Wondering how to find balance in motherhood? Well, guess what? There’s no such thing. Here’s why it’s a misleading idea and six things you can do instead.
As a married mom of three with a successful business I run from home, I’m often asked about finding balance in motherhood.
“How do you balance having three kids and finding time for yourself?”
“How do you balance staying-at-home and working-from-home?”
“How do you balance taking care of your family and your house?”
“How do you balance your relationship with your husband and being a mom?”
“How do you balance all the things!?”
Time, relationships, hobbies, work, to-do lists; there are a lot of things that moms try to “balance.” But before we get any further here, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
There is no such thing as balance. You can’t do it all.
I know. It might be hard to believe, but nobody can successfully parent their children, maintain a romantic relationship with their spouse, keep a clean house, run a business, buy groceries and make dinner every night, and still find time to read or paint or go to school or exercise. You can’t do it all. There’s just not enough time.
And let me stop you before you give me that “we all have the same hours in a day” crap. Sure, Beyoncé has done incredible things with those same 24 hours in a day, but I’m 1000% sure that she has a nanny, a chef, a house cleaner, and a personal trainer. She’s not actually doing it all, either.
The actual word balance means having an even distribution, remaining upright and steady, or something in equal proportion. But in motherhood, that does not exist. You can try to have everything, do everything, and never say no to helping anyone, but at some point you’re going to start tipping and eventually things will come crashing down in a big heaping mess. You can’t spend even amounts of time parenting and working and cleaning, you aren’t always going to be at the top of your game, and you’re going to have moments when you wonder how you’re going to survive. That’s how motherhood works.
Mamas, there’s no such thing as balance in motherhood. I wish I had a better answer for you, but it’s true. It’s a little misleading to perpetuate the idea that there is such a thing as balance in motherhood. It leads to mamas feeling like they’re not doing enough, like they’re not measuring up, and like they’re failing. Nobody wants to feel that way.
Every season of motherhood comes with different challenges. The baby years require different things than toddler years, preschool years, elementary years, and definitely the teenage years. Oftentimes as soon as you find your stride and feel like you know what you’re doing, some new challenge will come along and mess up your routine. You have to constantly be adapting and changing and evolving.
So I propose that instead of trying to find balance in motherhood, we try to manage motherhood.
You’re going to have to let things go. Channel your inner Elsa, Mama. Sit down and think about (or write down!) what your priorities are. Figure out what you absolutely have to do and what matters most to you. You have to feed your children, but nobody said it has to be an organic, from-scratch meal every night. But then again if that’s important to you, make it a priority. I’ve made running a priority so I wake everyone up an hour early and we go to the gym before dropping my son off at kindergarten. My business is also important to me, so sometimes I stay up late after everyone has gone to bed to get work done. I can function fine with less sleep so I’ve had to let go of sleeping until 8 every day. You’re going to have to drop a few things, even things you enjoy, but remember that one day you’ll be able to pick them up again. Sometimes things are going to be a little messy. You might decide that helping your son with his homework is more important than doing the dishes or that reading a book to your toddler is more important than folding a load of laundry. That’s okay. Motherhood isn’t supposed to be neat and tidy all the time. Motherhood is messy from day one. Accept that you can’t do everything, decide where your priorities are, and let a few things go. It will help take a huge weight off your shoulders when you realize and accept that you don’t have to do it all.
Decide what you think success is. Not what your mom thinks is successful, not what Sally from mom’s club thinks is successful, but what success means to you. That’s where your game plan is going to come from. For example, let’s take cleaning. If having a clean home is important to you and makes you a successful mom, think about what clean means to you and focus on those things. When my floors are clean, my kitchen counters are cleared off, and my kids’ toys are picked up. I feel like my house is clean. So to be successful in having a clean home, I make sure those things are done at the end of the day. I don’t stress about having every inch of my house clean because mama ain’t got time for that, and neither do you. You define your own success.
Find shortcuts. Find small ways to save yourself time and energy. I’ve been using Walmart grocery pick-up for over two years and it has made grocery shopping so much easier (shopping with young kids is a no go) and saves me A LOT of time. My husband also bought me an iRobot to vacuum our floors and I love that thing like family. Once a day DJ Roomba vacuums our kitchen, dining, and entry area, and I don’t have to worry about the kids making a mess with their meals or sweeping every day. I also like to freeze big recipes so we can heat them up later and we don’t end up throwing away a bunch of leftover food. Find shortcuts that you can take in your life to help save time and energy so you have more to spend doing other things in your day.
Do what works for you, not other people. This sounds obvious, but we’ve all tried to make something work because some expert or celebrity swears by it, even though making it work is causing us more stress. I tried using a cleaning schedule but it stressed me out because I felt like it was just adding to my to-do list every day. Now I do things as needed and it works for me. If getting a house cleaner once a week is going to help you, find a way to make room in your budget and do it. If eating out the three times a week your kids have after-school activities helps you stop stressing about dinner, do it. If folding laundry while babywearing helps your baby get in a good nap and keeps you feeling productive, go for it. It might take some trial and error to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, but that’s okay. You’ll figure it out and each time you do, things will get a little simpler.
Instead of looking at what you didn’t accomplish in a day, look at what you did. This one is huge for me. I’m a big list person, and I make lots of to-do lists (I’m also forgetful so this helps me remember what I need to do!). But being a list person can be tough because if I don’t get a lot of things done, I feel unaccomplished (even if I did one big thing that took all day). What has helped me is changing my perspective. Instead of looking at what I didn’t do, I try to remember what I did do, especially things that weren’t on my list. I made lunch for my son before he left for school, I played hide-and-seek with my toddler, I cuddled up with my daughter and watched a TV show with her. Those things all matter, too. Sometimes you’ll feel like your to-do list will never end and like you didn’t get anything done at the end of the day, and it’s not a great feeling to have. But you’re not failing at being a mom if things are left undone. If your kids are alive at the end of the day and they went to bed knowing they’re loved, you’re golden.
Don’t let tasks seem like tasks. I recently heard someone mention something about not letting the little tasks of motherhood seem like tasks. Every day we feed our kids, do their laundry, clean up after them, and put them to bed, not to mention taking care of ourselves, working, exercising, meal planning, and spending quality time with our husbands. We have a lot going on. Motherhood involves a lot of doing the same thing over and over again, day after day. Sometimes it can be monotonous, but those little tasks are the things we’ll look back on and miss one day, so we should do our best to enjoy them. I know it might be hard to enjoy wiping bums or putting away laundry. Those things fall pretty low on the scale of glamorous living. But remember your why. Your kids need you to do things for them, they want you to help them, and they will always think you’re the best mom in the whole world (that’s a direct quote, I might add). You’ll be able to manage everything a little bit easier and with a lighter heart if you’re remembering that they won’t be little forever and this time goes by way too quickly.
We all have a lot on our plate. No matter what stage we’re in, we’re all just trying to learn how to manage it all. There’s a big learning curve in motherhood, and you’re not going to be able to do everything all the time. You’re not supposed to. You can’t expect to stack everything from the buffet on your plate and make it back to your table without spilling. So instead of trying to do everything and then find balance in motherhood, let a few things go. Assess your priorities, find shortcuts, do you, focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t, and try not to get bogged down by the routine of motherhood. You’re doing better than you think you are, and you’ve got this.
If you liked this post, check out the rest of the posts in my New Year, New Mama series here!