This week, my friend Amy Rosoff Davis posted a photo on instagram with a caption about how hard it was to find balance as a working mom. It’s a struggle so many of us know all too well, and one of the biggest challenges we must learn to navigate… sometimes on a daily basis.
Her post got me thinking about the elusive quest for balance, and how it’s another instance where we as moms are often mislead. We’re all on a never-ending hamster wheel of trying to do everything, manage it all perfectly, and meet every expectation along the way. So often we forget to give ourselves grace when we drop the ball… instead of questioning why we must juggle so many balls in the first place.
I’ve struggled with trying to find balance since the day my first baby was born, as many of us have. But the one analogy that has served me best, and stuck with me all of these years, is one that a mom shared in the very first round of filming we did for The Mama Sagas. She equated balance to walking a tight rope: sometimes you will lean toward your kids, and sometimes you will lean toward your work. Once in a great while you might have a moment of perfect alignment in between, but finding balance is more about understanding the dynamic give and take that happens continuously to keep you on the rope. That understanding of “balance” has been a life-saver for me.
Balance is not static. It is not fixed. In fact, it is rarely perfectly aligned. The scales are almost always tipped in one direction or the other.
The quest shouldn’t be about sustaining a perfect stillness in between work and family, it should be about making sure you don’t totally fall over to one side.
The concept of dynamic stability is one that I have talked to my Pilates clients a lot, because finding balance in the body is much the same. Achieving the right alignment to sustain balance, optimize muscle function and reduce pain is all about give and take. Muscle groups work in pairs to balance the body in opposite directions. The trick to balancing – whether on one leg or two – and to carrying your body effectively is to understand that stability is dynamic. When you try to rigidly hold onto a position without any movement whatsoever, you will almost always lose your balance entirely. But when you think of stability as a dynamic process – muscles working together in tandem to pull equally on both sides to maintain alignment – you will be more successful, and able to sustain balance for a longer period of time.
Balance and stability require adaptation. Finding balance means accepting that there will be moments you lean one way, and responding to that movement with more effort in the opposite direction.
Setting our expectations around the traditional concept of a perfectly static work-life balance is a huge disservice – especially for us moms, the doers of all the things. Maybe by redefining balance as a constant and dynamic give and take, we’ll free ourselves from the guilt that comes when we lean too far one direction.
Saralyn Ward is an award-winning writer, wellness advocate, and mountain mama. She is the founder of The Mama Sagas, writes for several publications and hosts a regular parenting TV segment on Colorado's Everyday Show. When she's not huddled over edits, you're likely to find Saralyn climbing peaks or skiing down them, and reminding herself that the two little girls that call her mom are not the boss of her.