a struggle to get back on track...there are some days that I amaze myself with how diligent I am and then there are other days where I am eating bad fast food and the gooiest ice cream which makes me like such a failure but I take it one hour at a time and praise my good deeds and lessen my shortcomes. Report
I just wanted to say that in no way is my life balances right now. I am spending much more time concentration on my health and fittness than anything else. I can right now because I have finished raising my kids and for so long I did nothing for me. I did everything for everyone it is my turn. I have a lot of time to make up for.....not to say that if I am needed I jump to help whom ever I can. And eventually I have to stop and clean house so I can concentrate on me again. Someday I will need to find balance but right now all I want to do is get healthy before I have gone too far the other way and don't have the strength to climb back. That is not being selfish. It is being smart. Report
I applaud your re-commitment to yourself and your courageous post! I have two children, work from home, have had a series of personal and physical setbacks, and I'm not sure why I've had trouble staying the course and sticking with a routine lately. Maybe there is a bigger, subconscious lesson I need to learn before the weight loss will stick. I've been wrestling with my weight for 26 years....I don't want it to be another 26. The crazy thing is I don't have that much to lose...about 12-15 pounds at the outside. Thanks for encouraging some deep thinking and helping me embrace the idea of "do-over." :-) Report
Setting goals is so important, you can't get there is you do not know where there is. When life is busy you need to keep positive and if you do not have goals to reach you do not find ways to reward yourself and thus ways to make yourself feel good about what you are doing. When you reach a goal and feel great about it you pass it forward and thus make everyones life around you better! Keep up the good work! Report
Thank you so much. Balance is so much harder to achieve than extremes. It is so much easier to put taking care of oneself off to another day when one is surrounded by daily duties. Your husband's snicker is fine because we all have to find balance together. Anyone who has balancing life mastered - congratulations - but that person probably won't have anything which will help me in my struggle. So we struggle together. Report
I really have had a rough time balancing everything. I had a break down in Oct. since then I have learned that routine really helps. I am a stay home mom with a 2 1/2 and a 5 year old. I also own rental property & do "Girls night out parties" You never know when I have to go and take care of business. Now instead of just running out the door when I get a call I schedule an appt. Making sure the kids have a routine made it easier for all of us. Report
This is a wondeful article! I think that finding balance in life is one of the hardest things to do, and once you do find balance, it can still be a challenge to keep it because your life situation is constantly changing. The schedule that you are going to implement in order to prepare you for the marathon is well thought out and will provide you with some great check in points.

I look forward to reading the other articles in this series! Report
I'm definitely right there with ya on this one. I just had a really grumpy weekend full of crying and explaining why I'm not a very happy person anymore. It's because I'm not taking care of me and I really need to in order to be any good for my family. It's rough but so important. I thought I was feeling selfish, but I realize if I'm just grumpy all the time, I'm not going to set a very good example for my daughter growing up. I need ME back. I will definitely go on this journey with you. I will take all the help I can get! Report
Finding balance is always difficult. Especially with family. It is just my husband and myself and I still have a hard time balancing my needs with his. This year so far my balance has been better. I have made exercise a priority. He has been encouraging me more this year and helping me make time for the work outs. I think he realizes that the better I feel about me, the more he benefits. He has also gone out and purchased (without my prior knowledge) exercises dvd's and equipment (like a stability ball) that I commented would help me.

Thanks for this series. I need to keep balance a key word in my mind. Report
I definitely struggle to keep balance - or more accurately, to fit in the work/times to look after my diet and to exercise! They're one of the first things that go to the wayside when I start feeling my plate is filling up. :) Report
Thanks for the great blog! I too need to find a balance in my life with being a mom, doing housework, dieting etc. I too neglect myself! Or am I in denial and not keeping goals???? Report
What a great blog! I look forward to reading this whole series! Report
I think it also helps to not only look at your goals, but at your reasons for the goals. Several of the articles I have read on Spark have talked about your motivations, and that seems to be a key for me. I know with family history and my health the way it is right now, I am headed towards diabetes. I watch my Mom give herself four shots a day. That's my motivation - I don't want to live that way. I am doing what I'm doing first and foremost so I don't get diabetes. We make choices every day about what is most important to us; balance comes when we pay more attention to those things which are most important to us. Report
I loved this article. I, too, joined Spark People to get myself back on track and am finding much motivation in the different tools, articles, comments, blogs, and message boards. It's tempting to spend too much time here at the computer checking it all out, but it's all about balance. Thanks for the article & I look forward to hearing more. Report
