Let me just tell you, I hate that word. It’s perhaps the most common phrase we use when we talk about the daily struggles of parenthood. We wonder how other parents seem to balance it all. We strive for a healthy work/life balance. We attempt to balance our own desires and needs with the needs of our family. It’s all about finding the proper balance, right?
I’ve decided that for me, that’s not what it’s about at all. I don’t think it’s the thing I should be striving towards. Why? Because balance necessitates perfection. It means that you have found the perfect ratio of all of the important things in your life, and you hold them there suspended in harmony.
It makes me think about how I take Avery to the kid’s gym and encourage her to try the balance beam. She will walk the balance beam all day long if I’m holding her hand, but when I try to encourage her to walk the beam by herself, she gets whiny and fearful. “No, Mom, hold my hand. I’m afraid,” she says. “You can do it. Just try. I’ll catch you if you start to fall,” I tell her. It doesn’t matter. She’s no dummy. She knows that there are only two options with the balance beam: you’re balanced and you’re on it or you’re unbalanced and on the ground. The possibility that she might tumble to the ground keeps her afraid to even take the first step. She doesn’t want to fail.
Isn’t that how we operate in our grown-up lives a lot of the time? If balance is the ultimate goal, there are only two options. You’ve got it or you don’t. And we look around at all of the balls we are juggling in our lives, and we think that the odds of keeping all of these things perfectly suspended, steady, balanced is pretty dismal. And we feel like failures because nothing about parenthood, or life for that matter, feels balanced. It’s like your first time in a yoga class when you see the instructor balancing on her head, feet suspended in the air, and you realize that there is no way on God’s green earth you could possibly do that because your back hurts just looking at her. We beat ourselves up because we can never achieve that elusive lie we call balance.
I’ve started to think of something else as my goal: resilience. Resilience means that no matter how many times you fall down, you get back up and try again. Resilience means that your failures don’t define you. It’s the courage to get back up, dust yourself off and keep going, no matter what life throws at you. When I think about the values that I want to teach my children, resilience is at the top of the list. I don’t want my children to be afraid to try hard things because they aren’t sure they can be perfect on the very first try. How will you ever know what you are capable of if you never have the courage to try? And how will you find the courage to try if perfection is your ultimate goal?
Instead of aiming for the perfect balance, what I’m aiming for in my life is to try the hard things, even if it is likely that I might fail. Can I balance a job that I’m passionate about with all the demands of my family and still give my kids the care they deserve? I don’t know, but I’ll never know unless I try. I can’t tell myself that I’ll only try things that I already know I can master. I can’t require absolute perfection of myself because that feels like I’m carrying a boulder around my neck. What I can promise, though, is that I’ll try things that scare me, things that I don’t know if I can master, and if I do fall down I’ll get back up and try again.
Resilience. It’s what I hope my children will learn, so I’m learning it first.