Ladies, I am pleased to have my fitness coach friend, Emily Long share her wisdom with you again! You may remember Emily’s post on Habits Vs Rules when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. Emily Long is one of those gals you wanna be BFFs with. She’s the type that you just want to be around. She’s gorgeous (see below), trendy, positive and fun. She is inspiring and encouraging and wise beyond her years. The business that she and her husband have built together is impressive, and a byproduct of the type of people they are: purposeful and passionate, hard working and motivated. Emily home schools her son Ben (who is too cute for words) in the midst of running her business, which calls for 5 am work out training sessions. If that isn’t enough, she also is a foster mom to two young babies. How does she balance it all, you ask??? She will tell you…
Balance is a lie
So, I know you!
You’re a mom, a wife, you lead a bible study, you attend mom’s groups and you work part or full time. Plus you bake organic, sugar free AMAZING best-you’ve-ever-had cookies, and your husband comes home every night to the smell of a hot, delicious meal that you hardly broke a sweat over. Oh, did I forget to mention that your house is spotless and your laundry is always folded and put away? Your son doesn’t even have a grass stain on his jeans, and your daughter smiles sweetly every time she spots the outfit you’ve taken time to lay out for her the night before.
Ahh, Mom life. WHY doesn’t everyone do it?!
So let’s get real here for a second. This description could actually be you. And if it is, you may have a long list of momma-haters and that’s ok- it’s their problem, not yours. If this description is you, you can ignore the remainder of this post, and actually, please scroll all the way to the comments section and tell us all how you do it! Chances are, you already have mastered priorities over balance!
This is for the rest of us – the ones who consider it a win when the dishes get done (ignoring the 7 load pile of un-done laundry in the corner), and who celebrate each bite of broccoli eaten by our children with a song and dance. It’s for those of us with stains on our couches, and dust on our floors. The ones who just can’t seem to get it all done and never feel like we are doing enough, or maybe that we are enough.
“How do you balance it all?!” is a question I have been asked a few times, for no reason besides the fact that it appears that I can handle working from home, homeschooling and I manage to make sure my son is wearing pants when we walk out the door, at least 90% of the time.
Barely holding back the feeling of spewing out my hot tea in boisterous laughter, I contain myself, swallow, and reply, “Honestly, I don’t.” Here is what I have learned in the last several years of having a feast of “to-do’s” on my plate that is far bigger than my stomach can handle. It has never been about balance, it has always been about priorities.
Let that sink in for a minute. While it does, I will share a story.
Prior to the birth of my son 5 years ago, I had been working 4 jobs, leaving my house at 4:45am, often not returning until after 8pm, and spending 2-3 hours on the computer catching up on work, only to go to bed by 11 and start it all over again. I was “balancing” it all. A young married woman with new responsibilities, and helping my husband start our own business. It was chaotic, stressful and hectic, but to the onlooker, it seemed that I always got it all done.
It was only a matter of time before my balanced plans went bust.
After my son was born, I worked hard at balancing my busy life. I no longer worked 4 jobs, but our business had picked up speed and I was working full time. As hard as I tried, and as late as I stayed up or as early as I woke up, I simply could NOT find balance between my work, my husband, my new baby, staying fit, cooking healthy, and anything else I valued. It was one thing to blow off time with my spouse and family. After all, they would always be there, and once things settled down I would work on those relationships (how many times do we tell ourselves that, by the way… “When things settle down I’ll _____ <insert thing we will probably never do unless we start now here>”).
Instead, I always felt guilty. Either, guilty that I should be working, guilty that I should be home with my son, guilty that my son did something for the first time when he was with someone else, guilty that I was coaching people in the fitness industry but hadn’t worked out in two weeks, guilty that I ate 2 slices of pizza the night before and hadn’t prepped my food for the week, or guilty that I hadn’t spent time with any of my friends… the list goes on. My search for balance ended up leading me to guilt, frustration, anxiety, and my worst fear of all, a completely unbalanced life.
That was when I held up the white flag.
I knew this could not be “it”. I knew plenty of working moms who were equally or more disheveled and guilt-ridden as I was, and I knew stay at home moms who felt exactly the same way. It wasn’t about what we were doing, it was about how we were approaching it. Suddenly I started holding up a mirror to my life. There was no way I could continue to juggle all of these responsibilities equally without something having to give, here or there. I finally realized why I could never find the balance I was seeking.
Because…Balance is a lie.
In order to achieve balance, it would require that all things are equal and should receive equal attention, effort and engagement. We know that all things are not of equal importance, though, don’t we?
