Originally posted 6/6/2015
What image comes to your mind when you think of the word balance? A balance beam? A stack of rocks? A teeter totter?
The feeling I get when I think of balance is a little shaky. I picture myself with my arms waving and wobbling, trying to steady myself.
In 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.”. I think this is the definition we most likely 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 with eight hours of “life” and, in a perfect world, eight hours of sleep. The math works out, but the reality does not because the life category is not one thing to manage. Life breaks out into family, household, friends and personal responsibilities. Finding balance, equal time, for each of these things is overwhelming. I picture a game of Jenga. The blocks carefully stacked and balanced. However, when you start to move the pieces, it starts to teeter, threatening to fall apart.
So how do you get past that feeling that your daily balance is a tower of blocks that is waiting to collapse? First, accept the fact balance is not a perfect mathematical equation. 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 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 balance will look different from day to day and will rarely be equal as the definition implies.
The powerful fact is you get to define what balance looks like for you. For me, it comes down to deciding what is most important to me today. If I had to work later, I spend less time on dinner to maximize time with the kids. Or if there is a book report due, that is nowhere close to being done, it might mean leaving work early and logging in later at night to finish up.
It’s not always easy, but it’s never too late to look at what is and what is not working. Why is it not working? How would you like to change it? What is one shift you could make today? 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.
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Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash
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.