Do you wish you had more balance in your life?
Have you been trying to get there but somehow can’t quite get it right?
Be kind to yourself, lovely. Balance can feel like an elusive goal.
When we look around at other mums on social media and in our lives and they appear to do it all, we are possibly going to feel frustrated that we can’t seem to get there ourselves.
As modern mothers, we’ve been conditioned to believe successful women and mothers can 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 (you actually don’t have to).
But is balance even possible in motherhood, or is it a myth?
It depends on your definition of balance
If you define balance as an end state where the different parts of your life have equal time and energy or are in the “right” proportions, then you are going to find it difficult to achieve.
Firstly, balance isn’t a destination that we arrive at. Life is constantly changing and we are constantly evolving. We need to be able to adapt and respond to that. So what feels like balance now, may look different in 6 months. There is no one right version of balance.
Secondly, expecting to give each part of your life equal time and energy may not reflect your values and priorities. There’s no point in achieving some mathematical scheduling sweet spot if you feel still unhappy and unfulfilled. At any point in time, certain areas of our lives need and deserve more of our time and energy than others and this will continue to change.
The perfect balance is a myth.
Balance that enables you to do everything perfectly is a myth.
Balance where everything gets equal attention and time is a myth.
Balance as an idyllic destination is a myth.
But it is possible to improve the balance you have in your life and find your own version of balance.
Balance as values alignment and clear priorities
A really helpful way to look at balance is alignment with your values and priorities.
This means we give our time and energy to the things that are most important to us at that time.
When we are in alignment with our values, things feel lighter and easier, even if the workload is heavy. Our values bring purpose and meaning to our lives and help us stay true to who we really are and want to be. If you haven’t identified your values yet, check out this article.
Priorities can be determined by considering how:
- Urgent something is,
- Important it is to you at the time (which includes alignment to values), and
- Significant the impact will be in the longer term.
Just because something is important or urgent to someone else, doesn’t mean it has to be a priority for you. When it comes to your family, there will be times when their priorities are your priority because you care for them and want the best for them, but this doesn’t have to apply every time.
Balance as a pie
Another helpful way to look at balance is as a pie. The pie represents the sum of all the components of your life. The size of each pie slice represents the amount of time and energy it requires from you.
Here are some examples of pie slices you might include (you don’t need all of these as some of them overlap or are very similar):
- Career/Paid work
- Personal Development/Growth/Education
- Health and Wellbeing
- Significant Relationship
Here’s what it would look like on an actual pie 😉
What does your current pie look like?
How many slices does it have?
What areas of your life do they represent?
What would your balanced pie look like for this time in your life?
Trade-offs and saying no
Finding balance might feel like you’re constantly making sacrifices; meeting one priority means you’re sacrificing another. Meeting one person’s need means sacrificing another’s.
The reality is that we can’t make more hours in the day and we can’t duplicate ourselves. This means that we are going to have to accept some trade-offs and say no to things.
We’re very conscious of how our time is limited, but have you ever thought about how your energy is also limited? We can run out of energy before we run out of time.
To help you sustain your energy, it’s important that one of your pie slices includes time for rest, activities that refresh you, and space with no agenda. Opportunities to do whatever you feel like in that moment and respond to your needs and how you feel so you don’t become so depleted that you can’t attend to any of your pie segments. To make this happen, you will need to say no to things that would go into other slices.
If you need help with saying no, you’ll love this article.
If you’re having trouble figuring out what you can say no to, try asking yourself these questions about the tasks that are on your list:
- Does this really need to be done?
- Is this aligned with my values and priorities?
- Does it need to be done by me? (outsource or delegate)
- Does it need to be done now?
- Does it need to be done in full or in this exact way? (try to negotiate or aim for a more manageable outcome)
Your needs and desires get to be part of the pie too
Typically mothers will sacrifice their own needs and desires for those of others because we’re told that’s what good mums do.
But prioritising your own needs and desires doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad mum and we’re not talking about doing it all the time. Sometimes it is ok for others to miss out on something so you can tend to something important for yourself. Over time, everyone gets something they need or want.
If you feel guilty for doing this, remember that guilt can highlight the unrealistic standards we are holding ourselves to. The things we think we should be doing, that are part of our conditioning as mothers and women, but aren’t really necessary, achievable or good for our wellbeing. In these cases, we don’t need to do differently, but we need to choose a different standard to aim for.
If you believe you shouldn’t attend to your own needs and desires until everyone else’s are met, it might be helpful to consider:
- What is the impact of this approach on your emotional, mental and physical wellbeing?
- What do you want your children to learn from you about the importance of their own needs and desires?
- Who do you want to be and how do you want to feel in your life? Is this approach helping you do that?
When everything collides
No matter how much you try to create balance in your life there are inevitably going to be times that stretch you further than you want to be stretched.
Sometimes things just all happen at the same time, or things out of our control make balance more tricky, such as our children falling ill or particular times of the year, such as Christmas. In these seasons, just do your best. Prioritise as ruthlessly as you can and ask for help where needed. And know, that it is not forever. I like to follow a period of busyness with a quieter period so I can refresh and restore myself. I am intentional about this and change my schedule accordingly.
Boundaries protect our pie slices
Once you have a clearer idea of your values and priorities (which inform your pie slices), then you can create some boundaries to protect them (until they need to change).
Here are some examples of boundaries that help maintain balance in your life:
- I will respectfully say no, without guilt, when someone requests my time or energy and I can’t manage it.
- I will not use my phone (for calls or social media) between 5pm and 8pm as this is family time.
- I will give myself time to consider requests for my help before answering.
- I will ask friends and family to text or call before dropping over to my home.
- I will not accept any meeting requests on Wednesday afternoon so that I can block out time to get my study/project done.
- I will not redo tasks completed by my partner or children unless a real problem will arise as a result of how it was done (not just because I prefer it a different way).
If you need more help with creating boundaries, head to this article.
So, there we have it. It is possible to have more balance in your life, as defined by you. When we worry less about what everyone else is doing and what we think we should be doing and instead turn our focus to our values and priorities, it is easier to find a sense of balance. It won’t be perfect, but it doesn’t need to be and you don’t need to be perfect either to be a great mum and successful woman with a meaningful and rich life.