Louisa Claire

Opinion

How Do You Find Balance In Life?

I’ve been thinking a lot about balance of late. I mistakenly thought that was what I was looking for in this season of my life, but I am now going to join the growing chorus of women who want to reject the idea of balance all together.

What do we even mean by saying we want “balance”? Is it the idea of juggling many different balls in the air at once without dropping them? Even the imagery is exhausting! And yet,  it’s become the catch cry of a generation.

We talk about “balance” in terms of our roles and responsibilities: being partners/wives, mothers, friends, daughters, workers, bosses, cleaners, cooks. We talk about finding the balance between all these roles and commitments, but what do we actually mean?

I think we mean we want to fulfil all our obligations to perfection, or at very least near-perfection. We want to be engaged parents, productive employees, super housewives and attentive & attractive* wives/partners…well actually I think we probably don’t put as much attention on that last one (as perhaps we should?) but I’m throwing it in anyway.

In reality, we end up feeling that if we can “get by” without our children feel neglected, the house being a disaster and the work falling behind then we’re OK. We’re busy and we’re tired but there’s some sort of balance happening in the equation. Maybe.

I’ve come to thing that it’s more helpful to approach these roles and responsibilities in terms of priorities. There are the family priorities and work priorities, personal priorities and spiritual priorities. Whereas the concept of “balance” gives all the different relationships & tasks in our lives equal standing, thinking in terms of priorities leads us to some obvious and liberating implications. The first is, everything won’t get done. The second is, that’s Ok because the things that are important will get done & get done well. Accepting that we may have to let some things go is often the harder part of the equation…

*If you have a partner and children then you have relationships that you are morally bound to nurture & most likely, want to invest in.

*If you work you will have commitments that your are contractually obliged to meet.

*We all have individual needs and desires we wish to pursue – friendships to enjoy, hobbies to pursue and let’s not forget blogging and twitter ;)

*We all have housework to do.

No one can tell you which of these are of greater or lesser importance to you. My hunch is that you instinctively know what you want to be doing, and the things that matter the most to you.

Of course the fact that I have been thinking about this is a reflection of the fact that I’ve not been doing a good job of this myself, I am very much a work in progress.

It all became apparant to me a few weeks ago when I was sick and a friend I made through blogging but whom I had not been in touch with since Jan spent her afternoon cooking and then drove across town through peak hour to drop off three meals. I was so humbled by her kindness. I mean honestly, who does that?? It was quite remarkable and not the only expression of generosity she showed me; her kids also rocked up with a box, a MASSIVE BOX of toys that they thought Bliss might like to play with while she was out of action. Talk about raising great kids.

When I was pregnant I had all these grandiose plans about what I would be like as a Mum (we all know how that turned out, and if you don’t you can read this: What Kind Of Mum Do You Want To Be?)   But the one thing I am not willing to let go of, is that being at home with the kids enables me to be around, able and willing to be a friend, be a support and do things as they came up not with weeks of planning. And I haven’t been doing it.  Leisel’s thoughtfulness not only humbled me but caused me to reflect on my own approach to life and to take more responsibility for how I spend my time.

Side Note: Her kindness didn’t cause me to feel guilty, or tumble in to a spiral or guilt and self pity thinking “why can’t I be like that??” The great thing about focusing on priorities and not balance is that it removes a lot of guilt. What her actions did do was stir in me something that I’ve allowed to be muted, and I am deeply grateful for that.

I don’t want to “balance” my life and feel like I am constantly losing the battle. Life will always be a ‘work in progress’ and there will be seasons of life when there are competing priorities that stretch me and make life uncomfortable and exhausting. But it’s not just about how life is now but about the type of life I want to create over a lifetime. So, I’m throwing the concept of balance in the bin.

What about you? How do you “do life”?

*I do not mean this in terms of appearance, or conforming to our society’s notion of attractiveness. I mean, keeping the spark alive with your partner.

 

If you’re interested in this topic you might like to check out Nathalie Browns post Balancing Life. Nathalie is a Child Behaviour Consultant who guest posted on this blog last week talking about parenting styles.


Thoughts on “How Do You Find Balance In Life?

  1. Balance to me it not loosing my identity amongst the hum drum of family life and not feeling guilty about having ME time away from the kids and husband.

  2. I think I’ve thought about life in terms of priorities for quite a while now, but hadn’t realised that until now. My overall priority in life is to be happy, to feel good. And before anybody shrieks “What about your children???” – I strongly believe that “happy mummy means happy children”. I focus on myself because that is who my children need so that they are well and happy.

    I do everything based on that one priority – will this make me happy? Will I be a happier, healthier person if I do this? Decision making is so much easier now…
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  3. Love the post :) It’s great to see that many mums are now realising that Balance is quite the unachievable dream. As long as you are doing what you can. I can smile at the end of the day – Perfect Nx

  4. I think our definitions of balance differ slightly; mine includes priorities. So I see ‘balance’ rather positively. For me, balance is a personal thing; it’s what you feel works for you. There is an element of keeping all the balls in the air, but an important first step is figuring out how many balls there are, and what each of them weigh. If one is throwing things out of whack, then you need to reassess.

