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Balancing act: Stay-at-home mom finds different path to balance

Stacey Kratz enjoys some attention from her children on Mother's Day 2015. I often write about my family and the work-life balance lessons I learn from them. In reality, though, I'm not the only person in my family who is trying to build a balanced life.
Stacey Kratz enjoys some attention from her children on Mother's Day 2015. I often write about my family and the work-life balance lessons I learn from them. In reality, though, I'm not the only person in my family who is trying to build a balanced life. My wife, Stacey, is following a different path seeking a similar goal.
Greg Kratz, For the Deseret News

As regular readers of this column know, I often write about my family and the lessons I learn from them. Since my column focuses on work-life balance, it seems natural that I would do so.

I almost always talk about these issues from my perspective as our family's primary breadwinner and the person who spends most of every weekday in an office environment.

In reality, though, I'm not the only person in my family who is trying to build a balanced life.

This point hit home last week when I spoke about work-life balance to a group of university administrators.

After my presentation, one man in the audience commented on his wife's hard work as a stay-at-home mom and wondered what he could do to help her build a balanced life. After all, when he's done with work for the day, he leaves the office and is no longer surrounded by the trappings of his job. But with her role in the home, his wife is seemingly always "on the clock."

Fortunately, my wife and oldest daughter accompanied me to the presentation, so I invited my spouse, Stacey, to take center stage and talk about her own attempts at building balance as a stay-at-home mom.

Her response was excellent and could help others, both moms and dads, who are in a similar situation, so I want to share her ideas today.

Stacey said the first thing she does to keep her life in balance is remind herself often how grateful she is to be a parent and how much she enjoys our four children.

"I don't feel intellectually stunted or bored with them, ever," she said. "They're the most challenging job I've had. So that, in itself, is really motivating for me — wanting to do the best I can for them."

Next, she said, it's important to have a good partner and a strong relationship with that person. According to her, I'm filling that role pretty well.

"You're very helpful and pick up a lot of tasks when I need you to, and I hopefully do that for you," she said. (And yes, she absolutely does.) "I think that's important, to have that give-and-take between the partners in the relationship."

It's also vital to carve out "couple time" that doesn't involve taking care of the house or the children. We've worked hard at this over the years, and we usually do a pretty good job of prioritizing date nights and time together.

Another thing that helps my wife find balance, especially now that our children are a bit older, is getting them involved in keeping the house organized and functioning.

"I've had a great time this summer with them doing chores, and me helping them," she said. "I've enjoyed it, and they've enjoyed it, and they've taken pride in it. Teaching them, as they get bigger, to contribute to the care of the house ... is important for them and takes the load off."

But most of these comments still center on our home, our marriage and our children. There's nothing wrong with that, but Stacey said stay-at-home moms also need to make time to remember themselves.

"Do things that help you develop your skills," she said. "I found that church service helped me use some of my leadership and job skills. And PTA lets me use some of those skills, working in classrooms."

She's also become a bit of an activist, supporting our local schools, and said it's important to her to be engaged in the community.

"That way, you don't forget about your individual talents," she said, adding that she believes a person can develop and hone many of her skills and abilities through her work in the home, too.

While she seems to have a great handle on life, that doesn't mean Stacey never gets tired. On the contrary, there are days and weeks that leave her absolutely exhausted.

However, she said, she never feels trapped in our home, and she has taken steps to make sure she never will.

While her role in the family means she will be in the house a lot, she also gets away through church and community projects, lunches out with friends and other activities.

"Rather than a life balance, it's more of a time balance, where you do spend time outside your house doing other things," she said. "In a lot of cases, I'm still serving my family ... but I'm not at home, and I'm doing things separate from my home life, so that really helps."

Overall, Stacey said, she feels good about the balance she's found, and she has no regrets about choosing to keep her focus on our family at this stage of our lives.

"I always planned to do it, I always thought I would eventually do it, and I completely love it," she told me. "It's exciting getting to see all of the stages. I actually feel bad for you sometimes because of all of the stuff you miss and I get the privilege of seeing."

I know I do miss things while I'm at the office, but I can't adequately express my gratitude to Stacey for the sacrifices she makes, the labor she performs and the nearly perfect example she sets for our children.

I hope both of us are teaching them how to build balanced lives as we work through our own different, but equally important, roles. And I'm glad that wise question got us talking about this as a couple.

As I've written many times, everyone's path to balance is unique, but it's always easier when we help each other. I'm glad I get to share my journey with Stacey, and I'm excited to see where it leads us and our family in the future.

Email your comments to kratzbalancingact@gmail.com or post them online at deseretnews.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.