Dealing with the delicate balance of imbalance

Amy Fenster Brown

By Amy Fenster Brown

I’m here to report on the musings of life.

How can we relate to each other?  

Well, I’m Jewish and live in St. Louis. Chances are that if you’re reading this, we have those two things in common.  I’m a working mom and wife, so I’m sure several of you can match me on that.  

The tightrope I’m balancing on includes a husband, two school-age kids, a mother in her 80s, in-laws, friends, co-workers and people I yell at in traffic. I’ve also managed to continue a close relationship for many years with Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey. They promised long ago to be there for me, and I’m taking them at their word. Or words. Whatever.

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My hobby is dreaming about hobbies.  I know what I want to do with my free time, and as soon as I find some I’ll get going on those hobbies. Right now I’m in the middle of a never ending to-do list that starts and ends with “laundry.” 

One thing I do for fun is taunt my aging mother by treating her like a baby. She’s fully independent and active, but I like to do things like following her to the bathroom in public places to make sure she gets there, and introducing her to the same people over and over again in case she has forgotten their names, which she hasn’t, because they’re her grandsons. 

So, fellow parents, are you the type who has it all together, with schedules in the family calendar, nutritious food in the lunchboxes and on the dinner table, and beautiful photos for holiday cards to send to your nearest and dearest?  

If so, we might have to end our friendship here. While I’m usually confident in my parenting, I certainly don’t have it all together and sometimes don’t even realize the kids have an activity until the morning of. And by morning, I mean afternoon.  

Same goes for birthdays of those I am closest to. I just never remember them. I like to say I have a vitamin deficiency in that area. Luckily my family and friends will remind me of those special dates. I know they’re actually doing it for their own fun in pointing out how forgetful I am. So technically, I’m kind of doing them a service.  

My kids are athletes. Young, energetic, talented athletes. My husband will admit that while he’s a huge sports fan, he’s not exactly an athlete, and my only cardio is watching a Brady Bunch marathon, so where they get this talent and drive is anyone’s guess. We should go on Maury Povich’s show to find their real mother. These kids of ours are in deep with their chosen sports, baseball and soccer, and we are their legal Uber drivers. 

Watching them play sports is a lot of fun, which is good because there is a lot of it. Turns out, going to tons of sporting events plus not understanding anything about them equals one lost mom. That’s me. I’ve remedied the situation by taking advantage of my resources and my key strength: eavesdropping.  I just listen to what the other parents in the stands yell, and then I just yell that. I have zero clue what any of it means. It usually works with phrases like “wait for your pitch” or “good eye.”  After years of employing this tactic, I find myself using these sports terms at home. If the kids don’t put away their clean laundry, I yell “offside!”  It’s fully inaccurate, but it certainly gets their attention. 

If we do have a little time at home with no activities or commitments, I fall into the trap of doing things I see other families doing on social media, such as playing board games. I secretly hate playing Monopoly with my kids, so I buy every single property I land on so I can go bankrupt as soon as possible.  I perfected this craft in my 20s by shopping every weekend for clothing I didn’t need. I’m totally not worried about the kids reading this and finding out the truth, because that would involve them putting down their phones.

So, now that we are new best friends, you can tell me: Do you relate? Any fears, frustrations or joys you want to share with me? I’m all ears! Any wisdom to share about how you find balance? Give me the scoop on what you are trying to balance on your own tightrope. 

Because we’re besties, I can confess to you that I have way more questions than answers about, well, everything. While I will forever find comfort in the life lessons I’ve learned from the Brady Bunch, yours might be good for me, too.

Email Jewish Light columnist Amy Fenster Brown at [email protected]

Amy Fenster Brown is married to Jeff and has two teenage sons, Davis and Leo. She volunteers for several Jewish not-for-profit groups. Fenster Brown is an Emmy Award-winning TV news writer and counts time with family and friends, talking and eating peanut butter among her hobbies.