What image comes to your mind when you think of the word balance? A balance beam? Or maybe a stack or differently sized rocks? The feeling I get is that balance is a little shaky. I see myself with my arms out, waving and wobbling about, until balance is achieved. When you look up the definition of the word balance they use words like equilibrium and steadiness. One of the definitions is “the equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.” It is this definition of balance that we think of when we hear the phrase “Work Life Balance”.
The phrase Work Life Balance implies the need to evenly distribute your time between work and life. From the start, we know that is near impossible. If you work eight hours a day you would literally have to balance that out with eight hours of “life”, and in a perfect world eight hours of sleep. Though the math works out, the reality rarely does because “life” is not just one thing to manage. Life breaks out into family, household, friends and personal responsibilities. Now you are trying to find balance, equal time, for all of these things. It’s overwhelming. Thinking about it in that way brings to mind an image of a Jenga game, where the carefully stacked blocks are balanced but teetering waiting for one more piece to be removed before it all falls apart.
So how do you get past that feeling that your daily balance is a tower of blocks that is waiting to collapse? First you need to accept the fact that balance is not something that can be measured daily. Some days everything falls into place – your work gets done, there’s no traffic, making dinner is a breeze and you get to spend quality time with your little ones. Other days, you’re not so lucky - a big work project means working late or a sick kid means not working at all. As if the overall stress of days like those are not enough, we put added stress on ourselves by thinking about how out of balance we are on that day. We need to accept that balance is something that can look very different from day to day, it doesn’t have to be equal as the definition implies.
The powerful fact is that you get to define what balance looks like for you. For me, it’s come down to deciding what is most important to me in that given day. If I have been working late, then I try to find a quick dinner to make so that we can spend time with the kids before bed doing something fun. Or if there is a book report due the next day that is nowhere close to being done, that might mean leaving work early and logging in later on that night to finish up. I know it’s not always that easy. Summertime is a great time to look at what is and what is not working. It gives you a chance to slowly start to incorporate your new vision of balance and see how it works before the school year adds another level of chaos. Work life balance, or even just life balance, is possible when you are living your own definition. It doesn’t have to be perfect equilibrium, as long as it feels steady to you.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.