The United States is only ranked 28th out of 36 developed nations for work-life balance according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and yet 73% of people in the US consider flexible schedule a top priority when they are looking for new employment, making the US appear to be a working nation in pursuit of balance. Women are especially vested in this pursuit given our continued majority stronghold in primary caregiving, as well as the female identity’s firm foundation in the private domain.
Balance appears to be more easily accomplished by juggling fewer things at any given time, unless of course you are one of those amazing circus acrobats who while “standing” on their tongue can also successfully maintain a variety of objects in motion using their limbs. One person’s balance is after all another person’s disparity. Keeping that point in mind, here is my equilibrium cheat sheet:
I have a mind that is constantly spewing out stuff so I carry a notebook, yes an old fashion paper notebook and a pen. When my mind starts to drift off to things I need to action, to an idea or to something I want to remember, I take a note, literally, and then bring my attention back to what I am currently doing. This simple exercise increases the quality of my engagement, and surely quality not quantity needs to be our balance measure.
2. Elevate the mundane
As an example I never just fold laundry. Yes, I know uni-tasking and mindfulness are key to a quality life but I simply cannot make my life work with a series of uni-tasks, so I bring all the laundry into my son’s room, we turn the laundry basket into a prison and the clothes into failing parachutes. This does mean I often have to fold the same items multiple times but since it is a fun family moment and no longer a pure chore, I don’t mind… much.
3. Never aim for perfection
I firmly believe that the quest for perfection is one doomed for misery and I speak entirely from personal experience. Perfection is a mirage generated by society and fuelled by guilt. Balance does not require an immaculate house, perfectly turned out kids, a stable happy marriage and a thriving career with exciting hobbies on the side, all at any given time. Balance requires us to treasure what we have and channel our energies on what truly fulfills us. (See my post on “An ode to the robotic vacuum cleaner” for a teaser on this topic)
4. Celebrate daily accomplishments
I did not volunteer for my son’s recent field trip and yes it did break my heart a little when he told me that he really would love me to come. Still, I focus on what I accomplish and do not linger on what I do not. My son went on that field trip in clean clothes, well prepared and with a great lunch, and more importantly that evening he had a fun time telling me all about it, including how well he had managed without me.
Would I love to have more free time? Most definitely! Does work related stress bleed into my private life? Yes! Do I wish I could attend all my son’s field trips? Of course! Do things slip because I have too much going on? Always! And yet I feel predominately in balance and certainly find I enjoy the ongoing pursuit.
How do you boost your balance?
"Show me a woman who doesn’t feel guilty and I will show you a man."
— Erica Jong
— Erica Jong