Featured in the Lakeshore Weekly News
Ten years ago, I approached a local editor with the idea of me writing a column called “Outside the Box.” I wanted to write about fun and different things I experienced around the Lake Minnetonka area, as well as my thoughts on different topics I hoped might resonate with others in the community.
Writing was not my background, but it was and is my passion. I didn’t study it in school, nor did I have a degree of any kind. What I had was a desire to share. I also had crappy health insurance, making therapy hard to come by, not to mention I was in Scientology, where counseling outside of the church was not an option. My column became my therapy.
It has made me realize something about life and balance. The idea that we can achieve an equal balance between work, family our personal lives, hobbies, etc. is a myth. We are told we can “Have it all or do it all!” But who decides what the “all” is for us? What if what I want out of life is different from what you want?
If we are giving our all as moms, we often feel our partners are being ignored. If we are giving our all at work, we often feel our families are getting the short end of the stick. If we give ourselves the breathing space to practice self-care, we often feel guilty about what is not being done.
Why do we feel this guilt? I think it is because we use the lives and perceived success of other people as a yardstick for our own happiness and success. When in truth, we are all out of balance. But, why is that a bad thing?
We have been raised to believe the pursuit of balance between all parts of our lives is what we should strive for. Balance work, a home life, personal life etc. This is a myth we have been spoon fed for years. Pursuing this unobtainable myth is what causes us stress over things that are not life or death.
Who decided these things could be or should be a balance? There is no equal balance between home and work. To me, success in managing my life looks more like a seesaw. Sometimes one side is up, while sometimes one side is down, but both are having a heck of a good time along the way.
My life may not look balanced to someone else, but I’m managing that seesaw and enjoying it. I’m busier than I’ve ever been, but I’m also happier as well. Sometimes I want to stay on the higher end of the seesaw and I do. Sometimes it works better for me to raise up the other side, or sometimes to even maintain a period of temporary balance as we teeter only slightly up or down. Other times someone is being thrown from the seesaw.
My point is, my life or your life is not a failure because we don’t achieve balance by someone else’s standard. In years past I’ve made parenting choices that some cringe at, but for me it is what I needed to do to maintain the overall health of my seesaw. When my third child graduated from Minnetonka High School I live-streamed the graduation from the comfort of my own home rather than go. It worked for him, it worked for me and it worked to maintain the overall health of my seesaw.
The other day my oldest who is now 28 years old, told me that as an adult she now understands more and appreciates why I didn’t go to every game or event for each of my kids. For one, it was at times physically impossible but also, she understands now how managing your own life means sometimes doing what you need to do for your own sanity and physical health.
As someone with two auto-immune disorders, my physical energy each day has an expiration. Unlike Cinderella, my carriage doesn’t last till midnight before turning into a pumpkin. My quality of life today and in the long term depends hugely on maintaining what I need to for my health.
So, yes, I didn’t go to everything my kids did, even when I could have, for no other reason than I just didn’t want to. Guess what? Not one of my kids (knock on wood) turned out to be a serial killer. What they did turn out to be are adults who understand that they march to the beat of their own drum. There were and continue to be times I choose my side of the seesaw because I know in the long run it is what is best for everyone. This is a valuable lesson for all of us.
Often our kids don’t need us as much as we think they do. They are much more capable of handling their own lives than many of us give our kids credit for. Sometimes they need to experience failure to learn success. They need to experience loss and sadness to appreciate joy and fulfillment. You are not a failure as a parent because you didn’t prevent your child from experiencing loss or sadness. Our job is to empower them with the tools for them to learn from their experiences and create something new. Not wait for someone else to save the day.
Life is one big seesaw of ups and downs. The key is to enjoy the ups and learn from the downs. No one but you gets to decide or dictate what balance looks like for you or your household. Not the media, not your peers, family or even me.
When we stop chasing the myth of balance and start focusing on what is truly important for each of us, then we are on to something. Stop using anyone else as a yardstick to measure your own life by. They don’t live your life and you don’t live theirs. You build your own seesaw and you ride it however works best for you and yours.
My adventures in living life perfectly imperfect are featured in the Sun Sailor, The Lakeshore Weekly News and South Lake Neighbors Magazine.