Not too long ago, asked some of my friends and coworkers (who are moms!) what the #1 biggest struggle in their lives was, and they all said the same thing: “BALANCING IT ALL.” Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with the topic of work-life balance. I think about it daily in my own life. I watch other moms at my kids’ schools and on the playground, and I wonder how they feel about it in their lives. I ponder what it is that makes this mythical unicorn called “work-life balance” so impossible to obtain for so many of us. Well, good news, folks – I think I’ve solved it (along with world peace).
Here's the thing: my work-life balance isn’t the same as yours…or anyone else’s. I’m the only one in the world who is me (as far as I know!…), AND I’m the only one living in my exact situation, so the combination of all the “uniqueness” in my life really makes things complex. It’s like an unsolvable equation: (Me + my kids + my husband + my job + my beliefs + my interests)*n=1 / 24 hours per day = ERROR.
Even though we are bound together by similar life experiences and struggles, the exact specifics of our lives are completely unique to us. The devil truly is in the details. We might seem similar to other people on the outside, but the way we think and feel on the inside is FOR SURE unique to each of us.
Case in point: I recently visited one of my best friends who just had a baby, and I commented to her how calm she seemed and how easy she made it look to be a new mom. I was thinking about my early days as a new mom to my super-fussy Mae and how I felt like I was drowning every day.
In contrast, my friend looked like the epitome of peace. Her response caught me off guard, though, and was so refreshingly honest; she said, “I took some acting classes in high school, so I guess I got good at pretending to be fine…but I pretty much feel anxious all the time.”
A lightbulb went off in my brain. I was comparing how I felt on the inside as a new mom to how my friend looked on the outside – and we all know that looks can be deceiving. Why had this never occurred to me before?? This distinction can also be used to explain why – when I scroll through other people’s Instagram and Facebook accounts, amazed at how picturesque and peaceful their lives seem – I feel like I must be doing something wrong. That I must be missing something. I’ve even resigned myself to saying things like “Well, I guess this motherhood thing just isn’t one of my biggest strengths.”
But here’s the crazy part: I feel super balanced and happy in my life right now, more than I have in the past 5 years since becoming a mother. Yet, I still look at other moms from the outside and think I’m not stacking up. The comparison demon is something we must all fight, but this recent revelation about how things look on the outside vs. how they feel on the inside has really helped me gain clarity.
Work-life balance is a million things and it’s one thing, all at once – simply feeling peace. Peace that you’re making the right choices, that you’re parenting your children the best way you know how, that the things you fill your days with are things you love, and that you’re making a difference in someone’s life somehow. Regardless of how your life may look to others, if you feel good about your life on the inside, then (IMO) you have arrived at the oh-so-elusive “work-life balance” ideal.
It was a long, hard road for me to fully adjust to motherhood, and it took (what felt like) 20,750 tweaks to my “equation” to finally get to a place of peace. If you’re working on your own equation, know that yours isn’t going to look like anyone else’s, and try to find the courage to embrace that fact. And one more thing – don’t give up trying…because you deserve nothing less than 100% happiness in this life.