the Myth of Work-Life Balance

I love this – just read it on Babble:

Like the rest of us with very young children, Working Dad has discovered that chaos is more in play than order or balance.  because of this, most parents would be well-advised to surrender idealized notions of work-family balance in favor of something softer and more covered in spaghetti: real life with small kids.

I heartily agree, though I wonder if it’s “real life” all the time, not just with young kids – though they make it all very, very real. You have to be a Taoist – you have to go with the flow – even though it crashes and splashes, even when it boringly pools into stagnation of repetition… because when you try to make your children conform to some – heck, conform period – to some schedule, some template of moderation, when you try to fit your own needs and life into healthily established slices of time – 15 minutes of yoga, 15 minutes in the bathroom, 15 minutes of sex, 15 minutes of personal nose- picking – yes, well, it’s not going to happen. And, when you do try it, it’s not going to be 15 pure minutes of whatever you’ve slated to do. You know that.

So yeah – things are mushy – the kid falls asleep on time and you are gifted an extra half-hour to write – you take it. You wake up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep – so you get to read your bedside book in private – you take it. You lose those precious minutes of possibly being alone with your husband – you let it go. You laugh and move on. And the next day, you scramble home for forty minutes together in bed during lunch.

And this is how you survive. You stay in the present, and you listen to your kids, you listen to your body, you pay attention to your needs, and you meet them as you can while knowing that it will all be imperfect, partial, messy, less than fabulous, less than balanced. But once you let go of some ideal about how it should be if only, or how it could be if only (blaming yourself, your job, your spouse, your kids, your culture, your dog, whatever) –  well, then you’re actually living in your crazy, beautiful life – instead of denying and hating it, wishing it were something else. And wow – actually living it free of those expectations is so much better – and so much more fun – than you would think…

I’m not saying you always have to relish the sleep deprivation or not go partially insane because you need time to yourself – I’m not saying that this is the surefire way to avoid feeling caught between two demanding monsters of work and family – crushing you like that scene in Star Wars when the trash compactor is threatening to do in our heroes – no, I’m just saying that giving ourselves as working parents the space and compassion to not be in control and to not have perfect balance is probably going to do more to help us cope than constantly struggling with and against the challenging moments of our lives.

She said, sleepily…


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