Editor's note: This article was originally published on The Power of Moms. It has been republished here with permission.
As I sat down to work on this article, my husband came in to see what I was doing. I told him I was trying to write an article on balance and asked him if he had any wise words for me. "Balance is overrated" is all he had to say – then told me I'd be more balanced if I went to bed soon.
I thought his answer was flippant and wished for a meatier idea or two. But the more I think about it, there's actually a good dose of truth in his quick little response.
Sometimes I worry so much about whether or not I'm balanced. I feel stressed as I look at my life one week and see that it's totally off-kilter while I work on a big project for The Power of Moms for a while. Other times, I'm tilted toward lots of quality time with my kids and end up neglecting some other things I'd promised to do. I've had stretches of time when I've felt so totally consumed with my family's needs and work needs that I haven't even been able to find time to take a shower or exercise for days. During these off-balance times, I find that on top of the stress I feel about the amount of work I'm doing or the lack of personal time I have, I also feel stress about being out of balance.
I think it's important to accept that perfect, ongoing balance is just not going to be possible for most of us. And that's OK.
Picture a tightrope walker. Is she walking in a straight steady line or is there some side-to-side motion involved in keeping her balance? Her overall balance and ability to keep walking along that thin rope involves a lot of tipping back and forth with her arms held out to the side as she moves forward. And just like that tightrope walker, our balance must include some tipping toward one side then the other as we move forward. Some days we'll be more tipped toward kids' needs, other days, we'll need to tip more toward projects for our home or our paid employment. But there are ways we can stay somewhat centered through it all.
One simple practice that really makes a difference for me is this: I strive to take about three minutes each evening to make a list of the three most timely and important things I plan to accomplish the next day. To make this "top priority" list, I ask myself these questions:
What is the most important thing I could do tomorrow for myself?
What is the most important thing I could do tomorrow for my family?
What is the most important thing I could do tomorrow from my "to-do" list for work (be it housework, volunteer work, or paid work)?
I find that the answers to these questions come quite quickly and easily – more so the more regularly I do this. Examples of things that might go on my list for the next day: for myself – read one chapter in my new book; for my family – work with Isaac on his book report; work – put up the registration page for our upcoming Power of Moms Retreat on the website.
Even on the busiest, craziest days, I can generally get THREE SIMPLE THINGS in THREE DIFFERENT CATEGORIES accomplished. When I accomplish those three things, I feel quite balanced – and quite powerful.
And when I don't quite accomplish my three-category goals, there's always tomorrow. I can be more balanced tomorrow. I'll just keep trying.
I guess I'll just end by saying that I do think balance is important. But I also think balance can be overrated and over-complicated and guilt-inducing if we don't take the time to figure out what balance can realistically look like in our lives and figure out simple strategies to achieve a level of balance that is manageable and empowering for us. I hope that maybe an idea or two from this little article will strike your fancy so you can find a general sense of balance in your life while recognizing that there are times when we'll be tipped one way or another for a time – and that's OK!
And now I'm quickly setting my three little goals for tomorrow and heading to bed because, as my wise husband mentioned, it's hard to be balanced when you're tired.
Saren adores her five energetic, adventurous, precocious children but doesn't totally adore the mess and busyness and bickering that comes with them! She grew up all over the world, did her B.A. at Wellesley College and her M.Ed. at Harvard, did humanitarian service in Eastern Europe, and conducted training programs for teachers and enrichment programs for kids. But after she got married and had her five children, the real education and work began! When she's not trying to answer five different needs and questions at once, she writes and puts together programs for moms for the website she co-directs, Power of Moms. She currently lives in Ogden, Utah and loves reading, hiking, and biking with her family (or by herself when possible!). She often struggles with balance but finds joy in being involved in many things that are meaningful to her.