Carla: It seems like every article I read about motherhood focuses on this elusive idea of “balance.” I’m all for it, if only someone could step into my life and show me what exactly it might look like.
I don’t think my life is any more complicated than anyone else’s. In some ways, it’s less complicated than the lives of many women I know. I work from home, so that eliminates a whole batch of stressors like daily childcare and commuting and what to do when someone gets sick and having to look presentable by 8 in the morning. I have a husband, so that obviously helps A LOT. I have all kinds of good and wonderful things in my life that make my days far easier than those of 98% of the world’s population.
I feel so out of whack. I feel like I spend most of my time doing the things I like the least–housework, actual work, running errands–and end up so wiped out I have very little energy for the things I like best–my hubs and kids and friends and TV. The balance is clearly off here, but I truly have no idea how to get things flipped around. I don’t know how to spend less time working without adding tremendous financial stress to our family. I don’t know how to spend more time nurturing my marriage without sacrificing time with our kids. I don’t know how to invest in my friends without taking away from my family. And I certainly don’t know how to put any kind of effort into caring for myself without cutting into the time I need and want to spend on everyone and everything else.
I’m starting to wonder if the whole idea of “balance” is a big myth. I can’t think of anyone–married, single, childless, parenting, working, not working–who would say she lives a balanced life. So let’s talk about this. Is there such a thing as balance or is life simply meant to be lived as it comes, always a little out of whack and crazy?
Caryn: Or even totally dull and boring… I mean, is that a balanced life either? I actually think “balance” is one of those concepts that have done moms (and everyone) a huge disservice and left many of us banging our heads against pretend fort walls or crib railings or whatever hard-ish surface is around. It is definitely a huge MYTH–nay, I would even say LIE.
I mean, where does this idea even come from? We hear—as you say—all the time that this is the desired effect and get bombarded with ways to make it happen. And yet, like you, I really don’t know what it looks like? And frankly, I don’t even know if I want it.
When I think of how I want my life to be, the word “balance” never comes into my head. I won’t be on the old death bed smiling at my grandkids, stroking my little lap dog, thinking, Wow, so glad my life was so balanced!
What I do want is a life that was lived well, even well executed. Certainly one that honors God–and my family. And I think that times of pure chaos, total boredom, and a lot in the middle are just part of it.
Back to “balance”: Since I do a lot of writing for women and moms (as do you, Carla!), I’ve been trying to avoid using the word “balance” all together. I’m liking “integrated” lately–the idea of going for the integrated life, not one that’s so segmented and partitioned off. Within that certainly there are priorities, certainly moments or parts that are more interesting or chaotic or fulfilling or pathetic than others, but it’s all one big life. And we need to try to live it well.
Carla: It’s frightening how our brains synch up sometimes. I was talking about living integrated lives just a few days ago. That’s totally what I’m trying to do, too. I’m especially good at integrating TV into my kids’ lives so I can work.
Seriously, integration is a far better goal–lives in which all we do and all we are flow together. Balance implies compartments and categories. And maybe that’s why it’s so hard to achieve; it forces life to be something it isn’t. It forces us to think of ourselves as people who live out a bunch of roles, rather than people who are just living our lives. So, to quote Tracy Turnblad and use the term completely out of context, “I’m all for integration. It’s the new frontier!”