Balance is Not a Thing

Originally published on June 6, 2018 by The Montrose Daily Press

Somewhere in social media land there is a meme* with a picture of a frazzled woman. The text reads, “Me trying to excel in my career, maintain a social life, drink enough water, exercise, text everyone back, stay sane, survive and be happy.” Before I became a working mom, I saw that meme and laughed a little; only slightly identifying with it.

Today, I think it might be my picture circulating with that meme. Finding “balance” as a working mama or daddy is tough business. Balance is illusive, and once you find it, something comes along seconds later and topples the whole apple cart. To all you working parents who came before me: I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t know, wasn’t more gracious, more understanding and intuitive.

Though I’m nowhere near excelling at this whole mom/work/life balance, here are a few things I’ve found useful in my transition:

• In order to “have it all,” it all has to give: This can be true even if you don’t have children. If you are bringing something major into your life like a spouse, a new job, or the pursuit of a master’s degree, you need to become comfortable with discomfort. If you want to work and be a parent, both work and parenthood are going to have to give more to the equation than you’d likely prefer.

• Find things in your life you can set on autopilot. This does not mean give them up, but mentally being “okay” with not reaching for high achievement in that particular area for the time being. For me, this is fitness. For most of my life, I’ve worked toward a fitness goal in one form or another. Right now, I’ve defined success as getting to the gym three days a week. Walking through the door and moving my body. That’s it. This method can apply to any area of your life.

• Take care of yourself or you will constantly operate with the gas light on. Crazy schedules often leave us with a lack of time for thinking. To meditate, spend time with God, solve problems or simply fill up with things that nurture our soul. We must create this time for ourselves or it will be filled for us. There’s always laundry, emails, snotty noses and dogs who need walking. Consider getting up 30 minutes earlier than the rest of the family and spending time on you.

Can’t find the time? Challenge yourself to a social media or TV free week and see if any time opens up.

• Find a support system. One Wednesday not so long ago, I was sitting inside a room with the door locked. I was pumping milk for my son while simultaneously eating my lunch. Tears running down my face as the world felt like it was crashing in on me and the demands on me felt bigger than my ability to meet them. I sent a text to a friend who immediately reassured me that I would be okay. She told me I was doing a good job and that I would get through it.

Find people who are on a similar path as yours or who have been through it. You’ll need that support. It isn’t always going to be a spouse or a family member. Be vulnerable; be honest. We owe it to one another to share more than the highlight reel of our lives. We owe the honest truth about our struggles because one person’s story may inspire and encourage someone else.

• The days are long, but the years are short. It seems so cliché, but being happy with the moment you’re in will serve you well. I remember back to the first few weeks of my son’s life. Waking up every few hours to feed him left me exhausted. I dreaded the nighttime as it felt lonely, long and difficult. But then, I reminded myself … this will be over before you know it. Being the only person awake at 3 a.m. holding a tiny human is a gift. It’s a blessing. Relish it, live it. The secret of happiness truly is wanting what you have.

The joy of anything is only available if we choose joy. So the workday may be long, but I choose joy in having a job and a career that brings me fulfillment. The evenings may be crammed with making dinner, doing laundry, washing baby bottles and finding time to connect with my husband, but I choose joy in having a home where love lives.

Balance may slip away just as soon as we achieve it, but joy and contentment are always available should we choose them.

*Meme: a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by internet users).

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of Business Innovation for the City of Montrose. Contact her at chelsea@montrosechamber.com.