Balance. It can be a tricky topic.
Some women idealise the concept of balance and are constantly trying to achieve it. Others reject the idea that it’s possible and refuse to use the word at all. Some prefer to call it integration or harmony.
Let’s have a quick look at some definitions:
Balance = a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
Harmony = a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.
Integration = the action or process of combining two or more things in an effective way.
I think the concept of having equal elements is unrealistic when it comes to all the areas of your life. However, other than that, it doesn’t really matter what you call it. Use which ever term resonates best with you. I find that balance is still the term that mums refer to the most, so that’s what I’ll use here.
Balance is personal
As modern mothers, we’ve been raised to believe successful women / mothers manage to do it all. Without complaining and without help. This ideal is deeply embedded in our subconscious minds. Even if we decide we don’t want to live that way, many mums can’t shake the guilt they feel for not living up to this ideal. An ideal they don’t want to buy into, but somehow feel they “should” measure up to.
Balance isn’t what other people tell you it is.
Balance isn’t something you can ask an expert to define for you.
There’s no mathematical equation that can tell you how to divide your time and no magic solution that makes everything fit in your life.
Balance is very personal.
Only YOU know what balance is for you, lovely. The answer is within you.
Only you know how your life would look if it was balanced; what you would be doing, when you’d be doing it, who you’d be doing it with, and how you would feel. How it feels is important because balance isn’t just about having your time allocated well, it’s also about how it feels to you. There’s no point achieving some mathematical scheduling sweet spot, if you feel still unhappy and uninspired.
A way of living, not a destination
Whatever balance is to you, remember that it isn’t a destination where you’ll arrive and unpack your bags. Things are always changing in our lives; the needs of our children, family dynamics, work demands and of course the world changes around us. So, balance is a way of living. You’re constantly balancing the different areas of your life.
It’s a subtle difference in mindset that can take some pressure off. There’s always going to be another change to respond to and another opportunity to adjust. While there’s no perfect lasting balance, you can experience balance overall, allowing for a little give and take.
5 things that help create balance in your life
To support you in finding your own balance, I want to share 5 things that help create balance in your life.
1. Clear personal values and priorities
When you know what’s most important to you, it’s much easier to make decisions about where to allocate your attention. Did you notice I didn’t say “allocate your time”? That’s because your attention is even more limited and valuable than our time! (read more about this here). Your values and priorities act as an anchor that keeps you from bouncing all over the place, trying to please everyone and spending time on things that don’t really matter.
Consider the different areas of your life – children, romantic relationship, health, career, friends, hobbies and broader community involvement.
- What are your priorities in each of these areas?
- Are any of these areas needing some love and attention right now?
- What are the non negotiables? For example, perhaps you don’t want to compromise on your Sunday morning family time, personal training sessions or weekly playdate / social catch up.
2. Using your guilt as a guide
It’s hard to feel balanced when you’re consumed with guilt over all the ways you’re not measuring up. Guilt distracts us from being present in our lives, filling our minds with rumination, regret and self-critical thoughts. However, there’s a much more empowering way to use guilt.
Guilt can be helpful when it shows us where we might be out of alignment with our values. It’s hard to feel balanced when you’re saying yes to everything, doing things out of obligation or because you don’t want to let people down, even when those things aren’t really right for you.
Guilt can guide us to what’s truly important to us if we get curious and ask:
- Why am I feeling guilty about this?
- What is the expectation I’m trying to live up to here?
- Is it something that I value and believe is right for me?
If you’re feeling guilty because you’re not measuring up to a standard that you don’t value or believe is right for you, then it’s time to let that standard and that associated guilt go.
3. Permission to rest, even when there is work to do
I used to feel the need to be constantly productive. Doing nothing felt uncomfortable and even irritating. Downtime equaled wasted time when I had a to-do list that never ended.
This isn’t balance. It might work for a little while, but if we don’t rest, we will eventually become overwhelmed and burn out.
Rest IS productive. It helps you recharge so that you can physically, mentally and emotionally get through those intense periods that always come.
Balance requires rest, even if there is still work to do. Because there’s always work to do. Always.
Who can give you permission to rest?
It only works if it comes from YOU.
So, leave the dishes in the sink, and the toys on the floor (they’ll be there again in 30 mins anyway) and allow yourself a rest. Even little breaks throughout the day allow you to unwind some of the stress and tension that accumulates.
4. Fun and enjoyment
You might be plowing through your to-do list and managing to juggle all your responsibilities, but are you enjoying your life? Fun and enjoyment is often last on the priority list and sometimes doesn’t make it into the mix at all. Balance isn’t just about your schedule and getting things done. I believe it should allow us to feel happy and have some fun!
So, claim some time for things you enjoy, either with your family or on your own. Consider how much you enjoy the things you do. For example, lying on the couch watching TV is fun, but would something else be more fun? What if you turned the TV off a little earlier and did something you enjoy even more?
Women often tell me that when they find themselves with a little time to spare, they don’t know what to do, so they revert to chores, or mindlessly scrolling through social media. Just like TV, social media is entertaining, but is it the most fulfilling way to use your time?
We need to be prepared! Have an idea of the things you’d like to do, (and prepare for it if necessary) believing that you’ll find at least a little time to do them. Then, when the time arises, you can get straight to the fun!
Scheduling things also works well. Sign up to an art class, join a book club, organise a weekly walk with a friend or video call with your mum.
5. Staying present
Our minds are busy. Planning, anticipating, worrying, replaying, remembering and so on. It can be hard to make it all stop so that we are truly present in whatever we’re doing in the moment. However, even a massage doesn’t feel restorative if you spend the entire time worrying about your child’s school work or mentally writing your shopping list.
Mums often tell me that when they’re at work, they’re thinking about their children and when they’re with their children, they’re distracted by thinking about work.
All this mental activity, which is unrelated to the present moment, makes us feel distracted, rushed, tired and even overwhelmed. We’re not able to give our full attention to the people and tasks right in front of us.
To help you create balance in your life, practice staying present in whatever you’re doing. It will support you to feel calmer, more grounded and clear headed. It will enable you to get more done, experience more enjoyment and connect more deeply with the people in your life. Your mind will naturally wander, and when it does, gently bring it back to the present moment.
If you find worrying distracting, try scheduling some worry time. One or two blocks of 10 mins each day where you reflect on your worries. If the worries pop up at another time, write them down for you to come back to in worry time.
Need more help to create balance in your life?
If you love these tips but know you need more personalised support to create balance in your life, I’d love to help you. Contact me here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org book a 30 min call or find out more about 1 on 1 support.