There is a question I get asked a lot – and I never quite know how to answer it honestly. I work really hard to keep my life and my house running smoothly, but inevitably it may still look easy from the outside looking in or it may even appear to run more perfectly than it does in reality (people can sometimes autofill other people’s blank spots with perfection). Under those assumptions, the question people ask me is pretty reasonable: How do you balance it all?
The question makes me feel a little uncomfortable to be honest because my short answer is: I don’t. I don’t balance very well at all.
Many moms I know, including myself, have this vision in our head of what we’d like our family life to be like and we’re constantly judging ourselves by comparing our reality to this vision.
I picture myself caught up and done with work by the time my big kids get off the school bus every day – having cookies ready on some of those rainy days, a picnic snack packed for the park on other days. I picture working together on chores with them – they do their chores while I do my housework for the day and I cook dinner while they finish homework. I garden and do art projects while they play, laughing in the yard. We drive around to all of their various activities, chatting about what is happening in their lives and current events. Bedtime is a beautiful time of togetherness, peace, and love. In my dream-world, I’m not stressed about the unwritten blog posts or unanswered emails. When the kids go to bed, my husband and I get quality time together before we go to bed at a decent hour to get a good night’s sleep.
Wouldn’t that be something? And don’t even get me started on my idyllic dreams for my 3 year old boy … they involve things like him coloring nicely next to me while I try to work (which would be a refreshing change from his obsession with wanting to press the keys on my computer when I do). Heck, I would take him letting me steer the grocery cart in the direction of my choice!
Balance is a myth. What really works is simplicity and passion.
Simplifying is about choosing. We have to choose what is most important to us and allow time for that, then cut everything else. We have to give ourselves permission to let go of the good, fluffy extras that are sucking our time and life away. We need a passion for the things we choose to keep in our lives so that we have the strength to protect their place and the burning desire to nurture them, so that we aren’t saving their place for no good reason.
But sometimes while we are busy nurturing one thing, another thing gets neglected a little bit. If it is important to us, we will get back to it and take care of it before the neglect causes any harm.
I like to think of the example of the circus performer spinning the plates. Have you ever seen it done? The performer has a whole bunch of sticks and spins plates on top of the sticks. It is amazing how many plates they can keep spinning at one time! (And think about how many plates a mom has to keep spinning at one time! Even when simplifying, there are a lot of plates.) The detail I want to point out is that as the circus performer goes around spinning the plates, the plates he focuses on are spinning fast and marvelously strong, but he can’t touch them all at the same time. Some of the plates start to wobble pretty badly before he makes it back to them to spin again … but none of them fall off.
When I was finishing creating the Declutter Printable Pack or the Spring Cleaning Printable Pack, my family ate mostly frozen meals or takeout. I couldn’t balance those long days of writing and creating with all the demands of motherhood. My brain couldn’t switch back and forth very easily. It was ALL writing and creating during the finishing stages. My husband pitched in and the kids were troopers. When I surfaced back into my house from my studio after I finished, my house looked like a tornado swept through … which was ironic both times given the subject matter I had just written for the rest of the world. But that is truth. That is how things really work.
And it may not always be that drastic, but on some large or small scale, what we are not focusing on is going to get a little wobbly. On the days I’m re-organizing my garage, my regular household chores may get skipped. But I won’t skip them forever … I’ll spin that plate before it falls.
If we have too many plates, plates will start to fall. But if we simplify and care passionately about the plates we choose to keep, we won’t let any of them fall and break.
While you are doing the one of my challenges, your kids may eat a lot of sandwiches for dinner. Good nutritious dinners aren’t gone forever, you’ll be able to get right back to that routine.
I definitely advocate having a schedule to start with and a routine to fall back to, but you have to be flexible that real life is not balanced, at least not in my experience. From my experience, you will rarely have a day that goes just according to plan, but your days will be so much more productive if you started with a plan. And it’s okay if your plans look a little lopsided some days: that’s real life.
If you notice I’m quiet in our Facebook group or not posting on Instagram, you can assume I’m probably with my kids or in my garden (or both). In a way you could call it balance, but balance makes me think of trying to multi-task and think of a million things at the same time (which makes me go crazy) … so I think of it more like shifting focuses.
Balance is for fairy tales. Live simply, live passionately, and you’ll be okay.
And just in case you’re curious, the title picture is from a day I needed to write so I let my son “play” in his room. Yep, balance is a myth. And here is a picture of his room when I did the tour … (it really does cleanup fast at least! And the bars went back into his crib-bed).
From my home to yours,
Thanks for the encouraging reality check! Simplify and be passionate about the important stuff. Great food for thought. I will think about that today 🙂
You are doing a great job already – make sure to include that in your thoughts. 🙂
Gervaise Hedrick says
Thank you for being so real and truthful about your life. I think it will encourage many women, including me. God bless and thank you for what you do and for sharing this ministry with others.
