I live by the mantra of a balanced healthy lifestyle. I live it myself and want it for everyone I come into contact with. I do not believe in perfection. I do not believe we can be all or nothing of one thing at all times. I do believe you can exercise and workout, have your cake, enjoy it, and live your life. I do believe there can be balance in your lifestyle and in your health and how you approach each and every day.
Then, what, you might ask, do I mean by this title? Well, I’m here to tell you. I think the whole “you can have it all”, you can have a perfect work/life balance, you can be a supermom, super career person, and super human who is all things to all people at the same time, is definitely a lie.
This post is a complete depart from my typical topics. But, it’s something that has always been on my mind and I think has a lot to do with a healthy mindset and how we, as moms, handle our days and different seasons of life. I was speaking earlier in the week with a younger woman, who was in the middle of working, juggling schedules of three children, and wanting to beat herself up for not being perfect in all areas. My stomach twisted for her because I know all too well that overwhelm of striving for that perfect work/home/life balance. I spent many years thinking I was the only one who just wasn’t able to grasp it and hold it in every area of my life. So, I want to share a little from my experience and encourage anyone out there who might be striving for some perfect ideal. . .
I’ll be honest here. This is going to be a gut-honest post with nothing held back. This may mean that I offend some of you. It may mean that I surprise some of you. It may mean that some folks will think less of me. You may think that I am ungrateful, or wasn’t successful enough or even not a good mom. But, I’m just going to tell you how it is based on my own experiences.
I do not think there is a perfect balance out there for working moms. There just isn’t. It is a farce. It is a lie. It just cannot happen. Can you be a wonderful, loving mom? Yes. Can you also be a hard-working, smart, career mom? Yes. Can you be both of those perfectly at the same time and have them balance out perfectly every day? Heck no.
Here’s the truth. I was working full-time as an attorney when I discovered we were expecting the First Son. To say we were surprised is the biggest understatement of the century. But that is definitely a truly miraculous story for another day. I continued to work after my maternity leave ended, going back to my duties as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Georgia. And, I will confess right here and now. I loved my job. I worked in the criminal division and truly enjoyed answering pleadings, interviewing witnesses, going to court, even when I knew I would be in front of a particularly snarky judge. I loved getting totally immersed in reading transcripts of trials and writing appellate briefs. I loved working downtown in an office that handled some really interesting cases. I liked being in the middle of things and knowing what was going on in our government and political arena. While I didn’t particularly like wearing panty hose on sweaty August days walking to and from the parking deck, I loved my work friends and the actual work we did. I miss those days.
Every morning I got up extra early to pack the diaper bag, prepare and fill the bottles, dress myself for work, dress my cute baby and feed my little guy breakfast. I have sweet and fond memories of having the cartoon, Arthur, playing in the background while all the craziness of the morning swirled around us. I drove him to and got him settled into his sweet daycare center and then drove to the parking deck we had to use for our office. Then my lawyer day began. When my lawyer day ended, I picked up my boy, talking to all his caregivers about his day, what he did and how he spent his day. This routine would change as we found caregivers to keep the boys at home.
Then, as you can imagine, the fun of the “second shift” began. After getting home and changing clothes, sometimes we would strap in the jogger stroller for a wonderful jaunt around the neighborhood while we sang ABC’s. Sometimes it was a walk to the local playground. It might just be cuddling on the couch reading books before time to prepare dinner. Then it was the meal prep, feeding, bath, reading and bedtime rituals. Then it was cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, getting organized and packing his things for the next day, whatever chores needed to be done, and maybe work before bed. Looking back it makes me exhausted. However, I don’t think I thought there was another way, so it’s just what we did.
Let’s be honest, though. I worked full-time with this baby, and the next baby because that’s what we needed at the time. I had law school debt that was not cheap. We had bills to pay and that is how we could live in our house and live where we chose to live. I’ll also be honest and say there were times I hated and resented it. I thought I was missing out on special times at playdates, lunches with other moms and leisurely hours sitting on blankets at the park watching our children play.
