By Julie Burtonwww.modernwell.co
When it comes to motherhood, wifehood, and careerhood, I think the word "balance
" is bulls** (excuse my French). As a wife of 25 years, mom of four kids ranging in age from 13-23, yoga instructor, author, wellness warrior, and owner of ModernWell, a women's cooperative workspace and wellness center in Minneapolis, I have done my fair share of trying to perfect the act of "balance.
" And guess what? It is indeed an "act
" and balance is not a reality for most moms, nor should it be a goal.Why Balance is B.S.
When you are mothering a colicky baby and you are dealing with postpartum depression-your balance is about staying alive. When your daughter is being bullied at school and falls into a puddle every day when she walks in the door, and you and your husband are in disagreement about how to handle: balance is not on your radar. When you parent a high school and then college athlete, your balance comes in the form of not falling off whatever bleachers you happen to be sitting on a given day. When you are raising four kids at four very different life stages (toddlerhood, middle school and high school all at once), your husband travels every week, you experience a financial blow, a parent is diagnosed with cancer, and you are peri-menopausal, I dare you to say the word balance to that mom. I even double dare you.
And yet, while navigating all of the above and perpetually feeling off balance, I do still love my husband of 25 years, my four kids are thriving (on most days), my health is good (except for nagging neck pain), and I somehow managed to slowly grow my career as a writer and entrepreneur. But I did not do any of this because I was able to maintain balance. I did this by managing and sometimes even embracing the perpetual feeling that I was balancing on my pinky toe in the middle of a hurricane-and oftentimes getting knocked over and being swept out to sea.
In yoga, the pose that focuses most on finding balance is tree pose. And yes, while in tree pose, one strives to stay upright and steady while balancing on one leg with our other foot resting on your ankle or above the knee. However, most seasoned yoga instructors will remind you that falling out of tree pose is not only not frowned upon but celebrated. Falling is where and when strength is built and the growth happens.
As a self-care expert, I am not saying that falling on our faces time and time again is what we should be striving for or that we should ignore healthy limits for what we take on physically, emotionally or relationally. No, we don't want to blindly throw ourselves into anyone (squeaky wheel) aspect of our lives and completely ignore other important elements of our lives, but what I am saying is that we do need to find a way to accept that while we can aspire to "do it all
" we realistically cannot do it all at the same time (or at least not do it all well). And that, my dear women friends, is A-OK.
As we aspire to be a great mom, partner, employee, employer, friend, family member, and community leader and whatever else you wish to add to your list, my mission is to inspire women to give themselves permission to let go of that notion of finding a perfect balance or that one even exists. We are pulled in far too many directions to think that our time will be evenly distributed. You can count on the fact that certain aspects of or people in your life will require more attention than others at different times. But in the midst of all the push-pull that you will inevitably face as a woman and mother, staying grounded in yourself and in your commitment to caring for yourself, is your key to managing your "Imbalanced
" life.Why Striving for Balance Can Cause More Harm Than Good
In becoming a mother, we are immediately forced to make internal and external shifts and what balance once meant to us will never be the same. When achieving balance is the overriding goal, and most of us feel off balance most of the time ("I should be working/sleeping/exercising more. I should be spending time with my kids/my husband/my aging parents/friends more
" we are prone to triggering thoughts of failure and shame, and the balance paradigm is one more area in which we can beat ourselves up for falling short-- "I am failing at being balanced.
" The reality is that we can and need to lean into our motherhood, our jobs, our marriages--continually adjusting and pivoting to attend to the changing needs of all of the above as opposed to trying to find a mythical state of synchronicity.Be Okay with Falling Over But Understand How to Get Back Up... Time and Time Again
If balance is not what we need to be striving for, what are the keys to our success as a woman and a mother? The following list is one that will help you bring your best self forward in all aspects of your life:
- Be clear on your values. When you know who you are and what you stand for, it is easier to stay true to yourself and make intentional decisions about where you need to devote your energy.
- Be flexible and kind to yourself. Let go of any and all notions of perfection. It ain't going to happen. Your kids will not be perfect, nor will your job, your marriage, and most importantly, nor will you, so you can be a whole lot nicer to yourself when trying your best to do it all. Give yourself grace and compassion, and understand that you can take "tightrope walker" off of your resume. Instead of spending your precious energy on finding balance, set your intention on practicing shameless self-care so you continue to replenish the continuous outpouring of energy that is required to be a woman and mother today.
has spent the past two decades working as a fitness instructor, freelance writer, author, and self-care expert while mothering her four children alongside her husband of 25 years. Co-founding the Twin Cities Writing Studio in 2015 and publishing The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother's Guide to Health
and Well-Being in 2016, Julie experienced firsthand the power of women supporting women. She was inspired to create ModernWell
, the first co-working, writing, and wellness center in Minneapolis where women are empowered to work, connect, and create while taking care of themselves and supporting one another. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.