Decades ago I was talking to my smart and artsy friends about balance. We were graduate students, activists, feminists trying to make a mark on or a space in the world. We went to protests, cultural theory classes, and dance clubs. We thought deep and hard, organized conferences, started women’s groups, wrote a lot, pulled all-nighters, cooked together, talked nonstop, took road trips, or slept for an age.
And when we took a pause, we wondered how to achieve balance. We all wanted it and thought we should have it; but nobody could really do it. None of us felt we could strike a balance. One day, one of us said it: balance is a bitch. Indeed,
I felt throttled, guilty for not slowing down, so that I could do all the things. And I was not alone. That turned out to be one of my best college lessons.
Sometimes balance is just unattainable; and… here’s the important part: that’s ok.
I tapped my fingers through a scheduled massage. A poetry reading. A walk in the woods. I had shit to do!
Not every time, but most times. My fingers would type out what I was thinking while I was trying to force some “balance” on myself. And feeling like a failure because I couldn’t do it without typing on my leg about the thing I would rather do.
The search, the struggle, for that slippery idea of balance can actually be harder than allowing yourself to live without it. There is nothing wrong with passion, hard work, or immersion. Passion projects lend themselves to lack of balance — have you ever been so involved in a project you love that hours slip away like minutes? To me that’s a really good feeling.
I’ve had no bigger passion project than parenting — where striking a balance implies constant stability, regularity, discipline — foundational to making a happy home.
And while one kid in particular may enjoy having a more organized home, a less spontaneous schedule, regularly scheduled weekly one-on-one time, it’s not happening right now. Not every month, month after month. Maybe two weeks in a row, maybe three. And I have stopped beating myself up about that. Instead, I do spontaneously say “we haven’t had our time together, let’s play a game.” And they have yet to reach the age where they won’t come sit. And sometimes, too, I am happy to spend a full afternoon and evening playing board or card games. Cuddling. Chaperoning. I love spending a few days in the car, traveling. Camping.
We are finding our own pace, and I’m not tapping my fingers on the sides of my legs while we take a “leisurely” walk by the river. We still take walks, but sometimes five minutes of eye contact works, too. And it’s ok.
They know when I’m distracted, and they know when I’m present. They are learning to ask for time, to keep themselves entertained, and sometimes, to wait. We all love each other and their grades are good. They see me taking care of business, following through on commitments, making mistakes and fixing them. They see a woman following her heart, make time for herself, and make time for them. It’s not always balanced, and we are all learning that it’s okay.
If you’d like someone in your corner as you find or re-calibrate ‘balance,’ I have some spots in my “funner” coaching programs made specially for moms. Message me here or on facebook to schedule a free chat.