I gave up looking for “Balance”

Recently, a friend emailed me about finding balance in her life. She is a busy college student; she has a long-distance boyfriend; she loves spending time with friends, volunteering, and doing ministry work in her dorm.

I haven’t been in college in 10 years (!!!) but I remember those days.

I also remember the days when I was a full-time working/grad school mom, my days as a part-time working mom, my days as a work at home mom, and my days as a full time stay at home mom.

I remember grasping for, wishing for, desperately searching for “Balance” in my own life in each of those seasons.

I imagined that balance would look like this:
Quality time with my children each day
Getting enough sleep
The ability to keep my house clean
Cooking meals every night
Being an excellent teacher
Being a kick-ass wife
Volunteering for quality organizations I believed in
(And MAYBE squeezing in time for hobbies)

I wanted to do “all the things” well. I yearned for my productivity to be high and stress to be low, for life to “work” smoothly and seamlessly as we slip from one role into another.

One day, if I tried hard enough, the scales would finally come to rest on that magical pinnacle and then, then all would be at peace.

It took me a long, long time to stop looking for that unicorn.
Because “Balance” is a unicorn, people.
It’s a myth.

But I kept looking for it because, in my heart of hearts, I believed that striving for “balance” was easier than accepting my reality, or making uncomfortable changes that would actually bring real peace into my life.

So I kept trying to “fix” my life so it worked better, to catch all the balls in equal rotation, time, and focus, and not let any of them drop.

But instead of balance, and all I got was burnout.

This wisdom has been painful and hard-won. So here is what I told my young friend:

I am still learning to let go of the Balance mindset, but here is what I strive for in my own life: I try to focus on the question, “What are my priorities today?”

I’m thinking more about priorities for This Day, rather than Balance for my Whole Life.

I can’t do it all. I only have 24 hours in the day.

Some days I do laundry. Other days, I don’t.

I write on Mondays and Thursdays because I’ve made that a priority in my life. But on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday I don’t write (on this blog, anyway).

Some days we put the kids to bed early for our own mental health; other times, we let our son stay up way past his bedtime because he needs to talk and share his heart with us.

I cook dinner 99% of the time. But one day last week I had a migraine headache and my priority needed to be rest.

Priorities…not balance.

Lately I’ve been asking myself, “What would my day look like if my priority was spending quality time with the people I love?”

Recently, with this question in mind, it’s looked like snuggling with Eli (2) while he watches Paw Patrol, doing worksheets with Silas (5), planning play dates with friends, and striving to be in the moment when my husband and older sons tell me about their day (instead of zoning out or making a mental to-do list while they are talking).

I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m getting better at letting go of guilt, feelings of inadequacy and the “shoulds” that came with the fruitless search for “Balance” that I pursued for years.

What about you?
Do you think balance is a myth or a reality?
What does “balance” or “priorities making” look like in your life right now?

PS. I quit my job (because I can’t do it all)
When you can’t do it all, ask for help
The litmus test for your priorities