Balancing act: Mom's example, shared traits influence my quest for balance
In many ways, I am my mother's son.
I've written before about my mom, Marilyn Kratz, commenting on the example she has set through her long career as an elementary school teacher and, at the same time, a writer of children's stories for magazines and books.
She retired from teaching in 1998, but she didn't stop writing. In addition to stories for children, she has branched out in new directions, publishing nonfiction books and writing a newspaper column about growing up on a farm in South Dakota in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
Since I also chose a career that focuses on writing and editing, her influence on my life is clear.
I think the fact that I write a column about work-life balance is also thanks to her influence. She has always seemed to find a way to accomplish everything she wanted to do in the workplace and with her family, and I want to copy her successes.
But my similarities to my mother go far beyond that.
For example, my mom always seems to have her home and her life organized. The old saying about having "a place for everything, and everything in its place" must have been written for her.
I admire that trait, so I've tried to be an organized person, too. I think I've succeeded. My wife always says I'm the most organized person she's ever met — except for my mom.
Punctuality goes hand-in-hand with organization, and I've never known my mom to be late for anything. Maybe she was when she was a young mother, hauling me or my sister around, but I seriously doubt it. It's not in her nature.
I used to be the same way, but a changing attitude and busy family have ensured that I'm not always punctual these days. I've learned that, sometimes, it's OK to be a little late if it's because you were doing something more important than heading to your next appointment.
That particular lesson has been difficult for me to understand. I wanted to see if my mom has faced similar challenges, so while I was preparing this column, I decided to call her. We talked about punctuality and the other traits we share.
She commented that we're both fortunate to have spouses who are more laid-back than us and help us have healthier relationships with time. My dad, Bud Kratz, definitely fits that bill, as does my wife.
"(Your wife) has done wonders with you, and Bud has tried with me," my mom said. "I have learned from him about not letting small stuff bother me. I know I'm better at coping than I used to be because I learned it from him.
"(Your wife), too, lives her life and doesn't let the clock rule her. She gets everything done she wants to get done. She has a fantastic attitude."
That's definitely true. But, like my mom, I'm still trying to learn those good habits from my spouse. In this way, I'm a work in progress.
My mom is also a planner. She starts packing for vacations days (maybe weeks?) before she's due to leave. She checks and double-checks reservations. She generally knows where she's going to be and when she's going to be there.
I inherited that trait, too. Maybe not when it comes to trips, as I tend to pack for those the day before I leave. However, in general, I like to plan. I'm always trying to peer into the future, determine what might be coming my way and figure out how to resolve problems before they arise.
This drives my wife a bit crazy sometimes, and I'm pretty sure my mom's tendencies have led to a bit of exasperation for my dad during their almost 55 years of marriage.
That's because the penchant for planning is accompanied, in both my mom and me, by a tendency to worry.