There is so much talk about balance. We get told how it’s important to have a balanced diet, balance in our relationships, a balanced LIFE.
Having a “balanced life” is like the Holy Grail. We are all searching for it but does it even exist?
We try to do so many things and be so many things to so many people. And when we inevitably fail, we feel immense amounts of guilt.
I know as a mum of three, trying to work from home and run a household, I often feel guilty for working when the kids are at home. But conversely feel guilty doing things with the kids when there is work waiting for me.
However, when I listened to my fellow mum of 3 and child psychiatrist, Dr Kaylene Henderson talk about balancing work and parenthood, it all suddenly made more sense.
Dr Henderson reframes the very notion of a balanced life. Rather than you living a balanced life day to day, she says balance should be about the bigger picture – your life as a whole.
This is so true, because life happens in stages.
Sometimes you will work more than anything else. Possibly when you are younger and are building your career, with no other responsibilities than working, saving money and maybe a little socialising.
Then you might meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with so you start spending all your time with them, possibly not staying back so late in the office, because there is something to come home to now.
The next step for most people is kids. Kids change EVERYTHING. There is zero balance when kids are involved. You hit survival mode and take one day at a time. You may or may not work. Your relationship with your partner changes, as will your relationships with friends and family. Your house might not be the pristine show home it once was. Your priorities have completely changed.
What if you get sick? You might have to take extended leave from work, family help out more with the kids so you can focus on your recovery. You become immersed in regaining your wellbeing.
You recover, the kids are older, you work but are not as hell bent on proving yourself. You sleep in on weekends, you might care for your elderly parents and you are planning an overseas trip with your partner to reconnect.
You see, in each stage of life there is no balance but if we look at the overall picture, there probably is.
We can’t break down the days or even weeks into balanced chunks but we can do that with the years.
Over your life span, you are probably living a more balanced life than you think.
We can feel so lost when we are wading through the trenches of parenthood. Particularly as a mother, I feel like other aspects of my life have essentially been put on hold while I raise my kids. But this time is relatively short in the grander scheme of things. The saying “the days are long but the years are short” could not be truer.
Before I know it my kids will be off getting jobs and building lives of their own. I will then have the time (and hopefully the expendable income!) to do what I want. I can travel, relax, read books and breathe.
But for now I’m going to follow Dr Kaylene Hendersen advice to finding a little balance in a generally unbalanced period of life. She says presence is the key.
“It’s when you are distracted you are more likely to be snappy with your kids. Be mentally present and give your full attention to whatever you are doing and whoever you are with,” she says.
“We might not be able to do everything but we can certainly do what we have chosen to do well…Enjoy this life stage for what it is.”
To hear more about what Dr Henderson has to say about finding balance between work and parenthood, click here.