We are constantly bombarded with images and ideas that we can do it all. Internet memes declare, it’s not about not having time, it’s about setting priorities. Motivational speakers tell us, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right!” We can achieve everything we want. It’s all about finding balance.
Let me let you in on a little secret: this whole finding balance phenomenon – it is utter baloney. We need to stop trying. We need to stop thinking about it. Sometimes admitting we CAN’T is OK!
How is it possible to find balance when we have so many balls in the air? When you’re carrying all that weight on your shoulders walking a tightrope – you are going to fall, it’s only a matter of time.
Consider me your guinea pig. I’ve been trying to achieve balance forever. I am on a constant quest to be a better, fitter, happier, more productive, healthier, kinder, more stylish, more involved, more well read person. I’ve tried changing my mindset to make myself a priority.
You know where it gets me? Feeling like a failure on a daily basis.
Any of this sound familiar?
- You make a healthy dinner for your family but the kids won’t touch those roasted vegetables you spent all that time chopping. They just want meat. And crackers. And ice cream.
- You miss that early morning workout because you’ve been playing musical beds all night, or someone was sick all night, or the kids wake up before the gym even opens.
- You swear you’ll get the kids to school on time only to be picking up a late slip at the main office yet again.
- You clean the house and within minutes toys are everywhere, crumbs are everywhere, snot is on the couch, marker is on the wall, and the dog pukes on the rug.
- You swear one day you’ll figure out the origin of that nasty funk in your car.
- You finally have time to do a workout video at home but find yourself folding laundry between each move because the piles are getting in your way.
- You try to get some work done on your computer only to have your toddler mashing buttons and closing your laptop over and over and over.
- You burn the midnight oil to catch up on some deadlines.
- Those 7-9 hours of all-important sleep your supposed to be getting – see above. Not possible.
- Sleep deprivation can also cause weight gain. It increases production of a hormone that makes you hungry and affects your metabolism. So forget eating clean and give me a muffin with my venti latte!
Balance isn’t possible. It’s a farce. It’s just another unattainable illusion sold to us in magazines and preached to us on social media. It’s a new-age mantra that’s code for telling you to do it all, and if you can’t, it’s your fault. Trying to achieve it just creates frustration and anxiety.
Work-life balance is a prime example. If you take time to tend to your life, it’s not like you won’t have to catch up at work. You usually end up doing that at home. Texting at the dinner table. Putting the kids in front of the television so you can make a call. Distracted during story time. Then typing into the night. The same is true if you’re a stay at home parent. If you spend a day having fun with the kids, it’s not like dinner cooks itself. Last time I checked, laundry fairies do not exist. Meditation sounds lovely. But if I manage to free up 10 minutes, I use it to get something done. When I take time to relax then things start piling up and I have to work twice as hard to catch up and any Zen I might have achieved is replaced with angst.
Who knows, maybe balance is possible when you don’t have kids or if your kids don’t have a disability. But I doubt it. I think we all struggle with trying to achieve balance. And we often drive ourselves crazy trying.
I was catching up with some female friends recently. We were talking about how stressful life is. Wine was flowing when one mom mentioned that she really has to be careful about what nights she drinks because wine doesn’t go well with her anti-anxiety medicine or her sleeping pills. The other women in the room then opened up about the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety combinations they take. And how wine was a great coping mechanism too. What sort of expectations are we setting for ourselves when we have to medicate just to get through the day?
And let’s not forget the peanut gallery. Everybody has something to say about how we should live our lives – family, friends, acquaintances, even strangers.
- Mom says to let the little things go, don’t worry about cleaning so much; but living in a filthy house is a not OK with you.
- Husband tells you to learn to relax yet he leaves dishes in the sink and forgets to clear his spot and tells you he’ll scrub the tub/rake the leaves/fix the toilet/put his clothes in the hamper/etc. but never seems to get around to it.
- Friend urges you to make more time for date nights and girls nights but has no idea what goes into making that happen or how much you want to just put your pajamas on at 7 p.m.
- Acquaintance continuously asks you to increase your volunteer hours. When you politely say you have a lot going on she condescendingly responds, “We all do.”
- Stranger tells you to enjoy these years, they go by so fast. You reply, “I’m trying to savor every moment.” But think to yourself: “Have you ever had 3 kids in diapers at once, one of them a 5-year-old? When your kids were little did you spend more time in doctor’s offices than playgrounds? Did you count the days where your youngest child would be strong enough to defend himself from the oldest child’s behavioral outbursts?”
Forget balance. I just need to get by.
And I’ve found a way to do it with a smile. I recognize that it’s impossible to be happy all of the time. There will always be another item to add to the to-do list. I remind myself it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – some days walking the dog will have to count as my workout. Fortified cereal will have to suffice as a balanced dinner.
Those days when it feels like nothing is going my way? I cling to those moments of joy. In the middle of the chaos when anxiety is at its peak – find those flashes of happiness: laugh with your child, splash in that puddle, dancing to a favorite song, sink into a really good hug. When we take time to savor the little things, all that other noise – the woulds, coulds, and shoulds – just fades into the background.
Balance is bunk. Acceptance is key. Accept chaos. Accept frustration. Accept happiness isn’t eternal. It comes in bursts. We need to recognize those moments and savor them.