Why Balancing It All is a Myth and What to Do Instead
I’m a true believer in the universe manifesting our thoughts and intentions. Stay with me. Lately I’ve been thinking about the notion that it is possible for a woman to “balance” a career with being a mom and partner. As I’ve been formulating my thoughts, an article in a newsletter that I receive talked about that very thing! It discussed blending work and family rather than balancing them. The difference is subtle but important. Balancing implies two distinct entities that are separate and quantifiable. Balancing also implies that a special unicorn-like magical equation exists proving that balance is achievable. Blending implies a more relaxed approach…more flow. Blending also seems less quantifiable and a bit more messy.
For quite some time now, oh say for the past 4.5 years which just happens to be the exact amount of time I've been balancing, I have felt as if I have to be working OR child-rearing. Being a balancer of both has meant that they are separate activities (I work 8-4:30. I am mom 4:30-the following 8:00.). My attempts at balancing have come crashing down and have led to toy fire engine noises on conference calls or my son begging me to have his own ‘puter while we sit side by side on the couch, my son’s lap filled with a Leap Pad singing the praises of Sesame Street's Super Grover and my lap filled with a work computer (aka ‘puter) trying to review a document and be somewhat present with him because the sitter called out sick for the fourth day in a row.
Then, as it often happens when I am least expecting it but most needing it, a light bulb moment occurred. I was visiting a friend who gets me (something I’ve found rare likely because I’m spending too much energy trying to balance and not enough on forging new and fostering old friendships). She’s a stay at home mom of two adorable little ones after being a balancer following the birth of her first. She commented that she’s really enjoying staying at home with both of them and that she didn’t feel torn because she wasn’t trying to work and be a full-time mom. Later, she confessed that she is working a bit but that it didn’t feel like work. Why? The light bulb moment…drumroll please. Two reasons, I think: 1. She let go of the expectation (her expectation for herself perhaps fed by the cultural expectation) that she is supposed to be capable of being 100% mom and 100% super-star career woman at the same time, all of the time, and 2. She now only takes on clients with whom she enjoys spending time who also understand and accept toy fire truck noises on conference calls.
It’s true that not everyone has the luxury of choosing when and with whom they work, but I think that many of us balancers can be better blenders by re-evaluating what is important, being creative, and dropping the expectation that we can or should want to "do it all" all of the time. For me, that means moving toward making my passions generate income so that my time can be more flexible. It also means being okay with sometimes working next to my son while he still wants to sit next to me (with or without my ‘puter).
So, the big take-home message and really the almighty action step is this: Drop the expectation that you SHOULD be able to balance it amazingly well, garnering employee of the month and mother of the year awards. It's an illusion. Once you embrace the idea that balancing is a myth and relax into the idea of imperfectly blending the passions in your life, it all seems easier because you've dropped the expectations that were making it so hard. Drop the balance. Nurture the blend. Enjoy life!