Let me ask you something — Are you tired of hearing everyone talk about “work/life balance” and how important it is to treat yourself with “radical self-care?” Parents get hit with this all the time. It’s the new standard for “successful” families (and couples). Right?
Meanwhile, parents everywhere are thinking: Balance? Me time? relax time? Fun time?…What’s that? Because, even in the moments when having kids seems worth it and you really smile and enjoy precious time together, being a parent is demanding. In fact, with all the stress, worry, housework, errands, activities, and such, living the married life with children feels like a constant juggling act.
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That’s why I found it pretty ironic that I gained powerful insight about the secret to “happy parenting” from… an actual juggler. (Yep, seriously!)
Years ago, I attended a mesmerizing Cirque de Soleil traveling show with horses. I was in awe of what I saw. So, during intermission, I mentioned to one of the performers how impressed I was with the unbelievable balance he achieved when jumping onto horses while juggling balls or swords. He looked down at me (he was on stilts) and told me I obviously did not pay close attention.
“We weren’t balanced,” he said. “We were in a constant state of motion. Balance is momentary, a center we come back to and start from.”
Wow, what an insight. Balance is actually a moment in time in the midst of purposeful motion. It’s a center one returns to, a place to pause, a fulcrum — not a state one achieves and then remains in permanently.
What a brilliant mindset to bring to parenting. It’s like when you sit on a teeter-totter with your kids at the playground. To balance, you must keep making adjustments. That’s the secret sauce!
So here’s the deal: You have a good chance of feeling less stressed and less overwhelmed in your life as a parent, IF you find some ways to center, to come to a place of momentary balance. And if you don’t know what that is or how it feels, you might want to learn any or all of the following:
- Start and end your day with some sort of meditation or mindfulness activity. Whether you prefer silence or music, take a purposeful pause. This builds up your mental and emotional agility.
- Enlist help from other parents (or extended family).Make arrangements for “no children times” and then do the same for them. You can make this part of a day or evening or for a weekend away.
- Create a visual cue of a balance point. Find a centering image, and when you feel like you are about to blow, focus on that image and go there in your mind. Breathe slowly and calmly. And by the way, this becomes a healthy stress management behavior you model for your kids, as well.
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Remember, professionals take years to master the tricky art of juggling objects. You can’t practice with your kids as easily (they’re too heavy), or your time, or your energy. Juggling the elements of your life will take time and patience. So, don’t beat yourself up because you can’t achieve that perfect work/life balance promised on the covers of many shelf-help books or articles.
Care for yourself, care for your spouse, and care for your children…and forgive yourself for dropping some of the balls from time to time while juggling it all. Don’t worry, you’ll get better at it.