You are welcome – I hope it does!
Thank you! In these days of Pinterest and Facebook, when everyone posts what looks like perfection, because you can when you focus on one small thing, it’s very heartening to hear another woman say that idyllic vision of family life is a myth. Thank you for being real and admitting it!
We can have a beautiful family life that is a little imperfect and a little chaotic! That is real. 🙂
Word… I always say we can have awesome home cook meals but there are probably loads of laundry somewhere… balance is a myth
Yes, we can’t be in two places at once! 😉
Thank you for debunking the myth! It is very easy to keep the house clean after the children leave home, but it also seems too quiet and empty when they are gone.
I tell my husband we are going to follow my children around wherever they may move – ha! 🙂
Marion Dourte says
Love the example of the spinning plates…I just said NO to adding another one. Now I’ll look at the and decide what one to let go of and get back to the main ones.. Need to keep working on decluttering the office and dishes today. Thank you for sharing and admitting you don’t keep everything in balance, it makes the rest of us feel better. God bless.
Awesome! Good job saying no – I know that isn’t always easy. 🙂
Jenna Lyons says
Thank you for this post. I needed it big time right now. I need to make a sign that reminds me about the spinning plates- that was a perfect analogy! It’s ok to let something get a little wobbly as long as I come back and spin it again. Thanks again for your inspiration!
You are welcome! Pick important plates and keep them spinning. My new mantra. Haha!
Jennifer Threet says
I am no longer a young mother and I find it hard to keep a balance. I have an older long hair white cat that is constantly leaving “little brothers” on the floor and furniture but I love him so much I deal with it. His “little brothers” require constant (almost) vacuuming and dusting all over the house. I believe it was easier with young children. We each have our own “devils” to deal with.
The things we do for love! I want a dog, but not until my toddler is 100% potty-trained. 🙂
Thanks for posting this little dose of reality. I’ve had to stop myself several times from starting yet another new project until I finish at least a few of the current 20 ongoing ones. I love the challenges, and following blogs, and even though I try not fall into the trap of “everybody’s life is so much more organized and beautiful, why can’t mine be”, I still do and feel like sh!t because I can’t live up. I make myself feel defeated because of it. It’s also what hinders me from starting new projects in the creative arena…I’m chasing perfection. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one that can fall for it (every now and then, of course. *grin*) So again, thanks for the honest post. It is very appreciative.
Read https://creatingmaryshome.com/2016/01/all-or-nothing-the-pitfalls-of-perfectionism/ – You’ll see that I’ve been where you are! You can get through this. Do what you can. That is all any of us can do. 🙂
Mary, this is a very well written piece! You packed in soo many gems as it is rich in wisdom. Thank you for writing this and sharing. I will save and reread again. Fantastic analogy with the spinning plates!! I heard another one about how to keep balanced by comparing driving on a straight road. If you keep your steering wheel straight, you’ll run off the road, you are constantly making adjustments to stay staight. You make tiny little turns with the wheel. Spinning plates though, that feels close to home! Great reminder too about the good fluffy things that aren’t important.
Thanks, Kerry. 🙂
Shelby Schmalbeck says
I LOVE this Mary!!! It’s so true. Thank you for putting it into words and sharing. You’re amazing!
Aww – Thanks, Shelby!
I think the biggest challenge is getting husbands to understand this concept – so many young moms are trying to be super moms because their husbands expect everything to be in its place, life happens and flexibility is the key – balance is what works for your life
Yes, marriage counseling is a good idea in these cases – to help the two get on the same page. I have the opposite problem in my marriage, my husband is constantly telling me I do too much! If I have a day once in a while where I say “the kids were well cared for today and that’s all I did” – he just applauds. 🙂
sometimes this pressure comes from the church that has taught woman that to please their husbands they need to be organized and have everything in its place at all times just in case someone from the church might happen to stop by – our house has always looked “lived in” – meaning what was important that day got done and the rest was left for another day – I never liked being told my house had to fit in to someone else’s definition of properly clean and organized – unfortunately my daughter falls in to the first mentioned category 🙁
She just needs a lot of support and unconditional love. Just be a soft spot she can come to. It’s hard to watch people we love suffer. 🙂
Yes! This is so encouraging and so well expressed. Thank you for sharing!
You are so welcome!
Kelley M Rial says
Thank you for being real with me. When you are reading something someone posted and it sounds so perfect….In my head…..I realize I can’t be that way so the “All or Nothing” comes into play. Thank you!!
You are welcome. I still battle daily with the “all or nothing,” but being aware of myself does help!
Thank you!! I needed to hear that. Such great confirmations!
You are so welcome!