I’ve have written about new years resolutions a couple of times. A new year is a great time to reassess and re- envision, and so we all enjoy making a list of things we think we should do, even of things we think we should stop doing. As a working mom with a side hustle, I was recently asked to write about work-life balance. And you know what. I couldn’t. Because there is no such thing! It’s all nonsense. Work-life balance is stupid. I think it was possibly invented by men. Not because I think they are stupid, but because, for example, a man invented the turducken, another thing that sounds much better than it actually is in real life. Work-life balance is pie in the sky, and it’s a concept that makes people (especially women) feel frazzled and unhappy and that they are invariable letting someone down (can I get a heck yeah?). And here’s why:
Balance is a static state, and I don’t know what your life is like but I can tell you right now my life is THE.OPPOSITE.OF.STATIC. Schedules, realities, priorities, energy levels and people are constantly in flux, they are not fixed. That is why it’s the very idea of “balance” as an expected or desired state that is making us feel stressed out and constantly guilty about all the things we are not doing. Aiming to have it all in balance is aiming for something that is not achievable. I advise we all ad it to the list of things we need to let go of, like fitting into those white jeans we wore in our 20s. Please, I beg of you, do not make this one of your new year’s resolutions. Here’s what I think we should aim for instead:
Work from a place of peace, not towards it…
Unwittingly, we all divide up our life between work and non work – “getting through” the one to “get too” the other. All of our life is in compartments, work in the one, play in the other, toil in the one, comfort in the other. We think, and work, and believe and prioritize like our peace will be found in peaceful circumstances and surroundings. But God calls us to relate to peace as something we already have, not something we have to “get to” or “work towards” or “bring about” by controlling/ changing our circumstances. His Word tells us that Peace is a Person, Peace is a Promise, Peace is a precious Gift. So in every task we do, in everything we engage in, we are called to do so from a place of Peace, from that Source of peace, from a Position of peace, not towards it. When we see our life like this, all the strands of work and play and difficult and easy, successes and failures start forming one single tapestry. It changes our perspective and infuses all aspects of life with more meaning. Not just the bush-break/ beach-holiday parts. And peace as something we already own, as something inside us, empowers us to withstand the pressures and strain that is evident and unavoidable in every season of life. We think of peace as a place we need to arrive at where it really should be a departure point. That perspective can change everything.
Make flexibility a fitness worth mastering…
Now, let me be honest here, I love me a diary. I love a to-do list, a schedule, a planner, a nice crammed-to-the-brink-with-colorful-blocks google calendar. But nothing, and I mean nothing will give you a little productivity and planning reality check like a sick child. Or the school holidays. Or load shedding. Or a dead car battery. Sometimes things happen, things we don’t control, and when we have rigidly structured all of our time and focus because we believe that will give us balance, that will give us peace, those “life happens” moments really mess with our attitude, our perspective and our sense of accomplishment. In my dancing days, we learned that strength and flexibility are inextricably linked. For one muscle to flex, another must give and release. I used to believe white-knuckling it through my days, obliterating obstacles in the way of my sacred to-do list, was a show of strength, but sister, strength without wisdom is just brute force and it will flatten you because here’s the truth: when the wind blows, the grass must bend.
Your level of peace when calamity/ uncertainty/the unplanned strikes is directly related to where your faith lies and who (or WHO) you believe is in control. If that’s you, you will be anxious and overwhelmed. If its God you will have peace.Murray Brown
When we embrace flexibility, when we learn to “roll with it “ (yes, I know, the Enneagram 1 in you is literally wanting to run away right now, I feel you honey!) we are in fact surrendering our agenda to God’s plan, opening ourselves up to embrace the realization that yes, even the bumps in the road are a part of our live before God, Coram Deo. We are submitting to the One that has already called us to do everything, even the unexpected, and NOT just the things we planned to do that was on today’s list, as though we are doing it for Him (Col 3 v 23).
