Balance Is A Myth — Juggling is Reality

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On paper, I look like one of those women who has and does it all. I have a sweet marriage, three pretty awesome kids, a job I love that allows me to work from home, hobbies that interest me, good health, a house that keeps us warm and dry, great friends, and a supportive community. Oh, and we home-school. When I write it all out, I have a fairly impressive-sounding life.

People sometimes ask me how I balance it all, and my response is always the same. First, I try not to spit while I laugh in their face, and then I say, “I don’t.”

That’s not false modesty. I really don’t balance it all — not even close, in fact.

I’m not sure that the idea of balance has any place in a life with children at all. The notion that the various parts of my life could ever equally and evenly mesh on any kind of a regular basis is laughable. I mean, there are certainly some things I do (or should do) to keep it all running as smoothly as possible. But as any parent knows, “as smoothly as possible” can still be a very bumpy ride.

Whether you work or stay home, have kids in school or not, life as a parent is full and busy. But I think in terms of juggling rather than balancing. It’s constant movement, constant bouncing from one thing to another, constant attention shifting while trying to stay focused. Up, down, around and around, the balls are always flying somewhat haphazardly, being caught just in time to for me to let go and look for the next one falling.

Looking at the list I described, I basically have nine main balls in my life: marriage, parenting, home-schooling, work, hobbies, health, the house, friendships, and community involvement. I love every one of those things—they are all important to me in various ways. Even my hobbies, which may seem superfluous, are really about self-care, which is absolutely vital. That ball affects all of the others when it gets dropped.

And it does get dropped. They all get dropped. There are balls dropping everywhere, all the time, it seems. Some of it is my own doing, of course. I mean, I did choose most of these things. But none of those parts of my life is expendable.

If I put down the health ball, that’s going to have a detrimental effect on my ability to juggle the rest. If I quit home-schooling, I’d just pick up a different kids’ school ball, so that wouldn’t help a whole lot. Obviously, my marriage and kids need to be kept aloft; that’s non-negotiable. Work is a necessity as well as personally fulfilling, so that’s also non-negotiable. The house gets dropped a lot, and that’s OK (but also not, because a clean house makes juggling so much easier). The community ball can get dropped — and does sometimes — but I want to keep that one, especially as an example to my kids. My friendship ball gets dropped, too, but I refuse to set it down on purpose. It gives me the energy to keep juggling.

So, nine it is. And one or more hit the ground practically every day. But you know what? That’s OK because I looked up the world record for juggling nine balls. Want to guess what it is?

55 seconds. That’s right. A professional juggler can’t successfully juggle nine balls for even a single minute. Ha!

So if you feel like you are constantly dropping balls in your life, like it’s impossible to keep everything balanced or running smoothly for longer than a minute, don’t fret. That’s the nature of life as a parent. In fact, it’s even more complex than I’ve made it sound. Each child you add to your life changes the weight, size, and shape of the other balls in your life. Each relationship, each work project, each community activity, each school commitment is another ball being thrown in and out of the loop. You constantly have to adjust. That’s just part of what it takes to juggle.

The key is to learn to enjoy juggling for the skill and feat that it is. Don’t strive for perfection; even professional jugglers don’t juggle perfectly forever. Do your best to keep all the balls in the air, but know that some will get dropped. Just pick them up, and see if you can go a little longer next time before one falls.

And remember, if you’ve juggled it all for longer than 55 seconds, you’re doing better than the pros. Keep on keepin’ on, Mamas.

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