The Myth of Balance

We’ve been sold a myth that somehow we can find a balance, a perfect equilibrium, in our lives.  Sometimes we are even shamed for not having found that sweet spot.

Balance implies that we have some scale and on each side are equal parts of a whole.  Or that different portions of our lives are divided up and pitted against each other.  Usually it is not possible, or even valuable, to compartmentalize our lives because all if it is woven together into whole cloth.

Needs ebb and flow.  Life changes regularly.

Work/Life Balance

The most popular version of this myth is the work/life balance. We cannot pretend that work and life are separate.   You need work.  It provides income.  It provides purpose.  It provides satisfaction (at least on the good days).  Some days, or months, or even for a season, work will be a bigger part of your life than the other parts. I can hear some of you out there saying “But my family is way more important than my work”.  Absolutely! It is as it should be. That is exactly why there may come a time when you put in those overtime hours, put in the extra hours for the promotion or the raise, or get a side gig.  You might do it because your spouse lost their job, or because your child needs extensive medical care, to provide education,  or maybe just because your child wants to play baseball or take dance lessons. On a scale that would not equal balance.    However, it is what is necessary to fulfill your priorities.

If you are self-employed or own a business it is even more laughable that you would find the perfect balance because you, and only you, are responsible for creating that life you are making for yourself.  

Does that mean that you need to work on call 24/7?  Absolutely not.  Boundries are important. Set them. For me that means no electronics at the dinner table, no business calls before 8am or after 9pm unless it is an emergency, and certain times reserved in my calendar that are a work free zone.  However if your business were to have a growth spurt you can’t just turn everything off because if you did you would upset the balance in the other direction and eventually be without work.

Family Balance

Each member of your family deserves your attention.  There is no way to ever make this equal at all times simply because every member of the family will have different needs at any given moment. This could be for physical or emotional reasons.  Sometimes Mom and Dad have to forgo their needs for the kids, and sometimes kids need to take a back seat to Mom and Dad or their sibling, or even their grandparents.

Fair is not always equal. Click To Tweet

I have seen parents that try set up the completely “equal” scenario with their children as if it were a math equation or an assembly line. All I observe from that is frustrated kids who never got what they really wanted from their parents, which was some one on one time.  In the end the amount of time and effort we spend with each family member should be fair.

However, fair isn’t always equal.

At first look this doesn’t seem right (my own children hated hearing this). When you are talking about family, fair doesn’t mean everybody gets exactly the same.  It means that everyone gets what is best for them.

Individuals, whether children or adults, each have their own needs, own interests, own motivation.  When we address what works with that individual we get better results.  If Susie plays baseball and Sarah likes to dance, you wouldn’t enroll them in both just to be equal.  It would be a waste.  It is the same way with discipline.  It is God’s cruel joke that everything that works for your first child does not work at all on your subsequent children. You adjust to address the way your child operates in order to be effective.

Community Balance

We are all part of a community.

It may be a city, a school system, a church, or even just extended family.  We either take from it or contribute to it.  Just like with work and family, it can’t be compartmentalized easily because needs will ebb and flow.  It is our job to contribute when we can but to understand that sometimes we have to retreat to take care of our business.  Conversely, we can’t do all the taking and none of the giving because we will dry up our well, so to speak.  We need to support the community and do our part to help it function in a healthy fashion.

It’s all about priorities

In the end we are not really looking for balance, we are looking for priorities.  It is like doing triage.  You assess what comes first on what day for which person. It is taking turns (didn’t we learn this in kindergarten?).  It will inconvenience you (link) but you will create harmony and everyone’s needs will get met…in their own right time…fairly.

Do you think it is possible to achieve a life balance?

2 thoughts on “The Myth of Balance

  1. Kristin

    You make a good point here: “we are not really looking for balance, we are looking for priorities.” I’ve given up on work-life balance because my work and my life feel very interconnected, and I don’t mind that. Your point about setting priorities and creating boundaries is crucial, though. (And helpful–this is something I need to do). Setting boundaries doesn’t pretend like life and work are separate, it just gives you a guideline for focusing your time. Great post!

  2. Anna Post author

    Thanks Kristin! I agree with you about setting boundaries and not pretending. The more I tried to achieve “balance” the more I felt like a failure. Boundaries have been good and so is scheduling time to not do work!


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