I get burned out a lot. From what I understand, I’m not alone in this, especially among moms. People keep telling me I just need to find some balance. But, what if my life just isn’t balanced right now? What if perfectly balanced days with equal parts rest and activity aren’t an option? What if time with friends, time alone, time with my children isn’t balanced at all? Because, frankly, right now it isn’t. So, what am I to do?
Just one internet search of “balance” ignites the wellness hive, bringing up multiple articles and ‘wellness wheels,’ visuals that put every aspect of life in an equally sized bubble. Wellness wheels argue that every aspect of life—spiritual, financial, creative, professional, social, physical, intellectual—must be balanced to achieve optimal wellness. If that’s the case, then I’m doing “balance” wrong. None of my bubbles are equally filled at any given moment. I must need to manage this thing too. This must be one more thing I need to stay on top of, look ahead to try to mitigate. Better manage my time just right, so I can fit it all in!
But I’m a mom of two little boys, a constant caregiver, and I’m starting to think this idea of perfect balance is a myth. I barely have time to use the bathroom alone, let alone make sure my wellness wheel is balanced! The idea that we can control our lives in such a way to be in perfect harmony all the time is impossible and harmful. Trying to maintain balance means the implementation of rules and rigid boundaries—if I do this, this, and this every day with a side of that, then I will be in a state of this elusive “balance.” But in order to fit this, this, this, and that in, I have to say ‘no’ to my two little people who need me the most right now. I know I still need to take care of myself, but I can’t expect it all to be in perfect harmony. We’re human, and life is messy. We often don’t know we need something until we’ve had too much of another.
Balance, for me, is usually found in reaction to riding the pendulum so far in one direction, and then realizing I need a little something to pull me back to center. I often don’t know I need rest until I’ve had way too much time on my feet in this season of little boys, sprinklers, sword fights, and scraped knees. And that’s ok. That’s real life. It’s messy. If we are always in a state of “just right,” then we aren’t really living our lives. Rest doesn’t feel as good when we don’t get tired first.
Trying to find balanced in an unbalanced phase of life means resisting what is. My wheel looks more like the solar system, with my family in the middle and little orbiting bubbles of social, rest, exercise, creativity, and quiet time. I would say it’s all inside a spiritual bubble though, learning the art of sacrifice in order to serve those who need me. If it didn’t look like that, then I would be resisting this season with every ounce of willpower and control I could muster.
So maybe instead of balance, what I really need is a shift in perspective, a bit of acceptance, and a look the big picture.
By shifting my perspective, I can choose to have gratitude for the chaos and the lovely little people that create it. It’s a gift. Yes, it comes with its challenges and its exhaustion, but it’s a gift all the same. Every day has goodness and beauty. Sometimes I have to train my eyes to look for it, but it’s always there.
Practicing acceptance allows the freedom to be where I am, fully in this season of long days and wild little boys. I can let go of the idea that balance is something I can manage and achieve during this busy season in my life. “It is what it is,” as my dad always says. I can embrace it. I can laugh when I have to at the absurdity and the exhaustion. I can accept my circumstances as busy and chaotic as they are at times, and I can look for the good every single day. I may not be able to manage balance, but I can always manage to smile.
Lastly, it helps to consider the big picture. Our lives, in a larger scope, are not a picture of balance. There are entire seasons in our lives that are full of busyness, chaos, and hustle-bustle—decades spent wiping bottoms and noses, rushing from soccer practice to guitar lessons, and hurrying home to get dinner on the table. And then there will be decades spent missing those years, missing those little faces, missing the chaos. The solitude I sometimes crave is coming, and then I’m going to long for the chaos, the noise, the dirt, the busyness, the chatter, the giggles, the interruptions. And therein lies the human condition. We want what we don’t have rather than smiling at what’s right in front of us.
So for now, all I can do is smile and take it as it comes. When life is chaotic, I can accept it and do what I can. I can choose not to push it to the breaking point. I can leave a few things undone. I can give myself some grace, rest in my faith, and put my feet up when I can find a moment. I can squeeze my little people while they’re still little, smile a grateful, tired smile, and let the rest go.