I was reading this post on ElephantJournal.com and this really resonated with me:
Balance is a fallacy. You cannot find it because it doesn’t exist. At least not in the sense we are seeking it. We cannot, nor ever will be able to, give an equal amount of time to all the things that are important to us. Life is much more complex and beautiful than that. We must live life so fully that giving equally to it all doesn’t matter because we give so completely to what matters at the moment.
In a sense it is like loving. When I was pregnant with Littles I often wondered how I could love two children twice as much as I loved Bigs. Yet somehow it materialized in a non-doubling sort of fashion. It is impossible to love them the exact same amount everyday. Sometimes they need a different amount of attention or care. Sometimes there are more pressing issues for one and not the other. Trying to measure my time in an accounting ledger never works and is exhausting trying to log.
Expanding the accounting ledger to include all facets of my life only ends in disaster.
There are weeks where I work more than I parent. (Yes, I just admitted that!) It doesn’t mean that my job is more important than my kids. Nothing is more important than my family, but (unfortunately) to stay employed my family can’t always come first. (In fairness to my employer, my family often can come first.)
My husband and I have an agreement as it relates to our work. It is that when we become unhappy with our job or the situation it imposes on our family, we will reevaluate. We had a fair number of years where we weren’t happy at work and they were pretty unhappy years early in our marriage. We agree that no reward is worth sacrificing a happy marriage. Marriage can be enduring while possessions are fleeting. It is the natural order of things for us to go for a long walk in the summer, sun shining on our faces and the breeze at our back where we spend the four miles hashing out if this is the year things change. Our words try to articulate the dreams we have that sometimes feel unknowable in any detail. Sometimes we disagree about what the vision of our future should be.
As we draw near home, things tend to fall into place. Lately, there haven’t been changes needed, but it doesn’t take away from the importance of the conversation though. In the dreaming of tomorrow, hashing of options, and evaluating the current situation, I find gratitude for what we have. I find comfort that we have options. I find strength knowing my lifetime will be spent with my best friend who only wants me to be happy and vice versa. I find peace in knowing that we are doing something right for us. This conversation helps me keep the noise of the world out of my head… the voices that say we should be living differently, more virtuously, like other people are.
I’ve made peace with work, being a two income family, sending my kids to copious amounts of child care, and reconciling that being a stay at home mom isn’t a dream for me right now. It’s everything else that gets complicated for me and any semblance of balance gets thrown to the wind.
Family and work somehow make a compatible pair in my life, but the addition of anything else throws everything out of harmony. It makes me question whether everything should be different or if maybe I just need to be different. Forget long walks talking about dreams, I become someone who wants to survive today and try my best to do better tomorrow. And by try, it sometimes mean being willing to put one foot in front of the other and nothing more.
Is it okay to take an hour to have a pedicure and read my book? That hour could most certainly be better used working or parenting… probably even being a better wife. What about friendship? My friends are like oxygen to me. Given how desperately I wanted my kids, shouldn’t they be like oxygen too? But they aren’t, more like sucking the oxygen away from me at times. Sleep always gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list because how important is it, really? In my case really necessary, but it seems so… selfish.
When I became a mother, I knew it would be complicated, messy, and filled with insecurities, but I didn’t appreciate how complicated, messy, and insecure I could become. How many times I would question whether I was doing the right thing or totally screwing up. The number of times I would look around to find a woman in the same situation for a clue as to how to do it successfully, but realize that there is only one me and my situation is unique not to be compared to other circumstances.
The irony is that the only thing that quells my typhoon of discord is taking care of myself. How can it be that the thing that seemingly pierces the equilibrium of life is the same thing that softens the blow of its pounding rain?
Perhaps it is in the final sentence of the passage where the secret lies. It is something I have been working on since before Bigs even existed… living in the moment. Being present where I am and pushing aside the demands of the raging storm around me or not chasing the butterflies that tempt my attention away. Yet just like getting up to survive another day can seem overwhelming, choosing to set aside everything else and live in the now can be equally enormous.
To me, there is comfort in knowing I can stop hunting unicorns and accept that balance will never be mine. On the outside, it might appear that I have it together, but just ask, I’ll tell you the truth. It’s like the PostIt note that hung at my desk as I recovered from PPD, “You can do anything you set your mind to, but you can only do one thing at a time.” Life is just that simple and complicated at the same time.