Absolutely spot-on track here. My goals are very similar after having a baby late this fall - I just started a half-marathon training program for the spring and hope to complete the Chicago full in the fall. It may be lofty, but setting the goal and the date and putting it simply to my husband: I need you to support me in this...has gotten the ball rolling. Fitness and nutrition together is my passion; but it's hard to find the time between being a new mom, juggling work, and the HOUSE! It's already made such a difference, though, to get my health and fitness back on track. My husband noticed right away, and he's been more than willing to help out because of it. It is also my hope that my son develops good habits and an interest in running, too. Best of luck to you! Report
I really need to find a balance but that is so hard for me.. i have 3 kids that will always come before anything.. i can and do put off cleaning my house.. that is not a good thing.. i hate to try and get caught up.. but i am now making my kid do more there old enough to do some of there own clothes and to keep there bathroom clean my kids ar 14 12 and 8 so old enough to help..i am also walking at least 3 day a week.. Report
I just wrote a blog about this over the weekend! I too, need BALANCE in a bad way! I am more stressed out now then when I was 40+ lbs heavier! For me, I need to pull away from the internet and focus on my long term goals not only for weight loss, but my marriage, family, personal, and so on. I need to stop comparing my routine, my success, my goals to others. I have started keeping a journal and a Day Planner for just this. It allows me to stay on top of not only my eating and exercise, but to accomplish all that I would like to do in other aspects of my life. I take it one day at a time and have slowed down on my thoughts of weight loss. Before, I wanted to lose 2 sizes in 3 months, drop "X" in body fat, ect. Now in 3 months, I would just like to feel my current jeans starting to get really loose. I want to be able to say in 3 months that I take regular walks with my husband and dogs in addition to my current routine. I want to be able to say I smile more and have less stress! I want to be able to say that I am on a healthy path in all aspects of my life! So the first step I took, was hide both of my scales, yes, I own 2! I also bought my journals, and have begun to limit my computer time. I'm doing my best to not obsess over exercise and calories in/out. Each day is a new day, why do I need to rush to accomplish everything this very moment? Report
I often feel that there are not enough hours in the day and a lot of times my workout for the day gets missed. I really try to keep my lunch hours for a workout. My favourite is a walk/jog and a couple of sets of stairs. I also started walking to meet my husband at our son's daycare facility after work. It is a good 40 minute walk and I love the de-stressing factor it provides. Plus my son is so happy to see me there. I do all the meal planning and make healthy lunches for all three of us as well as dinner. My husband has been making breakfast for us lately which is a treat! That really helps with the crazed morning routine to get out the door. Report
EVERYONE is constantly seeking balance - unless their life is static. For most of us, there are always new things that enter and leave our lives, both good and bad. Deciding what to include or exclude? That's life! Jen, you're as qualified as anyone to talk about balance - anyone who is, who is thinking about the question :) I'll look forward to reading your series. Report
For me, starting was the easy part. Now I have a new Graduate Assistantship, ontop of being a full time student, bartending 2 times a week, and having time to be with my fiance. Once I got the G.A. position my time and energy just disappeared... I'm trying to get it back by switching my excercise days so I keep active. it hurts me more not exercises than being tired from all the other stuff. Don't give up! Report
Good article. I think we can all relate! Report
great article. Life is all about finding the right balance to reach that goal. It takes planning and perseverance. Good luck! Report
I do struggle with balancing everything in my life. My first step was to begin walking/running 5 days a week no matter what with 2 days off. It has helped to plan and schedule that and I feel so much better by just walking and running. I did my first 5K and that was a major first step. Now, I'm going to do more!
Baby steps are what I will need to focus on...I, like others, slacked off but not too badly..I just got lazy. I am back on track and trying to look at the smaller picture for now..that'll get me to the big picture!!! Report
I, too, logged on to start over today - what a great article. I will start by eating what and when I should, not whatever I want and whenever I feel like it (which is all the time!) Thanks. Justine Report
Maintenance is definitely a challenge... those past habits just have a way of creeping back and they have to be firmly and constantly readjusted. I'm glad I've got SP to keep me on track because I need it EVERY day. Thank you Jen for the great article. Report
I am glad I joined Spark because of articles like yours. It helps all of us realize that we will backslide but then we go forward again. I hope everyone stays the course and keeps themselves healthy. Report
Well, one of my first steps was joining sparkpeople! This is the exact reason I joined ~ to get me back on track! I've found the goal tracker tool to be invaluable in reminding me of my important goals, including: drinking water, reading for pleasure, taking my multivitamins, etc. Report
WOW I so needed this article this morning. I was on a high this weekend, putting my new eating plan and exercise routines in place and was hit by "helpful" advise from a friend. Her comment was "what are you going to do when you do not reach the goals?" What I heard was, "what are you going to do when you fail." I talked with her Sunday and am still feeling the sting of her comments. I know she was not trying to be hurtful, only helpful, to make sure that I had a plan B or even a plan C, but what she said and what I heard were miles apart in meaning. Anyway your article on balance was what I needed today, thank you. Report
Amazing how many of us can relate! It IS tough to make the time for ourselves with all the other roles we fulfill. My wake up call has been my body showing the signs of the wear and tear I have put it through. Thank you for taking your time to offer others encouragement. Report