The Balance Paradox

Posted on Mar 4, 2014

Lately, a lot of my clients are feeling out of whack. It’s not just from slipping on slush or from shoveling snow.  It is because of what the weather has done to their ability to balance demands of being themselves.

Balance: that elusive, mythical Atlantis where (if we ever found it) we would feel at ease.

Here is an example of my own quest to find balance this past month:

It was yet another snow day and my husband was in Florida for work.

My sons, who are almost 11, had gotten out of bed, given themselves breakfast and were enjoying “creativity time” down in the basement, also known as Cohen’s Legoland.

I had luxuriated in my bed for a couple hours watching the Today Show and dozing.  I then proceeded to work for a few hours and was super-productive.

The boys and I reconvened over a lunch we made together.

The rest of the day was spent having some terrific mommy time with them. The fun included playing in the snow, warming ourselves with hot chocolate, making homemade popsicles, reading Harry Potter, enjoying an easy dinner, watching some TV, ending with really nice tuck-ins.

As I was walking downstairs to make sure the cat had food, I was feeling awesome. “I kicked ass today!” I told myself.

Unfortunately, my sense of grandiose elation popped like a fragile bubble when I rounded the corner and saw the kitchen.  All that awesome mothering left a huge mess! I went from elated to deflated instantly.

In this moment I was reminded of what makes achieving life balance is so illusive: it is wrought with paradox.

How can motherhood be so awesome and so annoying at the same time?

Was my quest for balance nothing more than a fool’s journey?  After all, balance itself is a paradox. What seems like a static experience is actually endless process of micro-adjustment, which gives the illusion of stillness.

Being able to recognize and be flexible in the paradoxes of our lives is what allows us to make these adjustments.  As we grapple with the paradoxes of creating balance, we must ask ourselves whose definition of balance are we orienting our lives toward?

What often makes us feel out of whack is adhering to an idealized version of our roles, a version that we have been taught and made our own.  How “we should be” can be so engrained that we automatically accept this version as THE TRUTH.

In the example of the snow day, I had succeeded in balancing my time and energy between my work, my kids, and myself.  The paradox for me was that, I don’t associate housekeeping with mothering.

And yet, here was a huge mess that I had to clean up.

I didn’t want to motherhood to feel like martyrdom so relied on one of my favorite mantras: IF YOU CAN’T CHANGE THE WHAT, CHANGE THE HOW.

I put on my favorite Spotify playlist to give me the energy I needed to tackle the mess.   I danced around the kitchen while cleaning it, knowing that a little micro-adjustment was all I needed to feel balanced again.