The Balance Myth

The flexible work arrangement I have has been ideal so far. I work when I can, whether that’s at 6am, 9pm or somewhere in between. My mom always asks me “When are you working this week?” And at first I wasn’t sure why she didn’t seem to get it. I work when I can work. I get the job done and that’s that. Then I realized that our mothers’ generation never had much of a choice when it came to flexible working arrangements. I’m sure my mom would say that the first law firm she worked at when we were in elementary school offered flexible arrangements simply because they didn’t complain when my sister or I tagged along to work when we were mildly sick or without childcare on a teacher workday.

Since then, women have been fighting for a work-life balance. We’ve searched out jobs and companies that tout family friendly jargon and, in an ideal world, on-site daycare or other perks. We’re far from there. I read Opting Out this summer. I get it. It’s easy for a company to claim family-friendly practices and still subconsciously mommy-track their employees or make flexible schedules nearly impossible to implement. The balance appearing impossible to achieve with one side of the equation always more weighted physically, emotionally or both.

I realize I have lucked into a perfect opportunity – part of what it made so difficult to pass up – and so far it’s been worth it. Challenging work, ease of schedule and very understanding colleagues. Not to say that it isn’t hard. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the chores that aren’t getting done when I’m working, brainstorming messages while building Lego space ships with the 5 year old, missing the hubby when he’s spending his Saturday shepherding the kids around town so I can have a quiet house to work in and feeling guilt about all the posts that bounce around my brain in car pool instead of actually making their way into this space.

That’s when I realized that the work-life balance is a myth. We can never achieve true balance. I think if you take both mothering and working seriously, you will always be worried that you aren’t giving enough in one or both areas. Or at least I would. Shoot, I felt like I wasn’t giving enough when I only was focused on one area, not to mention two. Perhaps it’s the nature of motherhood or womanhood – always wanting to give the best of ourselves and feeling less than when we feel we don’t measure up.

Note I didn’t say when we actually don’t measure up because I think many of us have a problem accepting good enough as good enough. We want perfect. And perfect is damn hard to achieve under the best of circumstances not to mention when refereeing the WWF match that just broke out in your playroom while you’re trying to simultaneously make dinner and change the sheets.

What I have noticed that works for me is less working on balance and more working on presence. When I’m working, I am working. When I’m mothering, I am mothering. When I’m with the hubby, I’m listening as attentively as I can before I fall asleep. It doesn’t matter how much time I’m spending on each when I’m in that moment, it’s about doing the best I can do at that time. So far, it’s made me more productive when I’m working and less distracted when I’m playing trains with the boys. It isn’t perfect, and yes I’m checking email on my phone in between Uno hands, but it helps to remind myself that there is work, there is play, there are chores, but they all can’t get done at the same time.

Take this post, for example. I had time while the 5 year old watched a TV show and the little one napped. Is it perfect? Nope. Am I missing probably half the thoughts I had about it? Probably. But his show’s ending and it’s time to focus on the next thing. And so I’ll let this go and move on.

Legos anyone?

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