When you enter the world of motherhood, or parenthood in general, you’ll hear the word “balance” being thrown around in conversations a lot. It will be mentioned so much that all you’ll crave is to achieve that very same thing in your new lifestyle that you’re desperately trying to navigate.
Before I had my son, I lived on my terms. I would do what I wanted, when I wanted to do it. I made my own schedule based around my work, my social life and my personal wellness and I was aware when I was dedicating more time to one area than another. If I was working too much I’d be conscious that I should reach out to a friend and socialise more, or if I was going out too often, I’d get a feeling that I’d have to reel it in and focus on work more. In general, I maintained a sense of balance in my life. It was achievable and wasn’t an obstacle.
On my very first week back from maternity leave I went to a meeting with my boss. It was with one of our sponsors and the lady we were meeting was the Head of Marketing. She walked in with beach babe waves and she had a cool, casual vibe. I was instantly drawn to her calm persona without having met her before. Upon introduction, my boss mentioned that she has 3 children. What?! But how? She looked way too put together! We got talking and I told her that I had just returned to work from maternity leave. My boss interjected that she had just written an article for her companies website about being a working mother. “So can you give me some tips?” I asked the question in a way which suggested banter but really, I wanted to any advice I could get. “I’ll tell you one thing”, she replied. “Balance is a myth”.
For the rest of the day, and probably the weeks that followed, I couldn’t stop replaying her words in my head. Pretty much since having Max, at the forefront of my mind was ‘balance’ and my priority was finding ways of establishing it in my life. At the time I was still breastfeeding so a typical work day would involve me dropping Max off at nursery, getting to work, taking a break to express milk then after the day was done, that’s where the real juggling act would begin. Between the times of 6pm to 10pm, the following things were on my list:
– Feed Max. This was done as soon as I’d get home because I would be so full that I’d need the relief immediately
– Cook or prepare food
– Bath Max (T’s job)
– Put Max to sleep (my job because I have boobs)
– Do work
– Maybe have a proper conversation with my husband
– Work out (never happened)
– Meditate (never happened)
Every night I would find that after I had seen to Max, eaten and spent even a little time with my husband, my work would get neglected. And I found that even when I did get some time to focus on my projects I would be so preoccupied with everything else going on that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate as I needed to. My workout schedule was non-existent because I had no energy and my brain was so muddled that I found it too difficult to focus during meditation – previously something that I practiced daily for half an hour without fail. I would go to sleep feeling exhausted and hopeless. Not a good combination of emotions for one to feel. Especially for someone that was so desperately trying to find balance.
So with my associate’s words in mind, every night while I frantically went through my to-do list, I began to realise that she was right. I also realised something very important; set yourself realistic goals. Obviously as a new mum, working full-time, still breastfeeding and trying to run a side project, something had to give. I could still work on my side hustle but I’d have to allocate time to it on the weekend when I would be more flexible. I could try and prep food from the weekend more so that when I’d get home in the evenings after work, all I would need to do is heat it up rather than cook from scratch. And when it came to working out, I would slowly need to begin with short sessions a few times a week and not every night.
One word that does ring true when I reflect on my experience as a mother is, ‘sacrifice’. Whether it’s willingly or mandatorily, some things simply need to take a back seat or phased out temporarily. I was trying to cram in everything that I wanted to do in 4 hours. Some things were easier to adapt than others but ultimately, for mine and my family’s sanity, it needed to be done. I would be so unnecessarily hard on myself that I felt like I was failing but all I needed to do was understand that someone else now comes first. And it’s not that I didn’t understand that but it was because I felt like I could balance it all at once, which just isn’t possible.
I now live a chaotic life but I live it harmoniously. I fully understand that there will be nights that I wish I had completed more of my personal projects or that I had wanted to go to yoga but some weeks are more demanding than others. Accept your circumstances and make peace with the fact that you can achieve your goals if you set them realistically and not idealistically.