Balance: the state of having your weight spread equally so that you do not fall or the ability to move or to remain in a position without losing control or falling.
A funny thing happened when I began writing this article. I looked up the word balance and, because I was in my daughter’s room hiding from my family so that I could get this completed before the deadline hit me upside the head like a brick, I forgot my glasses. Without them, I read the word fall as fail, and the word falling as failing. Once I realized my misreading, I laughed out loud at the irony. Did I really misread it?
A meaningful definition of work/life balance as viewed through the eyes of a mother who is in the throes of this daily juggling act most likely, and most unfortunately, may substitute the word fail for the word fall. As women, we can be hard on ourselves. As moms, we can be brutal. We want the best life we can possibly create, both for our kids and for ourselves. And guess what? We deserve it! But beating ourselves up (and others for that matter) when we fall short of whatever standards we’ve set in pursuit of that life is the wrong approach.
So what’s the right one?
My work over the past several years has put me in the position of spending hundreds of hours focused on the American mother’s quest for work/life balance. I have interviewed everyone from therapists to motivational speakers, corporate leaders to spiritual leaders; I’ve read books, sat at roundtable discussions, contributed to panels, and had real-life conversations with both close friends and moms I’ve just met on the playground. Based on all that I’ve learned, here are some tips that work for me:
>> 1. Perfect balance is a myth.
Whenever I strive for perfection, all I wind up with is stress and disappointment. Those days are over. Instead, I’ve created my own personal definition of happiness and a balanced life. I’ve also accepted and learned to welcome the fact that this is a fluid concept.
>> 2. Be good to yourself.
Keep a gratitude journal. Schedule time for meditation and exercise. Reward yourself along the way as you strive to make choices of which you’re proud. Slow down for five minutes and listen to your child singing to the radio. Enjoy the moment, breathe, and smile.
>> 3. It takes a village.
Don’t be afraid to lean on yours. There’s no shame in asking for help and receiving support; in fact, it has its own special rewards.
>> 4. Organize and prioritize.
I accept the fact that I can’t be everywhere for everyone at all times, but I sure as heck can lower everyone’s stress by having a system for knowing and communicating where we all are and what we should be doing.
>> 5. Be in charge without being controlling.
Families need the stability of knowing that Mom is in charge and can be counted on. By the same token, few of us react in an emotionally positive way to being controlled. Learn the difference and practice it.
By Bettina Bush