One of the comments I hear most from my close friends is how I’ve managed to achieve balance in my life, which makes me roll my eyes and laugh because, and I'm going to let you in on a little secret here...
I DON'T ACTUALLY HAVE BALANCE IN MY LIFE AT ALL.
I’ve even written a few articles on how to find balance and you know what? I want to apologize to you because I now think balance is bullshit.
I don’t think we’re ever meant to find balance. Most days I feel more like I’m riding a unicycle while juggling flaming batons and that at any given moment I’m about to hit a massive pothole in the road of life and it's going to send me flying through the air to land smack dab on my face. And then I’ll somehow have to fit a dentist appointment into my already busy schedule.
Nope; balance is bulls*it. And in fact when we say we’re trying to find balance that’s not even what it is we’re really looking for.
What we’re really looking for is happiness.
We think if we find balance we’ll find happiness, but we’ve been looking at the equation all wrong. We need to look for happiness first.
And that, my friends, is something I’ve managed to find. Also, I’m not going to tell you some crap about how you have to make time for yourself - because with age comes a little bit of wisdom and unlike my younger self, I now realize there are women out there working three jobs while raising kids on their own and they actually DON’T have time to make time for themselves and if they did have that time, they are so exhausted they would probably use it trying to catch up on the 3,247 hours of sleep they’ve lost.
In no particular order, here are some DOABLE things that have helped me find happiness in my life and maybe they'll help you too:
Recently a co-worker asked me "what was next," as in what was the next big thing I wanted to do. My response was simple….nothing. Right now I have a good job that allows me to be creative but doesn’t suck up my entire life. I’m able to work, hang out with my family, and still have time to do the things I love to do, so why would I want to screw that up?
That’s not to say you can’t strive for more. There ain’t nothing wrong with wanting more. But don't spend your life chasing the "what's next" if your heart really isn't into it or because you think that "what next" is finally going to make you happy or because it's what everyone else is doing.
Repeat after me: There's nothing wrong with being happy with where you're at and staying there for awhile to enjoy it.
That’s a very valid question which brings me to my next point.
I don’t enjoy every aspect of my job, in fact there are a few parts of my job I actually hate. So I don’t focus on those things. I do them, get them done, then put my energy towards the parts of my job that I really enjoy.
This can be applied to every aspect of your life. You’re never going to love everything and quite frankly that’s a completely unrealistic expectation. Find enjoyment in the little things in life. I have one girlfriend who loves to vacuum because seeing the vacuum lines in the carpet when she’s finished gives her a sense of satisfaction. I love to read so I make time to read every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes….locked in the bathroom. What brings you happiness is going to be as unique as you.
Which brings me to the next point.
Before you can enjoy the little things and be happy you need to know what the little things are that you enjoy. As you go about your daily routine, try to be in the moment so you can understand and be aware of those little things. I kid you not when I say after our dishwasher broke down, I discovered I actually like washing dishes by hand. I'm a simple kind of gal, what can I say?
That’s the wonderful thing about happiness. You never know where you’re going to find it.
Every year we buy a ticket for a local hospital lottery, and every year my kids and I go visit the house we could win, and every year my kids ask if we would move into the house if we won it, and every year my answer is the same.
A bigger house just means more for me to clean which would undoubtedly make me less happy unless I paid my friend who likes to vacuum to come in and clean but that would mean I would have less money for wine. See where I’m going with this?
So many times we want the newest device, the better car, the bigger house, nicer clothes….the stuff. But stuff doesn’t make us happy. Unfortunately, Apple has figured this out while a large portion of the population hasn’t which is why they have line ups out the door whenever their newest greatest and latest device is released.
As Sheryl Crowe said.... "It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got."
Listen, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting something better so long as you’re not expecting that new thing to make you happy.
It’s hard to be happy when you’re jealous that The Joneses have greener grass. I get it…it’s sometimes difficult when you see other people getting what you want, or what you think you want, or hell, you don’t even want it at all, you just didn’t want them to have it either.
Been there, done that.
Here’s the cool thing…when you start being genuinely happy for other people, you leave more room inside yourself to be happy, and when you’re happy it makes it easier to be happy for other people. See how that works?
This more than anything has been the key to my happiness. My house is clean but never pristine. I cook great meals some days, and other days we have cereal for dinner. I’m on time most of the time, other days I’m the wild-eyed woman racing my kids to their activities without a moment to spare.
None of this stresses me out because I’ve come to embrace mediocrity and it’s given me a sense of freedom to be released from the expectations I always had for myself.
Nobody is ever going to be happy 100% of the time. You will have days when you’re sad, moments of anger, times when you’re doubtful of the path you are on, hours, days and even weeks when it feels like your other feelings outweigh your happiness 80/20. But happiness is measured over a lifetime and if you can find it in yourself to chase happiness instead of balance you’ll hopefully look back over time and realize that ultimately, your happiness and the happiness of those you love outweighed everything else.
RELATED: Does Happiness Improve Your Health?
When I started blogging in 2006 the medium wasn’t new but it was still relatively newish. People were writing and sharing stories - working with brands and being “sponsored” weren’t a thing.
Twitter hadn’t even been invented yet.
I started writing because I wanted to share the good and not-so-good experiences about parenting.
How original, right? *rolls eyes*
At the time I was the parent of a small child and a toddler. Their stories were my stories….or so I thought. Now, nine years later that blog I started in 2006 is defunct, my kids are older, and it’s not necessarily that I’ve gotten wiser but that I learned a few harsh realities along the way, much akin to getting hit in the face with a ham.
