Before I was a mother, I spent a lot of time figuring out how, when I became a working mother, I would find "balance.´ I wanted to make sure that I was able to put as much into my children each day as I put into my job, while still keeping time on reserve for the house and myself and my spouse.
Then my daughter was born, and I realized the truth: Balance is not truly obtainable.
I felt let down that I couldn´t seem to find "balance´ in my life. That I couldn´t spend the same amount of time with my daughter that I spent on work, or that I wasn´t always able to spend time with my husband when he got home from his job because I had tasks like laundry, business plans, bath time and dinner that still needed to be completed.
Then I began to read about what other women in business had to say about balance. It wasn´t until they confirmed my idea-that balance is elusive for a working mother-that I began to understand that I needed to look at things in a new way. It wasn´t until then that I began to relax some.
I realized that instead of seeking "balance,´ I needed to find a place where I felt comfortable with the amount of time I had to spread around, the quality of time I spent on each area of my life, and comfortable with the output of each task I had to do, whether it was playing with my daughter after dinnertime or spending a few hours on a task related to my business.
I was reading Pink magazine the other night and they had a great article about the idea of balance. It begins by saying that the "elusive goal´ keeps us hugging insanity as we try to achieve it. Isn´t that the truth!
So let´s consider balance. The idea of balance means that we can keep all things equal. So if we say we want to balance work and motherhood, we mean that we want to spend an equal amount of quality time on both.
However, we are then not considering the time that we need to spend with our spouse, friends, and on our own to recharge.
Or the time that it takes each day to keep the house livable, to make dinner, and to fold the numerous loads of laundry that before motherhood we never realized could ever exist (how is it that one two year old makes the laundry output so much more than two adults ever did?)
To create a true balance, we would need to divide twenty-four hours by these six things (job, children, spouse, friends, self, and house duties) for an average, which means we would have to spend four hours per day on each task in order to achieve balance.
Oh, but then we have to find time to sleep.
If we subtract six hours of sleep from our 24-hour day, we are then left with eighteen hours per day, which gives us three hours each day to spend on each of the other items.
If you can find a job that requires only three hours of work per day, is enjoyable, and pays the bills, then please pass along the information so that I can sign up! (Okay, just joking-I already have to delete a hundred or so junk emails each day that promise I can make a ton of money in no time).
Most of us will, realistically, work more than three hours per day, or fifteen hours per week.
So let´s say we take the three hours we should spend with our spouse each evening and add it to our workday, for a total of six hours of work per day. To make up the time that we are losing with our spouse each night, we would then have to spend 18 hours on Saturday with him.
I don´t know about you, but my spouse and I can´t afford to pay $180.00 per week in babysitting expenses in order to spend this amount of time together in one stretch. Besides, a movie, dinner, and a couple of glasses of wine only take about 6 hours; what would we do with the additional 12? (Probably catch up on sleep, but then, really, is that quality time or just quantity time?)
And of course the major problem with taking one part of the equation out of the picture in order to spend six hours per day at work is that we then are not creating a balanced schedule.
If you are like me, you probably give up doing something for yourself from time to time so that you can do something for your family or work. You promise you will get back to that thing that you wanted to do for yourself but you never do (I still haven´t seen that Jennifer Anniston movie that came out a few months ago, because I gave up the chance to go one afternoon so I could catch up on work).
Which just goes to show that balance is not a realistic goal.
So let´s say goodbye to that word, once and for all. If we continue thinking that we will find complete balance between our careers and the rest of our life, we will ultimately be disappointed. Let´s stop chasing something that doesn´t exist and begin to search for something that does.
Pink magazine made three suggestions on new words and ideas that could replace the term "balance,´ and I like the first word the most: Congruence. The definition of congruence on www.dictionary.com is this: Agreement, harmony, conformity, or correspondence.
We may have to work harder during the week and play harder with our family on the weekend. We may need to add time in our schedule to spend with our spouse each evening, and a part of a day once a month to do something on our own. Our daily schedule may lean more toward one of the six areas in our life one day and then more toward another of the six areas the next.
But by giving up the idea that everything in our life has to be in complete balance, we are already taking one step closer to a more harmonious life. And I don´t know about you, but I´m all in agreement for that!