Finding “balance” in life is a tricky thing because it’s so abstract. We all know we need it, but how to find it and what it actually looks like is kind of undefinable. I personally have a vision of “Jessica 2.0”. It’s the upgraded version of me who has it all and I just need to work a little harder to get the upgrade. I need to take another class, sleep less, meditate more, make more money, do more yoga and cook for the bake sale and then I’ll be “balanced”.
The world has placed this carrot of a “balanced” life in front of us and, as women especially, we are always trying to reach it. If we just try hard enough we should have a perfect house, a perfect marriage, a perfect family, a perfect business, perfect friends, a perfect body, and 8 hours of sleep every night. I thought I was happy chasing that carrot until my world turned upside down (in a very good way :)) the day my daughter was born 6 months ago. I knew I wanted her to be my priority, but I really didn’t quite see any need to change anything else in my life. Of course I could still keep up with my work, housecleaning, cooking, exercising, seeing friends, invites to parties and time with my husband. I wouldn’t have to let any plate drop and could keep them all spinning beautifully in the air because I had Jessica 2.0! Well, she crashed. I tried and tried for four months to keep up on everything, and I didn’t realize the stress that was building until an innocent sweet potato eating incident (I’ll spare you the details). It sent me into a strange and emotional couple of days that finally culminated in realizing that I had very unclear and unrealistic expectations of myself. I was trying to be perfect at everything, so all I saw was every little failure. Missed a workout? Failure. Had to go to work and leave my daughter for a day? Failure. Haven’t answered all work emails? Failure. Take-out instead of making dinner? Failure. I kept picturing Jessica 2.0 and comparing my sleep deprived, laundry not folded, friends to call back, business to run life to her. I don’t even know if I like her but I was determined to be her!
I’ve had some time to think about this the past couple weeks and have come to a few conclusions that have changed my life drastically:
1) There is NO perfect “balance” template out there.
Jessica 2.0 also happens to have free time to surf the internet – checking recipes on Pinterest and ordering throw pillows off of Amazon of course – all while drinking tea in the afternoon. You know what? I don’t like tea. I don’t really get Pinterest, either. And yet I see other people doing it and I think I should! Weird. There are no defined categories for “balance” except what is important in your life to bring you peace and happiness and fulfillment. My categories are: family, my husband, my daughter, work, exercise/activity, eating well, organized living and work spaces, a few very dear relationships, and a sliver of quiet time.
I have gone through much trial and error and soul searching to come up with these categories, and yours might not be the same! You might need to have a beautifully decorated home to feel balanced, and that’s awesome. I just need to have it clean and organized so piles of dishes don’t stare me in the face every day. You might have family who lives close or an elderly parent you take care of, so your “family time” category will look different than mine. Find yours and hang on to them, and let go of the ones that don’t motivate you.
2) You may have to work for it
I picture my categories as pieces of a pie. I can cut that pie into as many pieces as I want. The kicker is – I can’t make the pie bigger. Like hours in a day, I can fill them with whatever I want, but I can’t have more. When Fiona came, I tried keeping all the pieces the same size as they were before, while also giving her the biggest piece, and that’s where I failed. In order to add this new important piece, I had to re-evaluate and make some others a little smaller for the time being.
Your balance categories may evolve as your life changes, and sometimes you will have to sacrifice one area to put your energy into something more important. I’ve personally had a hard time defining my friendship category since having Fiona, as I have so many amazing friends I want to spend time with. But I’ve realized that, with a newborn, my husband and a growing business as my top priorities, there isn’t a lot of time to say yes to every invitation. For now I have accepted that I won’t attend every event and may not be a part of every conversation, and that’s ok. It took a while for me to see that, but it was so freeing when I finally stopped trying to fit it all in!
3) Create your “balance support team”
I have an amazing husband, and we have an understanding that exercise is hugely important for balance in our lives. I support him in having his time to get his daily workout in, and he supports me in mine. Without that support, it would be much harder for me to have my balance category.
I also have a great staff who is at the heart of Harmony. Without them, I couldn’t have happy clients and also be at home with my daughter. Before Fiona came, we discussed what my new schedule would be and what their duties would be. You need to communicate exactly what your priorities are in your balanced life so that people don’t have the wrong expectations. Before the baby, I was very accessible by phone to all of my staff any time they needed me. After Fiona came, I made it clear that, if I was nursing or with her, I wouldn’t get to my phone right away. I’m still here for them, and my business is definitely my second “baby”, but they didn’t have the expectation of a quick response anymore and I didn’t feel pressure to give them one.
Whether it’s your kids, your spouse, your parents, your coworkers or your friends, make sure they support what is important to you. Find people with the same priorities and it will be even easier to stay on track!
4) Let go and let it flow
Let go of the need to check off the to do list every day. Let go of self-judgment when you feel you have let someone down. Let go of comparing yourself to the woman down the block who seems like she “has it all” (she probably doesn’t). Let go of the need to chase the “carrot” or be version 2.0.
Once you’ve set what your important balance categories are, realized what work you might have to put in, created your support team and let go of expectation, you have arrived. You can finally live and flow in this beautiful balanced life you have created. You need to own it and love it and not apologize for it, because living in that flow will allow you to be at peace, have joy and help others do the same.
When I became pregnant I knew that I wanted my baby to always have my undivided attention. I never wanted her to sense that something else was more important to me the moments I was with her. It took some work (and I’m still learning) but I am able to walk away from my phone and my computer and the laundry so I can simply watch her learn to crawl. The awesome thing I didn’t see coming is that this effect has trickled into the other areas of my life as well. I feel more focused and present at work because I’m not regretting what I didn’t do at home. I can let go of work worries and fully enjoy my husband in the precious little time we have together with a glass of wine. I don’t feel bad that our throw pillows don’t match because I’ve accepted that just isn’t a piece of my pie right now. It might be in the future, as things evolve and change, but I’ll find my new categories as that happens. For now, I’m content to be Jessica 1.0 – the original version. I’ll drink my coffee, let the laundry sit in the dryer a little longer, and go grab my daughter who just woke up from her nap.