I’ve spent the last three years searching for a book, article, celebrity, guru, or Buzz Feed tips-sheet to tell me how I can have it all: fulfilling career, financial success, happy family, healthy parents, contact with friends, thriving kids and time just for me.
Oh, and also a unicorn. Obviously.
For many middle class families, time – and not money – is the coveted currency of today. Achieving balance means full control over how you spend that precious currency. Bestselling books like Lean In coupled with the crushing pressure of Pinteresty Paleo Work-At-Home Moms have all of us scrambling to ask "Why do these women seem to have it all together? They're on top of their games at work and at home. Why not me? Why can’t I achieve balance?"
In the last 75 years, social trends and cultural norms have lurched the Perfect Woman prototype from housewife, to working woman, to balancer of domestic and workforce labour. Isn’t it amazing that we [are expected to] do it all?! So far, the scales of balance seem impossible to manage.
The work-life balance fallacy started to fall apart for me when I had an insiders look at high-achieving women in the workplace, and in their homes. A former high-profile politician I worked for was interviewed for Reva Seth’s The Mom Shift project. Her advice on balance has been throbbing in my brain since she said:
But, wait, what? Balance. Is. Not. Static.
If it isn’t static, then how can it be mastered, controlled, and “achieved?”
Take yoga’s Tree Pose as an example:
Go on and try it...stand on one foot. Balance is a shifting, delicate, wavering sensation. Balance means constant tiny adjustments, with our eyes forward – always fixed on something static in order to deeply ground us. “Achieving” the perfect work life balance will never happen – balance cannot be achieved. It is a never ending dance of shifting, wavering, falling, and moving – always with our eyes and minds fixed on that which grounds us. There may be moments of perfect stillness...balance achieved!...followed by more wobbling and swaying. This work is never done.
How do we teach our daughters that the opportunity to do everything they want in their lives does NOT equal the expectation for them to play all those roles at the same time?
How do we teach our daughters that they can have it all – just not at all at once?
How do we help them reach for all of their dreams, while keeping their toes dug firmly into the ground of reality and reasonable expectation?
Authors, celebrities, psychologists, business leaders - heck, YOU and I - need to stop being lazy in answering the balance question. It is no longer enough to ask our women leaders "how do you achieve balance?" It is ALL of our responsibility to look at our own lives and ask "what balls am I ok with dropping in order to achieve what I want - at this moment?" We need to ask women "what changes have you made in order to succeed; changes to yourself and changes to how you organize your time?" For the sake of my two daughters, I want every female leader to have the courage to say "I do not do it all. I can not do it all. But this is what my act of balance looks like, warts and all."
Show me the honest book, article, person, or tips sheet who has these answers, and I’ll be listening. Until then, I’ll be standing on one foot - shifting, adjusting, and hoping like hell not to fall...