Balancing act: Life's balancing act goes beyond work and home
As I write this, I'm reflecting on a wonderful weekend just spent in beautiful Zion National Park with my wife.
She and I were given accommodations in Springdale, near Zion, by her sister and brother-in-law as an anniversary gift, and it was the perfect present to help us celebrate our 22 years of marriage.
Even better, they took care of our children while we were away, meaning we were able to have a weekend to ourselves.
As we talked during the trip, we realized this was our first weekend getaway with just the two of us since our oldest daughter was born more than 15 years ago. It was also our first trip without the children since we went to Hawaii with her parents back in 2010.
Before I say any more, I want to make one thing clear: We love our children, and we love doing things with them. They're excellent travelers, and family vacations with them are always lots of fun.
But sometimes, it's still nice to get away for a while.
As I've learned since I started writing about work-life balance, it's not just one equation — I'm trying to achieve many different kinds of balance. Most obviously, there's the balance between being a good, dedicated, productive employee and being a husband and father who is there for his family.
But even within the family, there are additional needs for balance. I've seen families in which one spouse became so involved in the lives of his or her children that the other spouse felt left out or ignored. On the other end of the spectrum, I've seen couples who do a great job of spending time with each other, but who seem to actively avoid doing things with their children.
Either situation indicates a lack of balance, in my opinion. And that lack of balance often leads to trouble of one kind or another.
In our case, only in the last few years have we had children old enough to watch the younger kids and let us get away easily for dates.
In addition to formal date nights, this has allowed us to enjoy "mini-dates" — running to the grocery store for a few minutes or taking care of a quick errand — just to make sure we have time to focus on each other.
We went on dates when the children were younger, too, but it was challenging to find a babysitter we could trust (or afford!). And every time we had one we really liked, he or she would "age out" of the babysitting pool, and we'd be left to fend for ourselves again.
We were always jealous of friends who had parents or siblings nearby with whom they could leave their children for a few hours to go on dates.
Now we feel like we have the best of both worlds. We've got children who are old enough to babysit, AND my wife's parents, brother and one of her sisters and her family all moved to the Salt Lake Valley in June. We truly have no excuse not to have balance within our family now.
Which brings me back to our trip to Zion.
One of the things we most enjoyed about our weekend was that we could do everything at our own pace. As parents know, when you have children with you, you're always on a schedule, whether it's formal or not. They need to eat, drink and nap (when they're younger) at certain times, and if they don't, they get ornery and/or whiny.
As a family, you also have to wrap up any excursions fairly early to make sure the little ones get in bed and get enough sleep. If they don't, you know you'll pay for it the next day.