Raise your hand if you’re sick of hearing about balance. I think the reason living a balanced life is such a frustrating concept for so many moms is that it’s vague, it’s elusive, and it’s different for everybody. (Kind of like finding a flattering bathing suit. You’re convinced it’s an urban legend until you find one. Related reading: The Tankini Manifesto.)
I can tell you that I achieve this state of balanced mom-nirvana maybe twice a month if I am lucky. Those are what I call my “supermom days,” when I finish an article in the morning; make it to the gym; empty the dishwasher AND complete a load of laundry (at least through the folding, if not putting-away stage); play outside with my kids in the afternoon, and get a homemade meal on the table and maybe some more writing done at night. Like I said, it’s about as rare as a lunar eclipse, but when it happens it’s amazing.
More often, though, my days end up being either all work, or all domestic. One day I might have to get dressed like a grownup and go to a meeting with a client. Then I’ll work on some brochure copy in the afternoon, return phone calls and send out invoices, then critique my writing students’ essays at night. On those days the kids watch far too much TV, the breakfast dishes are still on the counter at dinnertime, and no one steps foot in the gym, the park, or the bathtub.
Other days, I’m completely absorbed with domestic duties. I might read to my son’s class in the morning, bake muffins during naptime, shop for groceries or host a playdate in the afternoon, and buy party favors online at night. I barely check my e-mail and don’t sit down at the computer until after the kids are in bed.
My days are nowhere near balanced, but I actually find that I enjoy the variety. If I had to go into an office every day, I wouldn’t survive. (Just getting out the door on time with mascara and matching shoes on is a major feat!) But if I had nothing to do every day but feed kids and fold laundry, I would go insane. (Don’t leave me with the babies and no adult interaction, even if it’s virtual!)
- Some form of exercise 3-5 times a week
- 8, preferably 9, hours of sleep a night
- Protein at every meal (sometimes a challenge for a carb-loving vegetarian like me)
- Not too much coffee, sugar, or alcohol
- A semi-orderly, passably clean environment (at least the bathrooms and kitchen)
- At least an hour of me-time every day (sometimes this is a yoga class, sometimes a drink with friends, sometimes an hour of mindless TV)
- Some alone time with my husband (think what you want, but to me this could actually mean 10 minutes of uninterrupted conversation)
Whenever I feel “off,” it’s usually because one of these things is out of balance. I can go a week sometimes without writing or working out, but I start to get antsy. I might – hypothetically — drink 2 mojitos and chase them with a slab of strawberry pie that someone made for a Memorial Day BBQ, but I won’t feel my best the next morning. I CAN and DO sometimes leave everyone’s shoes and wet towels and sippy cups on the floor where they drop them, but it doesn’t imbue me with a sense of peace and wellbeing.
I say, it’s not about finding some ideal, mythical definition of balance; it’s about finding YOUR balance.
So what does that mean to you? What’s your recipe for a balanced life?