As a culture, we talk a a lot about finding balance and doing things in moderation. “Balance” is offered up as the solution to many of the challenges of mothering and family life.
- How do I care for my children, but maintain my own identity? Find balance.
- How do I decide what activities to pursue as a family? Balance.
- How do I accomplish household tasks while caring for small children? It’s all about balance.
And, in many cases, I think balance is important.
Too many days of baking and indulging, and not enough veggies, and I can feel it. Weeks of cold winter days spent mostly in the house with my kids and I’m itching for adventure and fresh air. So I get it. I understand why we hold up “balance” as the ideal.
Lately, though, I’ve been chasing this elusive balance and finding myself dissatisfied, uneasy, and frustrated. I have a lot of passions, hobbies, and interests–and a lot of responsibilities. I’ve been trying to pursue my passions, do my work (which is also a passion), care for my children, and keep up with my responsibilities. And I’ve been trying to do all of these things well. All in the name of balance.
But I haven’t found balance. I’ve stumbled upon stress and a frantic pace instead.
I think I’m telling myself that I’m working towards balance, but what I’m ending up with is the pursuit of productivity and perfection.
- In an effort to not lose my previous identity to parenthood, I’m furiously trying to volunteer for things that I’m passionate about, build a small business, and learn new skills and crafts.
- Because I am trying to be a good parent, I’m layering the pressure on myself to provide what I envision as a perfectly rich homeschooling experience for my children.
- Too often lately, I’m realizing that my efforts to be better, learn more, and provide more are taking me out of the moment with my family.
I’m guessing that I’m not alone here. We’re told to find balance, but we are also inundated with carefully curated Instagram feeds of happy families with their perfectly dressed children.
And on these feeds, the homes are clean, the mothers are showered and beautifully dressed, and all appear wildly happy and fulfilled. We chase that life that we see out there, without realizing that what we’re seeing is just a small piece of somebody else’s life. And the thing is, no amount of “balance” is going to create that life.
This morning I woke up and decided to stop chasing balance in my life. Instead I’m going to strive for simplicity and peace.
Simplicity and peace for me means:
- Putting my doula business aside until my third child is a bit older and being OK with taking that break and feeling grateful that our family can financially handle it.
- Looking at my children and what lights them up instead of cruising Pinterest for the next best learning activity to create for them.
- Spending time doing that thing that lights them up with them and drinking in the moment for all that it offers.
- Saying “no” to home and organization projects that will become overwhelming.
- Remaining present while folding that load of laundry that’s been sitting on the couch for days. It means appreciating the fact that I finally got it done (and trying to laugh when the 10-month-old plows down my tidy pile of folded clothes).
So when I walked downstairs with the baby and found a messy kitchen today, I focused on cleaning it and making coffee with complete presence and gratitude. Instead of feeling resentful that I had to do the whole thing with a 17-pound baby on my hip, I chose to soak it up, knowing that he won’t be in my arms for too much longer.
Because what’s the point of this life right here if I spend it worrying about balance? How do I want to feel when I reflect on the years when my children were small?
In this season, balance isn’t what I want to chase. The truth is, my children need me a lot right now. And they need me to be present with them. And if my attention to them takes more of my time than other things, I can find peace with that. I don’t need to be a martyr. I can still do my best to meet my own needs and fill my own cup. But I can also choose to be fully present and accepting of the moment I’m in.