As passionate as I am about fitness and being healthy, meal prepping will never trump time with my son. They are simply not equal; therefore it is impossible to “balance”. Both are important, but one is far more important than the other. It is our priorities that dictate the way we live our lives, whether or not we realize it. My focus had been entirely wrong. I was trying to balance, equally, things that were not equally important instead of taking time to prioritize what actually was important.
I wanted to be a loving wife to my husband, an attentive mother to my son, an incredible leader and friend to my employees, a real-life imperfect inspiration to my members, and a reliable confidant to my friends. When I tried to do all of those things, all of the time, I failed…miserably.
In time, I learned that I didn’t have to be all of those things, all of the time, just all of whatever I was doing at that time. If I was in my “work” bucket, I was 100% at work. I had a set amount of time to get as much work done as I could. Without guilt I shut off my phone, and silenced my email. During this time, work was my priority. As a result, my productivity multiplied. When I was in my “family” bucket, I was 100% there. Again, I shut off my phone, put it out of reach, enjoyed dinner, and asked my family about their day. As a result, my relationships were richer. When I was in my “employer” bucket, I could be more thoughtful in my responses to problems (instead of reacting to them), because I was 100% present in that moment, handling the situation at hand without additional worry. As a result, I could think with patience and love and respond in a productive way, instead of a destructive way.
The world tells us to find balance, or at least give the illusion of it on social media, doesn’t it? Just like the fountain of youth, how long will we allow the enemy to keep us distracted with something that isn’t there, when we can be present in our lives, right now? God tells us where our first priority should be: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I think we can agree that there is nothing that can be equal, or balanced with this.
Beyond that, it is up to you. What matters most to you and how you want to live your life is something that each of us has to hold up the mirror to decide. Before I wrap this up, I thought it would be helpful to close with a few reflective questions that can challenge us all to discover our priorities and what really matters to us:
1) Is it important to me that I have sustained energy throughout my day and feel comfortable and confident in my own skin? If the answer is yes here, then it is important to make sure exercise and nutrition fits in somewhere on the priority list. NOT for the sake of “diet and exercise” or even “weight loss”. But for the sake of having energy to be your best and confidence to rock it!
2) Is it important to me to have quiet/alone time and/or time with friends/socialization on a regular basis to feel fulfilled and satisfied? If you are an introvert, you not just should, but MUST schedule time alone. We will fall short in other areas of life if we do not respect this about ourselves. If you are an extrovert, it is imperative that you have time with a girlfriend, or at least a scheduled phone call during naptime. Find a way to work it in. Five minutes goes a long way in Mom-world.
3) What is my child’s love language and do I prioritize time and effort in that way? Do they need time, thoughtful gifts, affection, kind words of affirmation or acts of kindness to feel loved? How can you prioritize this into your day?
4) What is my spouse’s love language and do I prioritize time and effort in this way? Again, instead of grasping at straws and trying to always be an all-star wife – because let’s face it, most husbands will likely not notice 80% of our efforts, so why not focus on the 20% that he WILL notice?- his love language. It will save you time and energy, and he will feel loved.
5) What other things are important to me (how I present myself, how I spend my time, how I respond to things, etc.)
Consider what the underlining theme of each of these is. It’s not about the face value. For example, if you want to spend your time a certain way, you will have to become better at time management. If you want to be better and calmly responding to situations, you’ll have to devote some time to being intentional in your responses.
Do you see how we’ve taken things you’re likely already thinking about, and simply repurposed and re-directed them? Instead of random tasks filling up your life, these are specific, intentional actions done entirely on purpose to keep your focus on what actually matters so that you can live the life you were designed by Him to live.
No longer are we tossing our hopes and desires to the wind and hoping somebody catches them. We are simply adding value in an intentional way, already knowing what the outcome will be as a result. As a result, we are saving time and energy because it’s being funneled into the right things, not just “things”.
So let out that sigh of relief, moms. You never had to be “Pinterest mom” in order to live this life with fullness and joy. You just had to do what you do on purpose, with purpose, and with intention. And you have to be committed to the process, not perfection. It will not change overnight, but it will change, one decision at a time, repeated consistently over time.
Live your life like you mean it!
Easy 4 Ingredient Pumpkin Cookies
2 Cups Quick Oats
1 Cup Pumpkin
2 ripe bananas, mashed
Chocolate chips, optional 🙂
1 Scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients together, and spoon onto greased baking sheet. Bake for about 8-10 minutes. Cool on cooling rack, ENJOY!