My Recipe for Balance

by Abby on June 6, 2011

Elephant balancing on ballRaise 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!)

CookbookThere are a few other crucial ingredients I require for my version of a balanced life:

–          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?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Malia Jacobson June 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

I’m with you on nearly all of your “must-haves.” I think the one I struggle with the most is the “me-time.” All too often it becomes “work time.” I’m so absorbed in my kids all day long that I can’t wait to get in front of the computer and crank out some work once they’re in bed. Then before I know it, it’s 10 p.m. and time for me to get ready for the next day. Thank goodness hubby ropes me into watching Tosh.0 and SNL reruns (sometimes against my will–but I always end up enjoying!). 🙂 The one thing I’d add to the list is a couple of mom’s nights outs every month. I HAVE to have dinner with my bestie once a month, and some time with my mom friends. It’s sanity insurance!


Abby June 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm

You’re right, Malia, mom’s night out is definitely key to balance! Doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but it’s a necessity for sure.


Angie Mizzell June 6, 2011 at 7:24 pm

You’ve described my life. That’s exactly what “balance” is to me. It’s not a perfectly divided plate. Perhaps it’s a rotating plate. I just wish there was a better word. When I was a personal trainer, I heard the phrase “health and wellness” a lot. I really like “wellness” because it evokes the feeling I’m going for.


Abby June 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm

“Rotating plate” makes me think of a clown on a unicycle balancing spinning plates – a perfect metaphor for my crazy life sometimes! 😉


d. bianchi June 7, 2011 at 9:53 am

I can’t even imagine feeling that sense of ‘aahh-everything is right where it should be’. There is always something in the back of my head – something that needs to be done whether it be kids, house, work, or writing. Frustrating just thinking about it. For some reason I thought it would all get easier as we got older, not a chance. I keep waiting.


Abby June 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm

It’s true — there’s ALWAYS something more to be done, something you could be doing. I find I have to work hard to shut off that part of my mind sometimes and give myself permission to relax or focus on the task at hand.


Pam June 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm

This is all very true. I have never seen it written so that I could finally understand myself. I am fidgety right now. I need to work on a microfinancing site but I am sleepy. I need to do laundry, but I really don’t want to at all.

Therefore, I am just going to take a little walk and ponder my balance. What have I go to lose except calories and time. lol


Sarah June 9, 2011 at 11:16 pm

I talked about this post with a mom friend today and I think you hit the nail on the head. Went out to dinner last night with my husband and another couple and had just an amazing time. Great food, great company, lots of laughs and the guys had lots of beers. Shocker: the stay at home moms were DDs. Not surprisingly, I was in such a good mood today. I felt rejuvenated and was more enthusiastic and present with my kids. Even when my two year old decided to wake up after only 50 minutes of nap time (less than half his usual- yikes!) I looked at it as an opportunity to spend some fun time just the two of us, baking, while the baby slept.

Totally agree with the exercise. I get headaches if I’ve gone a few days without it. I would normally agree with you on the sleep part except that having a 9 week old waking up one to two times a night seems “not that bad.” Definitely need time with the hubby and food that I haven’t cooked- preferably those two combined. I LOVE going out to eat.

Let’s be honest: I also need some brainless t.v. Bring on the Bachelorette!

Last thing I need for balance: at least one outing a week alone. Whether that be to the gym or the store, I don’t care. I just love the freedom of getting out of the car without holding anyone’s hand, no one being strapped to my chest, and no giant car seat to lug around.


Shannon @ AnchorMommy June 10, 2011 at 1:20 am

Yes! I could not agree more! Every day looks a little different for me. But if I don’t get some form of “me time” I am one unhappy mama. I wish I could get 8-9 hours of sleep though. Lately 7 is a good night for me. 🙁


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