If you’re anything like me, you’re probably juggling a lot. Family. Spouse. Kids. Work. Friends. Finances. etc. etc. etc. There’s always a boo-boo that needs to be kissed, a meal that needs to be cooked, a room that needs to be cleaned. A mom’s work is never done. And because of that, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like our entire lives are out of balance…
My friend Kelly LeVeque posted a quote a while back that speaks to why it seems so difficult to find balance and feel like a good mom in today’s world:
How to be a good mom in the modern world: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, underestimate, improperly medicate, helicopter or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-fee, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard. And don’t forget coconut oil.
Add to that time to focus on marriage, career, friends, and don’t forget self-care. Balance seems like a constantly moving target or an unachievable pipe dream.
Why Balance Is So Tough
The idea that balance is a moving target speaks to why it is so tough. It’s not something we can achieve once, and just like trying to balance on a balance board or surf trainer, it requires constant movement and adjustment.
As moms, we often have to attempt it while holding a baby or cooking dinner or juggling all of the responsibility of family. Some days, we’re on our game and balance comes easy. Other days, we may not find time to shower and we’re lucky if we get to the bathroom uninterrupted.
Motherhood means that balance is constantly changing and often goes in seasons. In the end, it’s a mindset and something we learn to find over time as our hearts walk around outside our bodies through our children. It’s not something to fully master, especially in the early stages of raising kids, but having some tangible methods to work through can help the journey be a little less stressful.
I’ve said for years that I think moms are the most powerful force on the planet. We’re raising the next generation and control much of the purchasing power in our economy. We also bear the stress that goes along with all of that. If we can (individually and collectively) move toward balance and away from overwhelm, we can literally change the world.
Finding Balance as a Mom
I can’t claim to have mastered balance by any means. But six kids and six businesses have taught me a little about how to hit this target some of the time. I’ve tried many coping strategies, but these are the ones that made the biggest difference in how I felt as a mom.
For years, I marveled at how in my work life, everything ran smoothly and I got so much done. I had goals and objectives and I met them. There were systems for each thing I had to get done and I knew exactly how to do it.
Yet, at home, it sometimes felt like I was drowning. And I almost always felt overwhelmed.
Then, I realized the reason why:
Precisely because at work I had goals, objectives, KPIs (key performance indicators), systems, and methods I followed. At home, I was trying to balance it all in my head the majority of the time.
Granted, at work, no one was pooping on the floor or getting in fights over Lego pieces. But I was so organized and efficient in work, yet not living with the same level of intentionality in the most important part of my life: my family life.
So I started implementing systems for everything. Literally everything. And my stress level dropped dramatically. I made systems for organization, home management, and meal planning. I set goals for the truly most important things in life, like the things I wanted to make sure to teach my kids before they left home and making enough family time.
I share more specifics on how I did that in this post, but the short version is that I made a list of all the things that had to get done and when. Then, I created a plan for how they’d get done and who would do them. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t have to be me!)
Get Everyone Involved
This was another huge key to learning balance. I realized it wasn’t sustainable or fair for me to do everything for everyone in our house. I didn’t do everything myself at work, and I couldn’t do it at home either.
Once the systems were created, I made sure I wasn’t the only team member trying to accomplish them. I stopped doing things for my kids that they could do on their own. Now, this is one of our core values as parents. They learned the skills needed to do many household tasks on their own, and their confidence rose from being able to.
Rather than me being the only problem solver in our house, I taught my kids the skills to handle most things on their own. They aren’t perfect at it, and I’m not either, but we’re all a lot less stressed these days.
Reduce Stuff and Commitments
A major reason we’re all so overwhelmed?
Many of us have too much. And try to do too much.
I get it… as the quote above explained perfectly, we have a lot on our plates and we’re supposed to achieve all of it while maintaining our composure and making sure we raise well-rounded kids.
Paring down the stuff (and all the stuff we do) can really help!
This is why Marie Kondo’s message became so popular. According to Japanese principles, clutter drains positive energy and robs us of joy. And the statistics confirm… the more stuff we have, the more stressed we feel. In my opinion this is especially true for women. Clutter in our homes is a visual reminder of work undone. It leads to guilt that we should be more organized and makes us less likely to invite people over (even though time with those we love can reduce stress).
But I didn’t need to tell you any of that… we can feel the stress of too much. Too much stuff and too much to do.
I had to actively reduce both to find balance. We started by getting rid of excess stuff by donating it (and not buying more to put in its place). We reduced commitments by focusing on our top priorities: family dinner, having unstructured time to relax and play, and making time to teach our kids the things that we really valued. These priorities look different in every family, but these are the ones that bring our family the most joy and sense of togetherness.
