Forget About Balance

Mid June till Mid July was an intense month for our family. Not too much of that was reflected in this space but now that I've had a couple weeks to breathe and process I have a few thoughts about that holy grail of motherhood - balance.

In short, I don't believe in balance. My life as mother, homemaker, homeschooler, blogger etc.. is not a quest for the elusive ideal of balance. If my life is quest for anything, it's a journey where I'm choosing to live according to priorities and principles, learning to discover and be the person God created me to be.

That sure was wordy but what I'm trying to say is I don't feel inspired to live a life of balance I feel inspired to live a life of meaning and purpose. So when I have a trying time, like last month, where I am daily asking "how do I balance all this?" I know something is wrong.

I have indicator signs when life is out of control. Here's a few:

  • I find myself repeatedly telling the children "it's just a busy week", as we rush somewhere else or cut short a favorite weekly activity.
  • I am teary regardless of what time of month it is.
  • I don't read as much as I'd like.
  • I complain about cooking way more than I should.
  • I'm generally short on patience, grace and forgiveness for myself and others.

Photo credit: Damien

I still remember last summer reading this short, sweet and succinct (which I am not) post called Maybe There is No Such Thing as Balance from Shannon at Nourishing Days. I think she nails it on the head. Reflecting on her thoughts makes me question, "what have I been given to do during this day, this week, this season of life?"

By this way of thinking it comes down to living out our family's priorities, not trying to "balance it all". This sounds freeing to me.

Living according to priorities, not balance, seems so simple. But it's hard work and I especially get tripped up when it's time to change priorities. Which is what happened last month. I couldn't see the perfect storm that was brewing (thanks Erin for sharing these words) and ended up over committed. Burnt out.

Children grow. Situations evolve. Priorities change. Accepting that is one of my big lessons this summer.

Not to say I'm naturally good at this. I'm not, but I'm learning how to move forward with what is most important right now and let go of the rest. This is a lesson I need to learn often it seems.

Right now I'm moving forward with our family's next big adventure, cooking in the kitchen, managing our home, homeschooling/nurturing/raising our children, supporting Damien's endeavors, blogging my thoughts, being outdoors with my family and taking time for friendships and spiritual growth. These are my priorities (not necessarily in that order).

I'm letting go of managing one buying club and being treasurer for another. Harder than finishing those responsibilities though is releasing the guilt I feel of not doing enough for my community and church in this current season of focusing on home and family. And of course I'm not mentioning the myriad of other things I've chosen to let go of (no time or mental space to dwell on those right now) so I can focus on what's most important. 

I wish I could wrap up this post with some witty, go-forth-and-conquer (prioritize your family life) conclusion. Try as I might I can't seem to do that. I've sat on this post for over a week and it's time to hit publish.

But first I need to add these loose ends (how's that for a conclusion!).

  1. Maybe it's all semantics. What I view as ordering my life according to priorities, someone else might see as balance.
  2. Ordering priorities and living according to those is sometimes plain hard work. Simple in theory? Maybe. Hard work in practice? Definitely.
  3. Change is hard for me. Sometimes I despair of ever getting better at this.


Related Posts:

« Blueberry picking
Noodle Salad Recipe ~ Cooking a Meal for 25 »
  • Kathie

    Kathie on Aug. 9, 2010, 5:12 p.m.

    Last year I took an "Artist's Way" Class at our local community college. It was inspirational on some many levels, but the thing I took from the class most was when the instructor said - "I don't strive for balance, I strive for growth." She said when you think of balance, think of a see-saw balancing in the middle - there's nothing happening, no growth, no real fun or inspiration - just balance. I just loved that - in some way it gave me permission to give up this elusive and imagined notion of living a balanced life.

    I also agree that living according to our priorities can be hard - mostly because it seems like the entire outside world (sometimes) is working against us...

    Oy, that's a long-winded comment way of saying, I loved this post. I wish you luck in finding the order and growth that you seek.


  • Grace

    Grace on Aug. 9, 2010, 7:41 p.m.

    Great post as so many women (and men) have felt this way. For me it is often about perception. I know when I change my thinking (and/or get a good night’s sleep) things often improve within hours. Must go, two year-old is putting lip balm in my hair right now. :-)


  • Kelly Coyle DiNorcia

    Kelly Coyle DiNorcia on Aug. 9, 2010, 8:57 p.m.

    This is a fantastic post - such an important issue for mothers, especially. I love the idea of choosing priorities over trying to balance it all, because I find that's where I get stuck a lot. I find that I'm doing a lot of stuff that doesn't really relate to my priorities at all and I've lost my way, and have to let some things go to get back on track. It's an ebb and flow for me - I go from being overcommitted to things I don't actually care that much about, to getting that under control and then the pendulum swings the other way again. I also like the idea of striving for growth (thanks, Kathie!), because that is one of my biggest priorities, and I find that I get all irritable when I take on so many commitments that I don't have time for working on myself and developing new interests and ideas. So much food for thought!!!


