How can you truly achieve balance when all your competing needs are regularly vying for attention?
This is the question I find myself reflecting on as I try to reach a state of balance between my obligations at home and at work.
Being a mom of two wild and wonderful toddlers is an unbearably imperfect yet fulfilling full-time job in and of itself. Whether you’re a mom who “works” or a mom who is with her children all day long, it is all effort all the time. And this reality has caused many moms I know to question their life and the new sense of identity that comes with parenthood.
I’ve always considered myself an overachiever. It simply feels good to get things done, to check items off my to-do list, and to have a sense of order and control over my day. There’s probably some psychoanalysis to dive into here: the way I attach my sense of happiness with my ability to control, my sense of satisfaction with my ability to reach milestones at work, my sense of worth (if I’m completely honest with myself) with external praise and validation. But no matter how much I strive to control the balancing act of work and home, it doesn’t respond to my efforts.
I vow to be fully present when I am at home with my children, but then dinner needs to be made, a situation occurs at work that requires a response, and I am reacting to one need after another and another—and so it goes. If I concentrate my attention in one arena, things seem to slip in another. I work after hours to get caught up on projects and deadlines, but then my house becomes a mess around me. I clean my house the next week, which feels great, but then I skip the gym and stop paying attention to my eating habits. I spend more quality time with my children in exchange for time spent somewhere else, and it all just feels exhausting and inadequate.
Keeping all the plates spinning in perfect succession is just not possible—and perhaps that’s the lesson here.
Balance is bullsh*t. There is no perfect equilibrium, and that’s okay. Or maybe this new state of chaos only appears imperfect, because it is perceived with self-imposed fault and disparagement. I tell myself, “You are trying your very best,” and, “Some days will be easier than others.” I recognize that I can find joy and gratitude and contentment, and all of it in the tiny moments of surrendering to life exactly as it is.
But undoubtedly, the most freeing realization for me is this: you have the choice to tap the brakes and get clear.
Running on autopilot is not an existence, and life is too short to settle for anything less. When life is moving so fast that you feel as if you are struggling to simply stay on the ride, you can reject the spin and stop. You can find time, even if it is only for a few brief moments, to be still and sit in silence.
You can breathe and be gentle with yourself. You can admit to yourself that things are out of alignment, and this doesn’t make you a failure. You can just be aware that it is so and let go of the desire to control. You can reevaluate what matters to you in this moment, and contemplate where and when you are the most at ease. You can reject the struggle and aim for well-being.
In the stillness and the quiet you can hear what it is that your spirit is truly needing from you now. And when you stop and listen, you come to realize that you can choose again.