When one thinks of “balance,” an image, perhaps, of a scale comes to mind, a scale that is either being filled or is already carrying a load. One scale pan may be heavier; both may be equal. If one adds burden to either side, that side reacts by contracting the whole of the scale, hoisting the opposite end higher into the air while accommodating the new weight. The scale then appears “off-balance.”
For so many mothers, the scale pans represent home/family/children on one side and hobbies/career/professional obligations on the other. If a mother has experienced an equalization of her scale pans, it has likely been for a peaceful short time. Rarely, if ever, is work-life balance pliable enough to stretch and bend and remain even across all planes.
For most mothers, true work-life compromise is just short of a fable.
Obtaining and managing a realistic work-life balance is difficult foremost because of the pervasive parameters regarding domesticity in our country. Our society still dominantly dictates that a mother’s place is in the home with the children, even if she maintains a career outside of the home. As much progress as we have made from that dinosaur-era mindset, mothers are unceasingly often shackled into operating home care, or seen struggling with the guilt of unable to fully do so.
According to writer Kelley Holland in an article by CNBC, “Seventy-nine percent of working mothers today say they are responsible for doing the laundry, and moms are twice as likely as dads to handle the cooking, according to the survey of more than 1,000 working parents. . .Even mothers who are the primary breadwinners for their families take on the bulk of the chores.”
The home is seen as directly indicative of the female partner’s worth and is frequently a considerable reflection of her ability to “properly” mother. Because of this, it has become a wild insistency for some women to ensure that their homes stay “show ready” to ward off visitors’ ill judgments, even if impractical at a given moment to do so.
Much like in the phrasing the “pursuit of happiness,” the pursuit of balance, in itself, is exhausting. One side of the beam cannot be attended to without some degree of neglect of its polar end. Negotiations incur commitment. Known sacrifice can lead to unknown deprivation of a future sequence, the results of which can be as small or as staggering as was the sacrifice. It can be a constant battle of “what can afford to suffer right now” for the greater good of the whole plate.
Is balance “catchable?” Or are we chasing a utopic concept, never to be actually collected, something merely glossed over or forgotten about as we age?
“I think work-life balance varies depending on the age of your children,” says Kelly Davis, working mom to three teenage boys. “When my children were younger, I made sure to reserve dinner and weekends for strictly family time. As my children became teenagers and have their own interests, that became a different story.”
Mom Jessica Bunch concurs. “I think once kids get to an age where they can be more independent, it makes it easier to find balance. You can have more time to decompress after work when your children are older. This especially rings true when you’re a single parent or if both of you work outside the home.”
The positive outlook is contagious.
We just have to get there.
It is fair to say that, in addition, a radical social change needs to be initiated in the labels of “man = breadwinner” and “woman = housekeeper.” The weight of a mother mismanaging the cleanliness of her home because she working a full-time career is much heavier than a father who cannot temporarily financially provide for his family. It is an unjust double standard with a discussion worthy of its own post.
If it can be done, what can mothers do to get as closely as possible to the actualization of balance? Newlywed Jennifer Garrott says, “Using written goals helps, as well as communicating with my spouse and setting boundaries. He helps keep me in check when I’m tipping too far in one direction.”
Mike Harden of The Huffington Post adds, “The key is making the conscious effort to be present where you are, and not let angst in one aspect of your life influence another. It takes practice. What is important for you today? Whatever it is, focus on that. Shift your priorities in the right direction and try to devote your best energies to each one. What is the best you can do today? If the best you can do to achieve ‘work/life balance’ is to work for 12 hours and spend 20 minutes playing with your child, then that’s what you do. Just make sure they are 12 hours and 20 minutes when you are completely there.”
Fighting for work-life balance is a transitory state, the frustrating feeling becoming as commonly well-known as an acquaintance, as are 5 a.m. bottle feedings, potty training troubles, and terrible teething pain…or teenagers missing curfew, applying for colleges, and emptying the nest. The fatigue of it all doesn’t last but for so long.
Then, unfortunately, we’ll probably miss the feeling of the pursuit.
Harden, Mike. “Why Work-Life Balance is a Myth.” The Huffington Post, Jan. 3, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-harden/why-worklife-balance-is-a-myth_b_6407898.html. Accessed Mar. 7, 2017.
Holland, Kelley. “Working moms still take on bulk of household chores.” CNBC.com, Apr. 28, 2015, http://www.cnbc.com/2015/04/28/me-is-like-leave-it-to-beaver.html. Accessed Mar. 7, 2017.