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.