  • Kika

    Kika on Aug. 9, 2010, 9:43 p.m.

    I am slowly, slowly, cutting out activities to make enough room for my true priorities. Each year I am having to work this out and, to some degree, negotiate this with my husband who doesn't always see the dangers of agreeing to everything. Also, he handles lots of activity (and chaos) far better than I do. One of the hardest things for me is to cut out "good" activities (like volunteering) because I really do value this. However, in the grand scheme of things, volunteering in the community still has to take a back seat to my primary values (ex. homeschooling, being an excellent wife and mama and staying healthy/whole myself).


  • Hillary

    Hillary on Aug. 10, 2010, 3:13 a.m.

    I've heard a few bloggers give up the idea of balance and my first reaction is to fight it. "Nah" I think. "Balance is where it's at and I'm going to find it.....someday". But your post is the first time I've actually understood the sentiment. I hear you mama. Sometimes when I think about balance I picture a pendulum swinging back and forth and the point is that it stays balanced even if it's swinging wildly, right? Maybe for me that's a better picture of balance. There will be highs, lows and extremes, but believing that everything in life does wing around to it's opposing force.

    Or maybe I'm just thinking too hard ;)


  • nicola@which name?

    nicola@which name? on Aug. 11, 2010, 6:06 p.m.

    Wow. A powerful post for me, especially as I am taking 'steps toward balance' each day and each month. To me, what you say, "move forward with what is most important right now and let go of the rest" is what I think of as balance. It is deciding on priorities and making those happen. I hope things have settled down a bit for you. Hugs, Nicola


  • karen

    karen on Aug. 13, 2010, 2:26 p.m.

    Well said. Variables of life change, in content and priority, so the notion of being balanced is also in flux. I have only enough time and energy and desire to think about taking care of the variables. Just like life isn't fair - maybe the same applies to it being in balance.


  • Kelly

    Kelly on Aug. 16, 2010, 1:52 a.m.

    I'm glad you hit publish. :) I often learn something new from reading your blog and this time I had to read it twice to "get" it. My first impulse was...I'm working so hard to find balance, don't tell me that's not important! Then came the recognization of a familiar situation...when I try to sit down and make a schedule that has everything important happening every day it is overwhelming, but when I leave open space in our lives and only schedule the highest priorities, it comes together. And when I headed over to another favorite blog, Handmade Homeschool, I found a post that seemed somehow related ...that is to say, maybe an even pace is just not the way life works.


  • exhale. return to center.

    exhale. return to center. on Aug. 20, 2010, 2:05 a.m.

    renee...i just love your honesty and your ability to (gently) invite me to stop and reflect and re-examine.

    in so many ways my life has been "out of balance" this summer (working lots of 12 hour days...way too few home-cooked meals...way too much time driving in the car) and yet when i look back at the summer as a gosh it makes me smile!

    the work is hard and i am tired and sometimes i wish i could clone myself so one of me could stay home and "keep house" while the other goes off to work but really...balance or no balance...what an amazing, joy-filled adventure this summer has been!!!

    thanks for helping me to see that.



  • Ginny

    Ginny on Aug. 29, 2010, 12:04 a.m.

    I can very much relate to this post, and I do believe that prioritizing and "seeking balance" may be one in the same to me. But, I think that prioritizing is a better way to describe the way I try to live.


  • Jen

    Jen on Sept. 14, 2010, 12:43 p.m.

    Thanks for your comment on my balance post! And thanks for this link. I can see how, by the way I put the picture, that it would look like I'm saying that priorities and personal values are in opposition to each other. I don't believe that at all. Rather, when changes come my way, whether it be a busier season or a move or something, it involves me re-evaluating things. In order to achieve a sense of balance, or in other words, a state of peace for me and my family, I look at my priorities and values to get to that state. I definitely agree it is a movement forward.

    You've definitely given me more to think about, specifically defining what I mean by balance. Thanks for making me think! Have a great day!


  • Amy Jane

    Amy Jane on Jan. 4, 2012, 10:20 p.m.

    In my work with SED foster kids (before I was married, and on til I had two kids) the emphasis/way to avoid most behavior issues was to focus on gentle, predictable transitions.

    When I end up in issues of my own (with more or less "acting out" as we used to call it), transition-planning seems to be the magic many of the times.

    Your #3 made me think of that transition stuff again. If we can pull it together enough just to focus on the edges, I think the gush in the middle takes on more form. Enough, anyway.

    And I never liked the idea of "balance" either: I could never live with the idea of giving 20% of myself to 5 things. If I only wanted something enough to give 20% of myself to it, I'd probably never go there at all.


You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.