There is Always a Trade-Off


“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There was an echo in the room this past weekend as my husband uttered the words that I have been saying to myself, out loud, and even to that cat for as long as I can remember.

“Can we just have a clean house?” he desperately gasped to no one in particular. He has been traveling, working on things around the house and after stepping on the black Hot Wheels mini cruiser for the third time that morning, he had had it. Exasperated he related his frustrations about the constant mess and clean-up cycle that exists in our house (mostly courtesy of our three children). Granted, the cat leaves her toys around, too, but we usually give her a pass.

I sat for a moment and thought about how to respond.

Do I jump for joy that my partner in crime, best friend, husband and father to my children, finally gets what I have been experiencing the last 8 plus years? Or do I scream in bewilderment that this is the first time he has pondered this? And, actually, I didn’t do either.

I recognized my own frustrations in his words, and how I have contemplated, yelled, whispered, muttered and meditated on this very same thought. I realized that the answer is almost always, ‘yes’. Can we have a clean house? Sure. We could pay for someone to clean it. We could spend the time and do it ourselves. We could make our kids do it all. These are all options (some more plausible than others). Yet, my point is that we have choices.

There is always a trade-off.

We all have choices. And yet, with each choice, there is a consequence.

And a consequence, by definition, is not necessarily a negative. It is a cause and effect sort of deal. If we spent all of the time cleaning, we would not have time to hang out as a family. If we hired someone to do it, we would be using money that could go towards bills, towards a vacation, towards savings. If we forced the kids to do it, well, I’ll let that one just sit.

Now more than ever in life we are inundated with assumptions and expectations of what we should or shouldn’t be doing with our time, our money, our family, our career – our lives. But we must never forget that for better or worse, most of us have some degree of choice. And we need to take responsibility for it and not blame others for the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Things cost, money takes work, work takes time, children grow fast, and today will never come again.

Especially since having children, I have always sought balance – to try to accomplish a little bit of everything, you know, have it all. And not in a peaceful and meditative way of simply seeking. No, I have fought, struggled, and down-right pushed. I have felt angry, frustrated and disappointed when I don’t get or accomplish what I intended. I have felt left out. I have felt I am not enough. I have felt that I can’t keep up and am simply lost in a swirl of squandered opportunities and vanishing memories.

But at what cost? What is most important?

My brain is slowly catching up with the wisdom of my soul. Deep down, I truly know this illusion of balance is simply just that – an illusion. It is only determined by my own self-assessment. There is more of a pendulum action going on in my life, with points of various pulls all along the invisible path of the pendulum. The path of the pendulum pretty much stays the same, unless some outside factor pushes it out, but even then, it finds its way back. The points along the path are the things, activities and people that are my Universe. Some days, one has more pull than another, and when I follow the pull, I simply go with it and it takes me to the most important person or thing at the moment.

Sometimes the points shift pulls or even change all together. Or new ones are added. And even to the observer, it is easy to see all the points on the path, even the ball itself. The less obvious, and yet most important, aspect of the pendulum is the center, the fixed point at top, from which it swings. This is you. This is me. Here exists the guiding strength and wisdom that allows for any and all movement of the pendulum ball.

And that is the key.

I may swing out of balance. I may find myself questioning the direction I am headed, the trade-offs I am making. Because of course, there will always be trade-offs. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a situation of good versus bad choices, because what works for someone else may not work for you. We can’t take it personally, we have to know our priorities and recognize our limitations. Every decision is a choice toward or away from our goal. We must recognize that and go with it. If we find ourselves unhappy and just as disgruntled down the road, maybe the choices we are making do not match up with the priorities we think we have. And for this reason alone, this is why it is crucial not to judge by someone else’s standards.

Reevaluate and reset.

It’s time to reevaluate and reset the pendulum, with our own wants and needs at the center. It is always a constant motion of one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward. Do the dance, accept the flow, leave room for a change in the path and reset when necessary.


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