If there is just one thing to name that modern mothers don’t get enough credit for, I’d say it’s their circus skills. At the very least, mothers must regularly juggle the emotional and physical well-being of one or more children; running a household and all activities that take place inside and outside; to play the clown for an audience with a tiny attention span, the wizard when broken items need to be repaired or lost items need to be “never gone”, the lion tamer when the spirits run high … I could go on. Not to mention professions that these women have chosen or are forced to do for financial reasons outdoors the home.
But let’s be honest: we know it’s just smoke and mirrors. Yet many of us would do anything to keep up appearances – to convince our families, our colleagues, our employers, and the world at large that we are getting whatever “this” is at any given time. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it.
Or we? What do we sacrifice when we spread out so thinly that we can no longer remember where our painstakingly produced personal reality show ends and we begin?
It wasn’t until I lost my son Logan that the answer hit me – hard. In the long hours, days and months after his death, I realized that the perfection I had sought as a mother, entrepreneur, girlfriend, public figure, romantic partner was worth next to nothing as a part of who I was for always been carved away. And it wasn’t until years later that I began to grasp the concept of balance. Although I still struggle to find balance every day, I’m much better at it now than I was a decade ago, and I’m glad I have the opportunity to share with you some of the techniques I have learned.
Embrace your identity
From the start I want to dispel a great myth: breaking your life into practical pieces and arranging them however you want is just not possible. The idea that you can be one person when you wake up in the morning and, depending on how many things you have to do throughout the day, be two or three others by the time you go to bed, is wishful thinking. You are doing yourself a disservice by trying to dismember yourself in this way. So here is your first step in achieving balance: embrace your whole self, every moment of the day.
If your job is away from home, don’t try to check your maternity at the office door. I tried this during my 25 years as a small business owner and politician, and it wasn’t until my family life collapsed that I realized that I had neglected both my personal and professional selves.
I can almost guarantee that your career as a killer has only been enriched by your identity as a mother. And vice versa also applies. Whether you’re a teacher, lawyer, barista, or CEO, the skills you’ve honed on the job – from overseeing study sessions to handling customer complaints to closing billion dollar deals without misplacing a dime – are yours as much space in the living room as in the classroom, courtroom, coffee house or boardroom. You are a multidimensional person. You deserve to enjoy this award.
Make room inside
Another solid step in a healthy direction is Build balance in body and mind. If you expect to find a sense of stability in the world around you, you must also cultivate inner balance. To someone who, like most parents, feels constantly pressed for time, this may seem counter-intuitive, as self-care requires more of this precious commodity. However, caring for the needs of others is much easier once you have taken care of your own. If you haven’t eaten for hours, or have been trapped in work or chores all day, chances are that you will be able to creatively contribute to your child’s science project, or bathe and go to bed all at a reasonable time Bringing it in without inflating your lid will seriously reduce it.
For me, building up my inner balance begins with a consistent morning ritual. I know that every day I will come across a lot of things that I have no control over, but one thing that I do to do Having power is what I achieve for my own wellbeing before interacting with others – even if that means getting up very early. I begin each morning with a quiet, reflective activity like writing a gratitude list, journaling, meditating, or even a simple breathing exercise; some form of exercise, such as yoga or running; and a nutritious breakfast of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or other unprocessed foods. The exact details of what I do depend on where I am physically and mentally when I wake up. Regardless, the result remains the same: As I step into my day, I feel grounded, relaxed, and ready to accept whatever the universe has in store for me.
Whether you have an hour to yourself in the morning or less than ten minutes, invest in your own mental and physical health so that you can effectively take care of the people who depend on you. If you feel like you only have time for any of the above practices – or if trying to try more than one seems too daunting when starting your journey of self-care – I highly recommend the gratitude list. When you get out of bed, before doing anything else, write down five to ten things that you are grateful for, so that you will feel appreciated for the life you created and the people in yours undoubtedly busy schedule can enter in there.
Create space without
Finally, when you have defined your inner width, set your visor without, Make room for your most important relationships. These will support you in dark moments and help you get back on track when you feel like you are out of joint.
Immediately after Logan’s death – and sometimes even years later – I regretted the time I’d spent doing anything other than hanging out with him. What amazing moments did I miss? How many happy memories had I prevented by focusing so intensely on the appearance of having it all together?
As I went through my grief, I learned that this was an unhealthy, unproductive train of thought. Nonetheless, the idea of balancing my personal and professional spheres so that they complement each other and not compete was a good one. With that idea in mind, I began to give more weight to the relationships that mattered most to me – primarily those with my daughter Ashley. We’d always been close, and she’d given me a reason to live from the moment Logan left us, but our bond grew stronger as we healed together and separately. Even today, we speak or write almost every day, and we have established new traditions that have enabled us to rediscover the joy of empty spaces created by the physical loss of a person who remains spiritually with us.
My circle of friends has also grown in strength and scope. No matter how busy I am, I save space in my schedule and in my head for the people who have gone through thick and thin with me. You can do this too! It takes flexibility, the ability to focus, and a willingness to trust other people – assets that I believe we all have, whether we are aware of them or not.
Again, if you feel like you’re short on time, start small. Pick a family member or friend with whom you already have a decent relationship and cultivate the connection. Pick a buddy breakfast day, turn your solo workout into a team activity, or just take fifteen minutes for a weekly phone call. At some point, that type of date becomes something to look forward to, rather than a task to consciously plan out – and you will likely improve your partner’s quality of life as much as your own.
In summary, balance is not for you Find; it’s something you create – and your life will be a lot richer when you start.
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