This post is late coming due to my technical issues and temporary loss of mind. Stacey, you’re welcome to use it for your writing project if you want to. If not, that’s cool too.
I said as much to Stacey, but she convinced me to try and put my own spin on the topic, particularly since I struggle so much with it. And what a struggle it’s been. In truth, until very, very recently, I would have told you I have no idea what life balance is.
None. I’m not exaggerating.
For this reason I decided to consult a book by Paul Wilson, who is often cited as the Guru of Calm. In Perfect Balance: Create Time and Space for All Parts of Your Life, Paul defines PERFECT BALANCE as
The “feeling of everything being just right and making sense, when you perform at your best and most productive without stress or distraction, when you are motivated and inspired, when you can relax and enjoy the company of others, when you have all the time in the world…”
I read that and my first thought is, “Does anyone feel this way?” Because I certainly never have.
For as long as I can remember I have been one of those people who throws herself from one extreme to the other. When I was younger it was 12 hour days as a product manager balanced with boozing, popping pills and snorting coke until I didn’t know whether I was waking up or going to bed.
Then I spent years where I achieved some real meaning in my life, but there was still no balance. I was either: working, studying and saving; or taking off backpacking for 5-6 months. This usually involved lying around on beaches, drinking beer, meeting new friends and exploring temples and markets. After recharging my batteries, I’d inevitably return home and start the treadmill all over again.
I guess there is a kind of balance in this; a SEE-SAW EFFECT. But when I was in work mode my most common feeling was exhaustion, which is hardly a sustainable state.
Trying To Be The Perfect Mother Reduced My Life Balance To An All-Time Low
At 32, after years of this tiring, but at times exhilarating SEE-SAW, I embarked on what would become the most unbalanced phase of my life. Motherhood.
For the first time I went from being a die-hard independent; a woman who had been completely self- driven for 14 years, to a woman who gave up everything to raise my son.
Yes, EVERYTHING. All exercise, self care, my job, my own money, my LIFE outside of Bunny.
I was so determined to be the PERFECT MOTHER. To get everything “right”. To be there for every second of my son’s life. To have him know he was my top priority; the one person he could always count on.
To me, being a good mother meant sacrifice. Lots and lots of sacrifice.
If you’re thinking there’s a happy ending here and I’m going to deliver a bullet point list of how I turned my life around in 10 easy steps, well you’re going to be disappointed. I do see the error of my ways and I now understand that HAPPY MOMMY = HAPPY CHILD. But to say, I’ve got it all worked out, that would be overly optimistic.
Is Life Balance Achievable?
This group writing project has come at an interesting time because I have been consumed in recent months with the need to balance my responsibilities to others with my responsibilities to myself.
It has been an at times heart wrenching struggle as I have questioned whether I am even cut out for motherhood. I have so many personal ambitions and a free spirit that does not like to be confined. How do I reconcile this with my current responsibilities and the needs of the family I adore?
I have asked myself many times what I really want out of life and so far my ideal picture of life balance involves:
– my time being evenly split between work/projects that are creatively fulfilling and spending quality time with my child
– having satisfying relationships while also taking quiet time to continue with my personal development and spiritual studies, or just do nothing and recharge
– to have some financial security balanced with a high degree of freedom and a respect for my adventurous spirit
– to live mostly in a state of inner peace
– to spend more time in the present and enjoying my physicality and less time in my head
When I read those words, I can’t help but think I’m searching for nirvana. Doesn’t everyone want this kind of life, and realistically how many of us are going to get it? I have considered the notion that maybe the SEE-SAW is the best I can hope for. Maybe I’m just built this way – a woman of extremes.
But then I started reading Perfect Balance: Create Time and Space for All Parts of Your Life and two of Paul Wilson’s quotes leaped out at me:
“Everything you need for a perfectly balanced life you already have. There’s nothing new you need, there’s nothing you have to give up. All you have to do is rediscover and refocus the strengths you have now.”
“Your life will be as balanced as you make up your mind for it to be.”
Aha – LIGHT BULB MOMENT. In an instant I understood where I have been going wrong.
Achieving life balance is about making MORE than just physical changes
Too often people associate life balance with a more productive combination of work, family, spiritual and social needs. They caught up in thinking about the physical changes needed to improve their lives. But what about the internal changes?
Life Balance is MORE than Productivity and Goal Setting and “Doing What You Love”
Meaningful life balance starts with CHOICES. With seeing that you are not a victim of circumstance. You choose how to spend your time, so before you start moving the pieces of your life, ask yourself:
What choices are you currently making? ie. where are your energies currently focused?
Are these choices in line with your values and priorities?
Where do you WANT to spend your time and focus your energies?
Can you choose to look at your life differently, see all that’s right and feel good about it NOW?
I’m still moving these ideas around in my head, but straight away I can see that my attitude to my life is my biggest problem. I tend to wish I had the freedom of someone who doesn’t have children and I get stuck on the restrictions that come with motherhood. I want to be able to travel and concentrate on my writing like I could “in the good old days”.
But what’s the point of thinking this way? I AM a mother. I AM a wife. I’m GLAD I made BOTH these choices, and I have never regretted them. I envy aspects of my husband’s career driven life, but wen it comes down to it, I wouldn’t swap with him and miss out on the bond I have with Bunny. And if I could go back and do my life over, I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere different now.
So, starting today I’m going to get real about my life. I am a mother of a young son and he needs me. I’m happy he needs me. This means some of my personal goals will have to take a backseat sometimes, and life will flow a lot smoother if I don’t expend energy resisting that.
I guess the lesson is that life balance is an ever changing puzzle. Priorities today will not necessarily be the same a year from now, so I should try going with the flow more and judging myself less. I can only do the best that I can, and for once maybe I should tell myself that my best is good enough.
How successful do you think you are with life balance? Are you happy with your choices? If not – is it your priorities that need to change or your attitude?
Photo by greenapplegrenade