Flexibility helps us live from a place of surrender, not striving. If you can learn to be flexible when things don’t work out, then it’s just a “change of plan”, not a “disastrous disappointments”. And if we let them – those very disappointments can become divine appointments with God
Choose rhythm over routine…
This is the best way to practice your flexibility “fitness”. As moms, we are drilled about routine early on. It’s the holy grail of parenting when your kids are between 0 and 5. I think we are all in that mindset that if we could just be more rigid with our routine maybe we’d get more done. But it inevitably leads to disappointment when we’ve had 2 weeks of great workouts/ study times/ work or whatever and then suddenly our kids are writing exams or it’s the school holidays or Jesus help us Christmas time. Then we feel frazzled and upset because we had it all worked out and now we feel like we need to start from 0. Then even the call to respond to a person in need becomes something we have to “fit in” to our routine, which to be frank is just a terrible place from which to serve someone.
What if you chose rhythm over routine? The idea of rhythm is a flexible approach that is cognizant of the fact that you do not live in a bubble, but that your days and routines are influenced by the rhythms of your people and your context, the seasons of your journey and your city and ahem your kids. Sometimes there is intense, productive activity, sometimes there are periods where your focus must shift, and sometimes there is a need to respond to where you have an opportunity to serve others with Christ’s love.
Even Jesus’s life attested to this. When he was called on to turn water into wine, to serve and respond to a need, he wasn’t upset because he actually came to “party” and now he had to “work”. He didn’t say “hey ya’ll are interfering with my downtime here!” or “this was not on my schedule for today”. He was simply engaging with the very next thing, the very next good work that God had prepared in advance for Him to do. Rhythms help us to respond, routines keep us rigid. In a rigid routine, we sacrifice our peace and we deny that a sovereign God ordains meaning in all our moments, even the ones we didn’t plan (Psalm 139 – like all of it!)
Choose fruit over fear and meaning over more….
There is a guy who juggles at the corner of Republic and William Nicol Drive. Now, incase you didn’t know, here is the thing with juggling: every time you add a ball, you have to throw the balls you have HIGHER to give yourself more time to catch all of them. It’s almost diabolical. Doesn’t matter what type of mom you are, how many jobs you do in or outside of your home, or even how many kids you have and how many extramurals they do, we can all identify with how much the whole thing feels like juggling. Porcelain plates. Or hand grenades. And everytime we ad another goal, activity, to do or must do, another expectation, another yes, we have to throw the balls we already have higher and higher. Take more risks. Fit more in. Take more vitamins. Get up earlier and go to sleep later. But here’s the truth:
More does not equal meaning. Multitasking and doing/ adding more can never ever deliver on the meaning that you are hoping your life will have/ your kids’ lives will have. There is no fruit without focus and there is no focus if you have to do everything fast. But if you’re schedule is too full, fast is your only option. Focus is one singular thing, it cannot be divided into many things because then, ultimately, it’s not focus. Then it’s just dissipated, distracted, dividided attention that literally serves no one.
I know, I know, us moms wear many hats, we hustle that split shift of work/ wife-ing/ mothering/ all the other things like real hardcore mom bosses, but sometimes it just feels like we did a whole lot of stuff not very well. Something that helped me was to see my day as having various pivot points, each presenting an opportunity to be present. To sow focus so that those moments can bear fruit. Because if I am trying to serve my kids lunch but I keep checking the emails piling up, not only will my laptop be full of peanut butter (this is not good) but nor the emails nor my kids get my full attention. And in the end the precious time with my kids does not bear the fruit of connection it had the potential for and the work does not reflect the excellence I was aiming for and I am exhausted and I feel like a fruitless failure. This is a quote that challenged me this year and that I want to challenge you with:
“Never is a woman so fulfilled as when she chooses to underwhelm her schedule so she can let God overwhelm her soul”Lysa TerKeurst
Often we add more and more to our life and our schedule out of fear. Fear that we (or our kids) are going to fall behind, fear of not enough, but fear cannot produce anything of value. Fear is not fruitful. But faith is. It’s the only thing I’ve seen that produces anything of value in our life.