Through a lot of trial and error, and second-guessing myself, and really just doing the best I could each and every day, I learned that it did not matter where I was, at work or at home, I always felt the tug to be somewhere else. If I was sitting at my desk working on a brief, if I took the time to think, I thought I should be at home. While at home, or with others at the park with our children, I felt the nagging guilt that I should be at work. It was a never-ending loop in my head. Wherever I was I felt guilty.
I don’t think I felt at peace with this for a really long time. One day I finally got it. I realized that I could be a great mom AND a great mom who works outside the home. I could do both things really well on most days. But like everything else, some days would be better than others. Some days I might hit a home run at home, making the perfect hand made birthday party invitations, by staying up until 2 am, mind you, but by golly they would be perfect! On another day, I might have a great argument before the crabbiest judge in the state or win my first trial. But, guess what? I probably couldn’t score that perfect thing on the same day at home and at work. I had to learn that the balance wouldn’t happen every single day. I had to think about that balance in the big picture sort of way. That was a hard lesson and one I wished I had learned much earlier.
If I am being honest with you, and I am, I think I have always been a better mom because I have worked outside of the home. I think I appreciate the times when I am home more. I think I can juggle getting more accomplished. And I just honestly don’t think I have the gift to be that perfect stay at home mom. When I began working part-time I thought that would be the answer. Well, let me tell you, for me it was worse. The guilt was completely overwhelming at that time. I felt that wherever I was, I should be somewhere else. I felt like I wasn’t totally engaged enough at either place to have the big impact I wanted to have.
When the Third Son was born I did have the opportunity to stay at home full time. I so appreciated that time. I think I thought I would really know about the perfect balance then and have it all figured out. I did not. I loved, loved, loved having time with the boys, being home with them and surrounded by all the craziness three little boys brings. It was chaos in the very best of ways. But, I still felt the nudge to do something else. When I began teaching fitness classes again, I felt more like myself. Practicing law logistically took a backseat, but my fitness business began and the timing and flexibility was perfect for our life.
I have never wanted to enter into the stay-at-home mom vs. the working mom debate. I have done both and I don’t think there is an easy answer for either. I think we, as moms, have to do what we have to do at different times in our lives. The decisions and choices may not be perfect, but life has never been about perfection. I’ve learned it is also not about a perfect balance, in this sense. Some days we can think, yes, this is balance, but then the next day might just eat us up and any semblance of balance completely topple over.
I’m not sure what this generation of young working women think. I’m not sure where today’s working moms stand on learning to balance their work and home lives. I hope they are not under the impression, as I was, that they are supposed to be superwomen at all things at all times. Moms can be the best moms ever on any given day. They can also be the very best employee, employer, bosslady, entrepreneur, wife, sister, friend, daughter, or circus leader. These moms may not be the best at each of these roles on every single day and that’s okay because that is what balance means. Being a mom, or a dad for that
Being a mom, or a dad, for that matter, is very complicated with a lot of different emotions and pulling and tugging. I have felt that all along, so if you have feel that tug, know you are not alone. I feel really guilty admitting the work/home tug. I had these big, beautiful babies, who were healthy and such blessings to our lives. I am so grateful for the privilege of being their mother, so I do not want to come across as ignoring or not appreciating what a wonderful gift these children are. I know those things and clutch them to my heart. So, I hope you can take this message for what it is and not judge me as not engaged or not appreciative of this most important role.
I merely want to share the message that if you continue hearing about some perfect balance, if you are looking for that perfect work/home balance as a mom, and are frustrated about the lack of that, it’s okay. Whether you work outside of the home, work part-time, work from home, handle your side gig, sell MLM products, or work your bottom off being the CEO and manager of your family, there is no perfect day. There is no such thing as a perfect work/home life balance. Every situation is different and unique, just as each and every day is different and unique. As we strive for the best at balance, there will be ups, downs, tears, joys, huge and mighty wins, and big and small challenges. I want to encourage you not to strive for an ideal and feel frustrated over something that is really just a big fat lie.
You can, however, celebrate your daily successes and have your great big wonderful life showing up and being your best every day.
Enjoy Your Day!