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Why I hate the idea of “balance”

Why I hate the idea of balance

Ah, work-life balance. Such a hot topic these days, no?

One of the benefits of being a woman and mother in the 21st century is that there are a million options for men and women alike, and we no longer need to make a choice between family and career.

In fact, earlier this week, Tsh at The Art of Simple talked about doing what you love, sharing a pretty profound statement that Susan Wise Bauer made that has inspired her to stop feeling guilty about pursuing her own passion.

And all of that is fine to say, but it doesn’t necessarily make the whole balance thing any easier. We treat this illusive “balance” as if it’s the key to being able to “do it all,” but I think the whole idea is just making things harder:

Balance implies that we should give just a little bit of ourselves to many different things, never investing enough in any one thing to tip the scales.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a stressful and unfulfilling way to live.

Instead, I prefer to think of what I do as a work-at-home mom as juggling. Although I’ve never been a very good juggler in real life, I really love this metaphor as it applies to my life.

If you were to take a video of someone juggling and play it in slow motion, you’d see three key parts of the process. The juggler has to throw each ball to start the momentum and catch each one to keep it from hitting the floor, but in between she lets the balls coast from one hand to the other.

Life is a lot like that.

There are times when we need to focus our attention on throwing the ball—launching a new business, focusing on a new project, learning a new skill, investing in our children—and there are times we need to focus on catching it—helping our kids through a difficult friendship or rough time at school, preparing our taxes, following up with clients.

But there are also times when things coast along—when we find a groove with our business or our kids are especially happy and content (and not bickering).

Although there are still going to be times when it feels like all of the balls are coming in for a landing at once—which is a great time to practice some creative juggling—the key to successfully juggling life is to find a rhythm where you’re able to keep all of them moving, shifting your focus from one to the next so that they each get the attention they need at those critical points.

That means saving your yeses for the best things in life and being willing to say no without feeling guilty. For me, it means staying home, using paper plates and serving frozen french fries as a side when deadlines are looming. No one achieves perfect balance in their life, but juggling allows us to embrace the natural ebb and flow of the different things on our plates.

What things are you trying to juggle as a mother? Have you found your rhythm?