June 13, 2024
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The Secret to Work-Life Balance

Spoiler alert: There is none! Life is ever-changing and the magic lies within our self-awareness, flexibility and simply letting go.

If you’re old enough to read this article in its entirety, you are already aware of the grand misgivings no one told you about work-life balance and motherhood.

The truth is…it doesn’t exist. At least not in the way we see in those Nike commercials, “Just Do It.” (Do what? Everything?) That’s not balance, that’s semblance. Portrayed on the big screens are flawless women running to soccer games suited up in 4-inch heels and a briefcase. That picture promotes equality and that everyone has their fair share of you. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to give your all to whatever you have. And if that means your family, community and work, there is no one-size-fits-all, 33.33% balance rule that will unequivocally work for everyone. And, who is determining what’s fair anyway?

Whatever the hours, whatever the field, whatever the country—“Have your cake and eat it too,” they said. For extra measure, add a dollop of whipped cream and a luscious red cherry. It’s all yours. Sound familiar?

It’s not that the world meant to mislead you. It’s just that the glitz and glamour, as seen on TV (e.g. Instagram, Tik Tok and Facebook), leave out the stories that no one wants to promote.

The challenges of homework via text while in a meeting, the video of your child riding her bike without training wheels the first time instead of up close and personal, and the WhatsApp message to the Tooth Fairy to remind you a 3rd time that he wants that basketball for the lost tooth.

Flip it the other way, the missed meeting, leaving early to bring a forgotten lunch, the conference call while in the waiting room at iPlay America or at the dr.’s office….you’ve been there.

Sounds disappointing at first glance?

They never told me that in my masters program! Everything I read in my news feeds said I can have it all.

Let me ask you a question. What is balance? I mean semblance. Who says if I’m home doing laundry instead of at a conference, homework isn’t getting tossed in the laundry with uniform shirts? And which child do you know who eats those well-balanced meals we work so hard to make? Pizza is king, at least in my house—unless Wacky Mac shows up, and then I’m a true hero. So I’ve learned the hard way. Betty Crocker’s got nothing on me.

Balance is overrated.

And life is what you make of it.

All that stuff we read about attitude over circumstance?

It’s true. All of it.

It won’t give you advertised, glamorized balance—but it will give you serenity and stability. And serenity trumps semblance.

We’ve all got our things. Whether we choose to work or we must work, part-time or full time, have 2 kids or 12, the bottom line is that most of us aren’t a modern day Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch, waking our loved ones up with warm, freshly baked muffins from the oven, with a nice housekeeper named Alice ironing our tablecloths for our kingly dinners. We are all just doing the best we have with the tools we’ve got.

And, if you’re in my newsfeed, the raw, unfiltered and somewhat fast-paced whirlwind of life, this is what you’ll see. The version is what “balance” means that was handed down to me from my mama.

1. Give up “balance.”

2. Make a list of your must-haves.

Getting your kids on the bus yourself, being at work during the day, being at that soccer game, ballet performance and bedtime routine.

The Tuesday meeting, the late night Thursday conferences and Sunday morning email catch-up.

3. The key is to be present, when you are present. Wherever you find yourself.

4. Develop a routine that your family knows about and expects. At work late one night consistently? Come home early the next, consistently and serve ice cream for dinner.

5. Self talk. A lot. Move this to the top of the list.. Remind yourself that whatever you are doing now, is exactly what you should be doing. Nothing more. Nothing less.

6. Which means

..focus on the task at hand.

7. Hire a cleaning lady.

8. Give your kids chores.

9. And, at times..ignore the mess. It is simply not going away.

10. Have a myopic view of the children in front of you that need to tie their shoes for the 567th time. That’s what’s important.

Patience and perseverance aren’t for the weak and weary.

11. And all those other times….ignore the mess (yes, again). The work email does need to go out and your children seeing commitment teaches them discipline and work hard, play hard mentality.

12. Play hooky. Every kid needs a day off, just like us. Save your days for the days they need you.

13. Do things together. (Except for the wine. You don’t need to share that).

14. Dinner isn’t always ready at 5 p.m. and bedtime isn’t always at 7:32. Sometimes dinner is at 7:32 and bedtime is at 9:15. As long as they know when to expect it, that will be their reality.

15. Know your limits. My limit isn’t yours. Yours isn’t hers. (Move this to the top of the list, too)

16. Throw away the judging eyeball roll.

Your neighbor goes through stuff you don’t know about, so if it seems she can’t handle it all…she probably can’t. Who cares? If you can, make her dinner. Even Wacky Mac.

And then, remind yourself that you can’t handle it all either and the neighbor across the street from you probably does more than you. (Yes, she should bring you dinner too).

That’s it. If you feel overwhelmed after reading this, read it again.

The point is, everyone is doing a lot, and there is no magic answer. The secret sauce you find working for today may not work tomorrow and we have to be ready to be flexible, like God made us, and adapt to the next phase of life that we were never ready for until it pulled up to our driveway and barged through our door without even knocking. (Couldn’t it have been takeout delivery?)


Vicky Krief lives in Edison, New Jersey and is the mother of 3. She works for Apex Global Solutions in Montebello, New York.

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