“Life is a balance between what we can control and what we cannot. I am learning to live between effort and surrender.” – Danielle Orner
I have a love-hate relationship with the scale. Not the kind of scale that reflects my weight, but the kind that reflects my ability to balance my priorities in life.
As a Libra, my astrological symbol is the scale, representing balance and harmony. Perhaps my date of birth has somehow contributed to my obsession with striking the ever-elusive perfect balance in life.
I grew up taking ballet for much of my life, an activity that requires the utmost balance and alignment as you twirl on your toes and defy the laws of gravity. Some days I felt the magic of the perfectly aligned triple-pirouette, and some days I fell on the ground in front of a room full of people. Either way, similar to adulthood, it was always work and it was always a balancing act.
Nothing in my life has brought the issue of balance to the forefront like becoming a wife and a mother. After one becomes a wife and mother, a better image than the scale for keeping balance is the performer with 10 spinning plates, complete with circus music playing in the background.
We have to balance our careers with motherhood. We have to balance our focus on our children with the time we spend with our husbands. We have to balance our friendships with our family time. Oh, and don’t forget about self-care. Better squeeze a workout in before we take on the day.
We’re told as women that we can’t have it all, but that doesn’t stop some of us from trying.
I tried to find the perfect balance between career and motherhood. I was blessed to find a part-time job in my field when my son was 18-months-old. I was convinced this would offer me the best of both worlds, but trying to keep one foot in my career and one foot in motherhood made me feel as though I was failing at both. I still had not struck the right balance.
I put the career plate down after I gave birth to my second child, but it wasn’t long before I felt the itch to pick it back up again in the form of writing. Balance is such an individual experience, but for me, taking care of my children (though a full-time job in and of itself) without having a career, also wasn’t the right balance. That leads me to my present space, watching the wobbly plates as I spin new beginnings in a brand-new career.
Here’s the thing: We can’t have it all, at once. It’s impossible to focus our attention on one priority without another priority feeling the effects. It’s impossible to say yes to one thing without saying no to another. It’s impossible to spin one plate without another plate slowing down.
What I’ve come to realize is that while life is a balancing act, it will never be perfectly balanced. We have to let go of the picture of the perfectly balanced scale and accept the imperfection of plates spinning at different speeds.
We also have to remember that focusing on one priority doesn’t make us value another priority any less.
I can’t promise that my husband and kids won’t have an adjustment period as I start to focus on my career again. I can’t even promise that I won’t accidentally drop their plates every now and then.
What I can promise, is if I drop any plates, just as I did when I fell in ballet, I will pick the plate up, note where my balance is off, and spin away again. What I can promise is that my family will always know that they are the most important plates, even if I go through a season in my life when they get a little wobbly.
In ballet, balance is all about core strength and alignment. In life, balance is about alignment with core values. The truth is, like most moms, the weight of the value of my relationships with my family is off-the-scale in importance to me, and taking time away from my family to focus on other priorities will never change this fundamental truth.
This is the key point that I was missing when I felt that I was failing at balance in the past. It’s hard to say no to what we value the most, but sometimes it’s necessary to do so for the sake of balance. A better way of looking at it is that we aren’t saying no to what we value as much as we are saying yes to balance.
How do we know we are striking the right, imperfect balance? We feel it. For some, that may look like staying at home with the kids full-time, and for some, it may look like working a 70-plus-hour work week.
Today, as I sit in my messy house, with loads of laundry waiting, one child that is refusing to nap, and one child that is on the iPad, I chose to spin my writing plate. Ironically, though my environment is in shambles, writing makes me a better me and helps me to feel more balanced. It gives me the energy I need to tackle the many other plates waiting for me.
I think I’m finally on to something.