As a single parent for the past 17 years, I had to learn to balance family responsibilities, Church callings, professional work and community activities so I could function effectively in all my different roles and responsibilities. Some of the things that have helped me are the following:
- Know and live your priorities. Family has always come first in my priorities. All family activities are scheduled in my time planner in pen so other engagements will not push them out. I also look at what the value of different activities is on an eternal scale. I plan ahead and start preparations early so my mind can ponder things and be creative.
- Do things that have multiple benefits. For example, lessons for Church and training in business become family home evening lessons and can be incorporated into homework assignments. My letters to my mother on a different continent in a different language are actually journal pages that she files in binders. Thus, I also maintain my language fluency.
- Organize materials. I use folders, binders and tote bags to keep my various materials organized. Whenever I work on something, I pull out the folders and binder and do my work. When I have to go to a meeting, I just pick up the appropriate bag.
- Focus and be present. Doing an honest day's work with focused, concentrated effort has allowed me to complete my assignments, go home and have my weekends. At home, I am Mom. There is nothing more important than that eternal calling.
- Have quiet time. There is no substitute for daily scripture study and prayer. In addition, much of my work is drafted in my mind during lap swimming or walks (personal relaxation and health program). Answers also come during visits to the temple, the commute, service to others and sacrament meeting. The Sabbath anchors the work week.
- Understand life's seasons. A wise Relief Society president told me that the teenage years are a critical time to have Mother at home. So I saved and invested my money, had my food storage and prepared to be a stay-at-home mom. For four years, I stayed home and only accepted professional work when it did not interfere with family life.
- Laugh a lot and enjoy life. Living in the past or future tips us over. From trials come testimony, and there is joy even in long, painful journeys.
- Listen to the prophets. Our family action items are done twice a year, the evening of general conference. Balance in life is the knowledge that we live under the Lord's loving wing.
Helena Hannonen, Santa Clara, Calif.