Family · Just my Thoughts

Balance, Judgment and Some Personal Thoughts

I have spent a lot of time this new year – and yes, the first month is just barely halfway through – reading and commenting on balance, perceptions and judgment.  The problem, personally, is that I was not relating these readings or my comments to my own situation.

While balance is, and seemingly will always be, a struggle, it is a tightrope walk when it comes to how others perceive you and ultimately judge you.  I was thrown down this road when first Sarah at Momalom.com wrote “We care what people think about us.” My initial response was that I don’t really care what people think about me but that is not totally true.  Those who are close to me – friends who are close, family – I care what these people think.  Then, Deena at A Day in the Life of Me posted some of her own “Reflections,” based on her life.

This all has had me thinking about how others look at me and do they judge what they see without knowing me.

I am a single mom.  I have had people who do not know me question why I am not married.  Do they know the circumstances which led to the end of my marriage?  No.  I have told very few people this story.  Does it hurt when people say I am not doing what is best for my children by not being married – a line of thinking I have never understood?  Definitely.  Do I generally let these people see the hurt?  No.  I tend to hold it in and keep control.  Remember this as control will come back later.

I have six children.  Now before anyone can ask it, yes, they are all from the same father.  That is another question I get from people a lot – or did when the kids were younger.  Now that most of the kids are out of the house, I seldom have all six together so I do not get asked this as often.  I do not understand this question at all.  It does not hurt me.  It annoys me.  First, is it a new acquaintance’s business how many times I have been married (just one if you really want to count) or how many men fathered my children (again just one)?  Is a large family, without a television show to track its every move, that unusual in our culture?

I have become use to these questions from new acquaintances in my life and from people who do not know me.  I have never had someone close to me question these things because those who know me know I am fiercely loyal.  I would have never thought of cheating and having a child with someone other than the man who was my husband.

More recently, I have had a friend, someone who knows me extremely well, say that I was too in control.  It took a long time to look inside myself and see that maybe I project being in control.  I run a household by myself.  I do like to plan and know what is going to happen.  I like to be in control but lately there has been little control internally.  I don’t feel like I am in control although, to the outside world, it probably does look that way.

Why project the control instead of the chaos I feel?  Whether I like to admit it or not, I do worry about what people think.  I worry that my children will think that chaos is the norm.  I worry that others will think I do not have the ability to live as I do.  I worry that others will judge me.

Evidently, the worrying does come out without my knowing it.  My youngest bought me a book for Christmas about how to stop worrying.  I laughed at first but now, I see maybe it should be next on my reading list.

Do you worry about what others think of you?  Do you worry you cannot find the balance between caring what others think and being yourself?  Do you worry about how others judge you?  Do you judge others?

I am coming to see that I can tell myself I don’t care what others think but, ultimately, I do care at least a little.

20 thoughts on “Balance, Judgment and Some Personal Thoughts

  1. What a timely post for me. I have been thinking about this a lot. About caring – perhaps too much at times – about what others think. Life is riddled with judgment. We are able to navigate it *because* we form judgments and place people and things into convenient boxes. And yet. It hurts a little – or a lot – when people do this to us. We bemoan the fact that people rush to conclusions based on appearances, on the chaos or control we project or embody. I don’t pretend to know how to fashion a good and healthy balance between being ourselves and dealing with judgment from the external world. But I think about this all the time. I hazard to guess we all do.

    I think it all comes down to that existential question you and I were chatting about over Twitter the other day, namely “How much does your life weigh?” For so many reasons – including the cloud of perception permanently overhead, life can feel very heavy at times. I applaud your honesty and humility in addressing its weight.

    1. I am not sure we ever achieve that healthy balance. We lean a little this way to compensate for being over the line and almost falling off. Then we lean back. It seems the times when we are authentic, true to ourselves we can walk straight and tall on that tightrope.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Aidan. I do think it does all come down to that question. And, it also reminds me of the Life in Pencil post – http://www.lifeinpencil.com/wp/2010/01/15/existential-crisis/

  2. I too have been thinking a lot about this topic. I love your point about projecting control instead of chaos. Could it be that we all feel internal chaos to some extent, but some of us are better than others at maintaining calm on the outside – and that this is the very essence of personality – what we show to the outside vs. what we feel inside?

