I have to admit something. I’ve stopped looking for work/life balance. I’ve stopped beating myself up about not having it all…at this moment…in this particular slice of time.
Because I’ve found success in living a perfectly unbalanced life.
I grew up in the Reagan years with my eyes set on law school and Washington DC. My plan was to have a thriving career changing the world while raising a family with my college sweetheart.
Have it all? You bet. And, I was sure I’d find even more along the way to fill my have-it-all plate. I had an impressive collection of silk scarves and felt a certain level of confidence as I stepped into my post-college life.
After my first child was born, I followed the popular mom trend of the moment and “off ramped” my career. I exited the freeway and left my career at the rest stop while I took a new road on the full-time, stay-at-home mom track. I devoted myself to this new path with the same have-it-all/do-it-all commitment.
Over the course of 5 children, I perfected Martha Stewart’s holiday cookbook and made homemade herb-infused vinegars complete with the French ribbon bows. I volunteered at four schools and led various fund-raising committees. I coached teams. I even managed to carve out a part-time career for myself as an actress and writer. My life was full, but I felt balanced and in control.
After 11 years, the mounting stress cracks in my balanced life took over and the foundation in my life crumbled.
One day, while standing in the family law courtroom moving through the divorce process, the judge told me it was his duty to “admonish me” and let me know I had the responsibility to become self-supporting.
In other words? Get a job.
I know divorce changes everything, but what I wasn’t prepared for is the non-credit given to women who take the off-ramp from careers and focus on raising children.
Given that my ex-husband said he could not afford much in the way of support, I quickly realized that not only did I need to get a job to support myself, but I also needed to get a job in order to support my children.
Driving home, while fighting a combination of anger and panic, I knew my only way forward was to get back to that off-ramp and find my career again. I also realized I had no idea how I was going to balance being a full-time working professional with being a full-time mom.
Four years later, I lead a global communications team for a technology company in Silicon Valley. I commute an hour plus to and from work each day while putting in long corporate hours.
On the homefront, I am the sole breadwinner and I single-handedly juggle paying all the bills, coordinating four children’s school and sports schedules, arranging playdates and doctor appointments and counseling teenage drama during our weekly grocery shopping outing.
And guess what? I still have no idea how to balance being a full-time working professional with being a full-time mom. In fact, I spend most days feel completely unbalanced. But I’m mastering my disproportioned life.
There are a few keys learnings, but I start each day with the goal of doing the best I can. I stopped chasing perfection, and I give myself the permission to fall because I know I can get up again. I’ve learned that the answer in seeking work life/balance is not in mastering balance, it is in mastering the unbalance.
Three Keys to Mastering the Unbalanced Life
Give Whatever is in Front of You Your All and Move On
Unbalanced doesn’t mean you slack off. It means you look at what is in front of you and you give it your best effort and focus. And then, move on.
Forgive Yourself: Balance requires perfection. Unbalance requires forgiveness.
Everyone can fall off the balance beam or out of the yoga pose. It’s easy to do. The success is in the getting up…in the not being afraid to fall because you know you can get up again. Find strength in your ability to adapt and recover and forgive yourself for falling. Remember falling is not failing.
Measure Your Balance in Years, Not Weeks or Months
Be patient. You can have it all, just not at the same time in the same moment. Give yourself the gift of time to measure your success.