The Importance of Buffers

In the two years of chemistry I took in college, the worst labs were always titrations. (Besides the one where I spent 3 hours synthesizing a compound only to spill it out of my flask with 10 minutes left in the protocol.)

In a titration, you add tiny amounts of Solution A to Solution B. Solution A and Solution B react with each other and essentially neutralize. Solution B also contains an indicator, which is a chemical that doesn’t react with Solution A but changes appearance (usually color) in reaction to the concentration or pH of Solution B.

The point is to determine how much Solution A it takes to react with and neutralize all of Solution B. If you overshoot that point, the indicator will change color, so you have to find the point RIGHT BEFORE it changes color.

Here’s what usually happens:

Drop. Clear.

Drop. Clear. (repeat 100x)

Drop. Flash of color that disappears.

Drop. Flash of color that disappears. (repeat 20x)

Drop. ALL TURN PURPLE START OVER NO SOCIAL LIFE FOR YOU SCIENCE MAJOR HEHE.

Between snow days closing daycare and Fire Monkey bringing home a revolving door of rhinoviruses when daycare WAS open, January and February have been an exercise in mental and emotional titration around here. And I definitely found my saturation point.

I took on a fourth monthly marketing client in mid January and while she is a total dream to work with, suddenly I felt totally frazzled where before I was managing pretty well. I try to work only when I have child care, which is four days a week, so having four clients who needed attention every week turned out to be too much. One weather delay or feverish toddler and the whole house of cards would fall over. I didn’t have enough buffer to cope with the disruptions that inevitably crop up in life.

(Back to science for a minute. A chemical buffer is a substance that prevents large swings in pH. Most cellular functions and enzymatic reactions only work in a narrow pH range, so buffers are pretty important.)

It turns out I’m the buffer in our family when snow days and cold viruses strike, so it’s important for me to have enough buffer in my own life. During one particularly nasty week when I finally succumbed to a bad cough, Science Guy reminded me that when I’m sick, my recovery time has to come out of work time. We don’t get breaks from parenting or keeping the household semi-functional. That’s when I realized that having four ongoing clients was eating up all my mental and energetic buffer.

So I made the decision to end a contract with a client and retire from my Sseko business. It wasn’t an easy choice. I’m going to lose some money and relationships. But it was the right one to recharge my buffer. I now have some more time and energy in my schedule to work with when interruptions happen.

(I also made a pretty major pivot in my business, which you can see on the website. I’ll share more about it next time!)

Moms tend to be the buffers, cooling rods, and shock absorbers in life. We insulate our families from the potholes of life. We take the heat of stress and turn it into comforting warmth. We snatch the rogue protons out of solution and tack them onto our own conjugate bases. (Or something like that.)

But to do all that, we have to care for ourselves. Leave space for our thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative. And that usually means we have to make choices. These choices are rarely easy.

Choose sleeping over getting something to a client 12 hours faster.

Choose reading the same book to your toddler for the 15th time over being the fastest to respond to an e-mail inquiry.

Choose getting a babysitter over saving $30 and “working while watching the kids.”

Choose consistent, fixed income over larger feast-or-famine projects.

Choose less money over less time.

When it feels like there are no good choices, maybe that just means there are no bad choices. Do whatever you need to create some more margin in your life. (I’m humming Daniel Tiger’s Turn It Around song as I write this. SEND HELP PLEASE.)

What choices can you make to recharge your buffer today?

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