    Nicki, do you mind shooting me an e-mail (mothereseblog [at] gmail [dot] com)? I have a question for you and don’t have your e-mail address. Thanks!

  3. To be frank – other than a bit of musing on the subject here and there (including as the New Year approached then disappeared into another night) – I am not spending time thinking about balance, or being present.

    I am thinking about my health.
    I am thinking about when I will have 3 consecutive nights of more than 4 hours of sleep.
    I am writing in my head – constantly – or on my half-dead machine, or my son’s ancient desktop, when I can.
    I am thinking about how we will survive more months on no income.
    I am thinking about how to make money – any money – with the realities of my personal situation which are part and parcel of my life, and only occasionally touched on in my writing.
    I am thinking about the latest bloodwork, the messy house that I have no physical capacity to deal with, the damn driving lessons for my son, the fact that there will be no money for additional car insurance when his birthday rolls around. I am thinking about his disappointment, and the practical drawbacks without there being another driver in the household.
    I am thinking about someone I don’t know very well whose situation makes mine look like a vacation in the Bahamas. I am thinking about how I might help her, because she needs and deserves help, I know her pain, and I would do whatever I could to lessen it.

    Balance?
    Being present?

    Any single parent forges ahead with whatever they have, doing the best they can. The primary parent takes control because she (usually she) must. You’re on auto-pilot for years. Decades even. Chaos is the norm; we wear the mask of (semi)control to deal with the world, and perhaps to not frighten our children on a bad day. Balance? What others have to say? It’s about getting through the hours, one at a time, the head brimming over with everything to be done, the perpetual do more with less, then falling into bed at midnight or 1am and hoping for dreams that bring creative solutions (which they sometimes do), and a small amount of rest before you start all over again in 5 hours time.

    No – this isn’t complaining. Parenting has been my joyful privilege. And exhausting. And that’s with two kids, not six.

    Ironically, Nicki – I wanted four. My ex, after two, wanted no more. I had married into a large and bustling European family where 4 or 5 kids (or more) was the norm, and I found that wonderful.

    There is always someone to judge, and always those whose perceptions matter to us.

    Balance? Being present? Not things I worry about. I try to get through the day, parent as best I can, take what comes, show up in an articulate manner in my writing, and learn something in all of that.

    Balance is an illusion. And so is “being present.”

    1. BLW – You are so right on the single parenting. I have had people ask “how do you do it?” You just do what you have to and what you can and hope and pray it is enough.

      Chaos comes and goes at my home. It has been tough some years and not so tough others. This month, as I am awaiting payments from several clients, I am wondering how things get paid. I have asked my “ex” – see the response to Gary to understand the quotes – to advance me child support to help as there are my bills plus books for the kids plus #5’s recent medical bills plus #2’s continual medication plus electric, internet/cable…. You know what I mean. I have more than enough if I get all the payments that are outstanding but they never seem to arrive in time to go out.

  4. I admire your emerging honesty! Even verbalizing that conflict between what one feels and what one projects is a step in the right direction, I’d say.

    I know how you feel about others’ comments about your six children. I only have four, but people act as if that’s they lose count after two! What a blessing a larger family is, though — I wouldn’t trade that experience, for me or for my kids, for anything.

    Enjoyed your musings and appreciated your honesty.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Laura. I am very honest here. For a while I worried about what certain people would think as they read my words. I have given that up as it was exhausting. Now I just write.

  5. I cannot believe that people would ask you those questions. Wait… yes I can. People have no tact. I’m sorry.

    I think it’s important to project what you wish you had going on… like that phrase “dress for the job you want”

    I like what BLW said in her last line (maybe because it’s staring at me above the comment box!) “Balance is an illusion”. Love that.

    1. Corrine – I use to try to think of snappy comebacks but that got old real quick. And yes, BLW is right – “Balance is an illusion.”

