I had the honor to speak on a panel last week for a local women’s group. The even was hosted at Sephora University, which my colleagues and I all agreed had the best bathroom mirrors.
The topic for the panel was “work/life balance”. And I was like, oh, I am SO qualified to talk to that! I have been juggling work, single mom life, friends and family, health and fitness, and me-time for so long, and while I am by no means perfect I think I’ve earned a few kernels of wisdom that I am happy to share if it helps someone.
First off, I dislike the term “balance” (almost as much as I dislike “moderation”, but that’s for another post!) because it assumes equality. It assumes that there is some point where all aspects will be perfectly centered and reach homeostasis. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to wake up in the morning and realize, “Oh, joy! Everything I need to do just fists perfectly into my day!” No, that’s because it’s not a balance, it’s a juggling act.
And I have to take a moment to recognize a bit of the privilege I have in this area. I have an employer that 1) values employee health and well-being, and 2) trusts me allows me (for the most part) able to work remote or adjust my schedule when Life happens. I also have reliable childcare in the form of a great babysitter and a good relationship with my kids’ dad, so when duty calls I’m able to make it work. Not everyone has a flexible schedule or the general ability to find someone to pick up the kids from school in a pinch. And I find these are some of the biggest challenges in the working mom life to manage.
But back to juggling. Imagine a pile of balloons. And these balloons are just blown up with air and not helium so they’re just laying on the floor. Got that image?
Okay, now toss all of those balloons up and don’t let them touch the floor. Remember that party game? My kids always play it when we have balloons in the house, but that fact aside that’s literally what it feels like to keep everything going. All of the responsibilities and goals in my life are balloons – work, kids, chores, health commitments, friends, service commitments – and I’m just constantly trying to keep them all floating. Sometimes I ignore a balloon for a while and it *almost* hits the floor. Sometimes I just get tired of bopping balloons back up and quite a few hit the floor. When they hit the floor, I have to choose if I’m going to leave them there, or if I want to spend the energy picking them up and putting them back in flight.
Does that sound exhausting? It can be, especially when you’re out of shape (I speak from experience, literally and metaphorically!) or having a rough time of it. Or if you have too many balloons to keep up there. Or if one balloon is losing air, and it’s falling to the ground a lot faster than the other balloons (this is what I call a “crisis balloon”) so you have to spend more time and energy watching for and catching that balloon at the sacrifice of other balloons.
So what can you do to win at the Balloon Game?
First, you have to get over whatever negative feelings you have about the Balloon Game, about how unfair it might feel or how tired you are or how impossible it seems. Because, yes, it does last forever. Literally. But as anyone that’s run a race or done a hard thing for a long time can tell you, if you think about how long you have to keep doing a task, it feels impossible. But if you focus on just this balloon, just this day, it’s so much more manageable. You can do something hard for one day that would be appalling to keep up for a lifetime. So look at it differently. Just tackle it for right now. Maybe make a game out of it (because it is a game!) and see how many or how few balloons you can juggle, find gratitude in each balloon you have, or see if you can get help with juggling a particular balloon.
Second, you have to make sure your balloon for “taking care of myself” is always, always the first one you hit. To take the best care of others, you have to take care of yourself first. You have to, at a minimum, eat in a way that gives you nourishment and energy, get in enough sleep, and move your body regularly. And I know, you’re like, duh. I’ve heard this before. This is probably eye-roll-worthy old news. But if you’ve heard it all before but still aren’t doing the things to take care of yourself, why? Why do you put the importance of all these other things in life before the importance of you? And these things are still scratching the surface of self-care. There’s also positive social interactions, making time for things that make us look or feel good like scheduling that dentist appointment or getting a haircut, and cultivating a hobbies or activities that we do just for ourselves because it’s fun and creativity is so underrated. So if you struggle with getting in the proper amount of “me-time” to care for yourself, that might be something to ponder.
Oh man you guys, I have so much to unpack here. But I hope this gets your gears going on realizing your own Balloon Game, and how to start approaching it with a bit more positivity and purpose.
That’s all for now, go make it a great day!