Before you start a blog - or if you’re blogging about your kids right now - here’s a little food for thought from someone who's been there:
When I first began I was getting 75 page views per day (and 72 of those were me checking to see if anyone had visited my blog) and I used my children’s real names. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me when they were five and two. Fast forward five years and it was a big deal. I didn’t like the idea of total strangers knowing my kids’ names. It took a very long time for me to go back and remove their names from every blog post.
I once posted what I thought of a cute photo of my older son wearing a pair of pajamas that were three sizes too small. I thought it was a good idea, that is until I looked at my blog stats and saw that someone had gotten to my blog, and that photo, by using the Google search terms “Little boys in tight pajamas”
I removed the photo immediately.
That brings me to this…. you may know some of the people who visit your blog, but you don’t know all of them. Remember that you are giving personal information and posting photos of your kids for everyone to see. You’re giving information you would never tell a stranger on the street and yet you’re posting it for thousands of strangers to view online. Think about that for a minute.
Those photos you posted that you think are cute? The ones of your kids running around naked or having a meltdown in a store, or any of the hundreds of moments that happen each day that we all feel the need to document? Trust me when I say you teenage son or daughter won’t think they’re cute. At all.
I know you think these are stories for you to tell, I thought it for a long time too. But writing about the things your child does or what happened to him/her means those stories belong to them. It’s one thing to share a funny anecdote among friends where it will stay in that circle and not go any further; it’s a completely different kettle of fish when you put it on the internet for the whole world to see.
Once I wrapped my head around the fact that my sons’ stories weren’t mine to tell I fell into the trap of writing a story, then having them read it and asking if it was okay for me to publish it.
Don’t fall into that trap because:
a) You’re leaving an adult decision up to a child.
b) The truth is your young child has no idea the ramifications of how it will affect their lives in the future having all of these stories on the internet. Nor do you.
You wouldn't ask your child to weigh in on how you should mortgage your house or if you should stay at your current job or relocate to a new one. Don't leave adult decisions that have adult consequences in the hands of a child.
So now you might be thinking I’m completely wrong and you have every right to share your children’s stories. WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, SHARON?
As a mom of two boys who are now older and able to Google and read everything I write, all I'm asking you to do is stop and think about this for a moment. Your young child is going to eventually get older. What if he (or she) decides to start their own blog that documents your stories? Like the day you freaked out at your kids in the middle of the grocery store, or how they overheard you talking about how you hate your neighbour, or, you know, that one night you went out with a few girlfriends and came home having maybe one too many glasses of wine?
Think about what it would feel like to Google yourself and come across that story?
Then think about that every time you sit down to write about your kids.
RELATED: 10 Secrets of Successful Bloggers
Two weeks ago, early on a Monday morning after making sure my two boys ate a hearty breakfast, I gave them each $20 and sent them out with instructions not to be back until dinner.
What brought on this crazy idea?
1) My Editor Jeni Marinucci told me she was doing it with her 11 year-old son and the idea resonated with me. I was a child of the 70s and early 80s. My summer days were filled with hanging out with my friends. There were no structured activities, no summer camps, no handheld devices of any kind. My parents sent us out to play and we came home for dinner. After dinner, we were told to come home when the streetlights came on. If a fight broke out among our group of friends, we were left to figure out how to fix it or risk being ostracized for the rest of the summer. If one of us got hurt, the rest banded together to help on the hobble home for the age-old remedy of mecurichrome, bandaids and a Freezie.
I wanted my kids to have some of that freedom I experienced, minus the mecurichrome because that is just the stuff of nightmares.
2) As my boys have gotten older I’ve come to realize the importance of challenging them. It’s essential to give our children opportunities to step up to the plate. These opportunities go a long way in building their confidence and allow them to see what they are capable of.
If we don’t allow our children to have opportunities to be independent when they are kids, how do we expect them to become independent adults?
That’s not to say there weren’t a few ground rules in place. The first being that they were to stick together. The second that my younger son had to listen to his older brother. And finally, the third was that my older son should text me every hour or so to give me a general idea as to the area they were in at the time.
The last thing I wanted was to have to tell the police that my kids, who had access to a Go Train, could be anywhere in Ontario.
I’m not going to lie…I was nervous the entire day. It did take a moderate amount of self-control not to call my son throughout the day to get an update. But the moment they walked through the door late that afternoon, I knew I made the right call in not calling.
Both boys were beaming with pride. My younger son was non-stop talking excited. We all sat out on the front porch eating Freezies while they told me about their adventures.
Here’s what I learned:
I have only ever let them go out on their own within a certain parameter of our community. When they went on the $20 challenge my kids went farther than I ever would have allowed them to go and you know what? They were completely okay.
When I send my boys out on their own with ground rules in place, they do the right thing.
When presented with a challenge my boys knew exactly what to do including what to do when they get lost and how to cross a busy highway overpass safely.
When I was watching and listening to my kids talk about their adventures I could actually see the pride in their faces. Their eyes were sparkling, the excitement in their voices undeniable.
Listen, I’m not suggesting that you send your 5 year-old out on his own tomorrow with $20 and instructions not to come home until the streetlights come on. You need to build up to something like that. Teach them as they grow - things like crossing the street safely, then letting them walk to school on their own or go to the park by themselves. It's always baby steps before the giant leaps.
But I am suggesting you really take a look at your kids and honestly assess their capabilities, then give them a challenge that will push them a little outside their comfort zone to help build their confidence.
What happens next may just surprise you.