  6. Hi Nicki – As an inveterate worrier myself, I just want to say I hear you. And I think sometimes people assume we have it all under control because they want to believe that control exists. But really, how much control do we truly have? Maybe control is just a pipe dream. And I think that scares people. I also think we all have to do a little self-regulating to get by in the world. I mean, if we all went around constantly oozing our worries and insecurities, it would be quite the dramatic scene wouldn’t it? Chaos, I imagine. I guess I’m saying we’re all living in this inner/outer paradox, both as individuals and as a collective. Of course, the older I get the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more willing I am to let others know I am flawed and don’t have my act together by any means. I’m tired of the notion that we ever truly get out acts together. But the funny thing is, the less I think I do the happier I am. Maybe it’s that old saying: the more you know the more you realize you don’t know. Thanks for the wonderful post.

    1. Patty – Thanks for the words. You are right. As I get older, I realize that I will never have it all together but I do try. I also, and it will be in a post soon, am practicing saying no – to organizations, to friends, to family – if the activity is not really something I want to be a part of.

  7. I have never asked you anything personal about your marriage or kids because if it was my business you would tell it to me. Me and the missus have had the question ‘why don’t you have kids?’ which is also a rude question and you want to tell them to shut the fork up 🙂 Where do people get the idea they can be so rude?
    You aren’t controlling. I like to schedule things too. You and I are self employed and you damn well better be organized, right?
    As for your husband and I know nothing about it but you are a super kindly intelligent sweetie-pie and he must be a stupid fool to have divorced you.

    1. Ah, Gary. You are so sweet! And, yes, it is rude to ask why no children, as much as to ask why so many.

      There is no divorce. We are legally separated (13 years this week) and I am not paying for a divorce. If he wants one, he has to pay for it.

  8. This subject has been on my mind as of late. The queries sent my way often make me cringe, especially when a person asks what my plans are. This usually leads to unsolicited and unwanted advice and hurt feelings.

    Why must we explain ourselves to people? Does it really matter what we are doing with our lives? Is it really their business? I am not referring to close friends, I am referring to new acquaintances.

    I must tell you something, I want a large family. 6 kids (or a little more!) is my dream. I really hope it works out the way I plan. When I tell people that, I get all kinds of weird glances and questioning eyebrows. Irritating, to say the least.

    If you want to know, I didn’t even wonder if all your kids came from one father. It really isn’t any of my business.

    1. Ambrosia – Labels and explanations to those who may not even know us seem to be expected in the public in general. I am not one that subscribes to these totally. I do some labels – single mom, Catholic – but do not do a lot of others.

      There are days when I dislike my large family but in the end, I wouldn’t wish it any other size!

  9. Great post!

    Worrying is an issue I’ve struggled with for a long time. And lately, I’ve arrived at a place where I’ve accepted that worry will always be a part of me and interestingly, it has halped me worry less.

    Balance, for me, is more of a myth. Expecting it is almost a denial of how unpredictable life truly is. The way it’s played out in my life, some days will feel more balanced, but other days, there will be lots more important things going on to care about achieving balance. I’m more in line with the “work hard, play hard” philosophy, I guess. Taking care of myself with regard to my overall health (physical, spiritual, psychological, emotional, etc.), I totally get. Balance, I like to think, is a by-product of learning to really listen to myself and paying attention to areas where there are deficits or weak links. Balance is not the end-all be-all for me.

    BTW, wow, single mom! Hats off to you!

    1. I was reading a post at Momalom.com. Sarah talked about perspective and I have decided that is a better word than balance as we never really achieve balance, do we?

      Thanks, Belinda!

  10. I would dar say that Momalom’s post has a lot of us thinking about the importance or lack thereof, of what other people think.

    I think my ultimate take away from my situation is that maybe it’s important to allow people in, to allow them to get to know all of me instead of only showing them a small sliver. 🙂 I did tell Sam that the other day when I saw him and he said “Yeah, that totally makes sense”. 🙂

    Whether or not somebody else takes the time to get to know all of me or not wont really matter if I hide all the other 99% of my slivers. 🙂

    And no, it’s nobody else’s business how many times you’ve been married, how many fathers there are. I have 2 kids but anytime I was asked about that, I always said “2 kids, 1 father” whether they asked or not. 🙂 As if I needed to share…..

    I really enjoyed your post!

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