    So I think we share the same sentiment, just using different terms :-)
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    • I like the way you think about juggling and I can see how that’s a more helpful approach than just throwing everything randomly up in the air and scrambling to keep it there. I just wish we could let go of the whole concept of juggling – the idea that life is something we juggle rather than something….well, something other than that. When I try to describe it it all sounds rather naiive and simplistic though…need to give it some more thought. But yes, similar sentiment here :)

  5. Great post, Lou.

    I have another way of looking at it–what are God’s priorities? What does God want me focused on and putting my best efforts into?

    (Sad to say, this is usually an afterthought after an extremely bad day. I’m not so good at putting this in action.)

    For instance, when I’m a Super Witch because I’m in the middle of an awful diet and the scale hasn’t moved, I have to step back and think, “Does God want me to get into a funk over my weight, or does He have better–more important–work for me to do?”

    I guess on my own–under my own definition of “Good Mom”–I’m going to fail. Following a higher standard than my own yields better results! :)
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    • Thanks Jaci :) You make a great point & as I was writing this I was thinking a lot about the spiritual priorities aspect but think that deserves a post of its own… What is a good mum anyway? Love that concept of not judging by your own human standards – don’t love how uncomfortable that makes me though! ;)

  6. My balance sucks. I’m a working Mum (4 days per week) and I’m the main income earner. I can’t give work up. We would be better off if Hubby gave up work and I went back full-time, but I’m selfish – and not willing to give up my day with the kids….
    I can tell you my lowest priority is the house-work….

    • Bec, that’s full on for you. If I can give my opinion, don’t feel selfish – that time with your kids is so precious, you can’t get back these years so enjoy them as much as you can. xx

  7. This is such a brilliant post.

    Trying to balance everything and give the elements in my life ‘equal’ attention is something I’ve fallen into the trap of doing. I agree that it’s liberating to realise a) you CAN’T do everything to a very high standard, and b) that’s okay.

    The way I do life is think through what are my goals, then work backwards from there. Being a Christian, mine tend to be spiritual…then I think through how everything I ‘do’ fits into that and serves that purpose, be it as a mum, wife, friend, worker, etc.

    I also focus on relationships, not tasks. I try not to pressure myself to be ‘the perfect wife’ or ‘the perfect mother’ according to some external (often unforgiving!) standard, but rather focus on the person I’m in relationships with and how I can nurture that.

    • Thanks so much Soph, how kind and wow, just love the relationships angle. It makes live so much more enriching to think like that! Who cares how many “tasks” have been achieved if nobody’s life has been impacted and deepened by a human connection?? Nurturing those relationships lets those tasks fit into a bigger picture rather than being the picture. Love it!

  8. Oh I’m totally with you here! Ever since I had my daughter, it’s been all about picking what’s important and focussing on that and getting to the rest if I had time (but not beating myself up about it if I didn’t).
    I’ve also not been afraid to put my hand up and say I need some help. My daughter goes to daycare one day a week so I can get tasks completed that are a lot easier without a child in tow, and I have two lovely ladies that come to my house once a fortnight to do a really good vacuum, wash the floors, and clean the high use bathroom.
    When I start feeling that dreaded ‘mother guilt’, I try and put things in perspective and then, if I still feel guilty, I do something to change the situation so I don’t feel guilty.
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  9. I think balance means something different for me. Finding balance means for me, finding balance in myself. Working out what needs to happen so that I am in the best place possible, mentally. It’s the same as priorities really, just a different word.

    For me, when I’ve found my balance, I feel better and more centred in myself and things get done in the order they need to be done, as opposed to juggling. When I’m juggling, everything is likely to fall on my head.
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    • You’ve just hit the nail on the head (for me). My resistance to the idea of balance is that it’s the response to ‘juggling’ and the very notion that we ‘need’ to juggle and feel that it’s achievable to live (& thrive) like that is causing a whole range of problems & stress for women (& men). It’s so unfortunate that the assumption is that we will be busy & that being busy is a good thing – I can’t help but feel that there’s very little to be said for busyness…

      All that said, I like the way you see it – the idea of being an internal thing rather than solely about external pressures.

  10. I recently read a post that essentially said, “Live by your priorities, not your to-do list”. It didn’t specifically talk about “balance” but the elements are similar and the blog is about living a balanced life (http://livingthebalancedlife.com/2011/putting-your-priorities-where-they-belong/). I found that to be an eye-opener and your post is just a reminder of that. The challenge is that it’s easier to say than actually do sometimes.
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  12. Louisa,
    This post has given me so much food for thought. I found it so insightful and showed me that term ‘balance’ is transferable. I use this term in a different way to how you have described in this post.

    I speak and think about work/life balance regularly and am passionate about people being able to find this. Balance being different for everyone as priorities and roles differ so greatly for everyone. I believe once someone has identified and prioritized their roles, responsibilities and relationship, (some doing this with not much thought and process, others may ponder and experiment for years – and of course the ability to modify priorities as life changes) have the basis for ‘balance’ in life. I don’t see balance as perfection but giving a chosen amount of time and weight to tasks and responsibilities to make you happy and prevent stress and increased risk of mental health issues including depression and anxiety.
    Thank you so much for sharing, a great read.
    Jo

    • Hi Jo, thanks for your comments! I think that you’re right, but I also think that the term “balance” has become code for “try to jam everything i think i should be doing into a limited amount of time and it’s stressing me out” and it’s that concept I’d like to see the back of. Love the way you have explained it here, maybe I should get you to write a guest post for me?

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