Build Strong Relationships
Statistically, having solid relationships and strong community is one of the most important things we can all do for health and happiness. And unlike many things we have to do, this part is free and fun!
In fact, research has found that regularly spending time with people we have close relationships with is just as important as diet and exercise for health. It’s even more important than not smoking and one of the things most correlated to longevity.
Yet, spending time nurturing relationships often slips through the cracks in the business of extracurricular activities and managing work and home life.
I’m so grateful to live in a neighborhood and community where we see close friends almost daily. But we moved over 500 miles to find that! In today’s world, we often have to intentionally nurture relationships and community.
For years, I hosted a mom’s night at least once a month to make time to see friends. We often have friends over for dinner, even if the house isn’t perfect. Our family makes time to visit or travel with close friends. These times are fond memories for all of us, and go a long way toward finding inner calm and balance.
Mental Health Days
Another vital piece of balance is making days (or even just hours) for things that you love.
This piece often gets lost, especially in the early days of motherhood. Amidst the diapers and sleeplessness, we forget the things that we loved before having kids. In taking care of everyone else’s needs, we neglect the things that we needed.
I get it. And I’m guilty of doing it still.
While self-care seems to have taken on a meaning of spa days and bubble baths lately (mine is the cold plunge tub… I’m weird like that!), I’ve found that making time for the things I love and that reignite my creativity often help much more.
For instance: I love writing, painting, working on DIY projects, and creating recipes. These things don’t fit easily into normal life so I schedule time for them.
In fact, I’m writing this in a hotel room away from my kids on a writing day. It’s tough to get away, but creativity flows so much more easily and I get to return home fulfilled, relaxed, and grateful.
Just like the need for things that help personal balance, I’ve found that family days help accomplish this for the whole family.
It’s hard to find downtime and relaxed days, but these are the times we most enjoy and most bond with each other. And these days don’t have to mean going out and doing a bunch of activities or traveling on an expensive vacation. Staying home and doing nothing together can be some of the best days.
This can look like a pajama day where we stay home and watch movies together. Or go on a hike or to the pool or beach.
Days “off” as a family provide relief from the constant go-go-go of regular life. I’d argue that these are the days that will seem most important when we look back in life.
Drop the Comparisons & Guilt
Comparison is the thief of joy. Yet, it’s so easy to constantly compare ourselves to the perfectly fit mom on Instagram or the friend who seems to have it all together (spoiler alert: she probably doesn’t either).
The fact is balance looks different for each of us, and comparing ourselves to others makes it even tougher to find our own inner calm. Stop doing what seems to be working for other moms or what you think you should do and focus on the things that work for you and your family.
The other side of this double-edged sword is the mom guilt. Tell me if this sounds familiar: We feel guilty when we’re working because we think we should be spending more time with our kids. Then, when we’re with our kids, we’re remembering all the things we need to get done. Or we feel bad that we aren’t as (fill in the blank) as other moms we know.
When comparison and guilt creep in, take a deep breath and try to just be in the present moment. It’s easier said than done, of course, but it’s a small change that makes a huge difference.
I also find myself often reciting a motto I learned from my friend Tina of Just Thrive:
Everything will work out perfectly for me.
Key part of that motto: for me. Your best way may look totally different than anyone you know. That’s more than ok… it’s perfect! Let’s help each other out as moms and use every opportunity to remind each other that our paths don’t have to look the same to be great.
Finding a focus on gratitude is another way to fight the overwhelm, mom-guilt, and comparison. Like many of the above items, it can be easier said than done, but it comes with a lot of health benefits.
From a big picture view, we all have a lot to be grateful for. You’re probably either reading this on a phone or computer, likely in a house or stable shelter or some kind and you probably don’t have to worry about where you’ll find something to eat today. That means we have a lot to be grateful for.
I personally find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal and jot down a few things I’m grateful for each day. Over time, I’ve noticed my focus shift to looking for the positive in situations and finding things to be grateful for so I can write them down.
At family dinners we like to ask and all answer: what are you grateful for today?
What’s Your Version of Balance?
I’m still learning to hit the moving target of balance more often than I miss it. But these are some of the things that help me most. The stages of motherhood and figuring out who I am inside of that constantly shifts and changes. I’m aware that even with all I’ve figured out, I’m looking ahead to unfamiliar territory as a parent (hello, teenage years).
So I’d love to know… what are your best tips at your stage of motherhood? And how do you find balance? At least some of the time?