Is It Possible to Find Balance?

Guest post from Carolynn of My Little Bit of Life

Sometimes I feel so alone trying to make sure my life is in balance. It seems that it’s “all or nothing,” “black or white,” or “hot or cold.”

What ever happened to balance, what happened to gray? Balance was thrown out the window when every parent felt like they had to send their child to an Ivy League school, so let’s just go all out and put our kid in everything — because you know, you’re a terrible parent if your child isn’t trilingual and a prodigy in something by the time they’re four! :)

When I was in high school, I remember constantly comparing myself to everyone. One big problem though, I’d compare the worst parts of myself to the best parts of everyone else.

I used to beg and plead to God to make me good at something, anything. I was so tired of just being alright in just about everything!

Now that I’m a parent, my view has totally changed. I like being alright in lots of areas. I know I have a lot of work to do, but I feel like this balance is good for parenting. I don’t want to be a Tiger Mom, getting irate if my child doesn’t bring home a perfect grade card or isn’t the star player all the time.

That’s not realistic, and I feel like those expectations will only set a child up for failure. They may not look like a failure to the outside world, but I would almost guarantee that they feel like failures.

What is this teaching our children? That in order to be loved or worthy, they have to be the best all the time?

If this is what we teach them, then they are in for a rude awakening, because life isn’t like that! Life is full of failures. It’s how we bounce back that makes us who we are!

So, I want to try to show my children a good balance. I’m going to let them see things that I’m good at and things that I struggle with. Every once in a while, I know I’m going to lose my cool and that gives me an opportunity to show them how to “fix” mistakes.

I’m not going to immediately rescue them every time they need my help. I’m going to let them slip and maybe even fall and teach them how to recover.

A very wise friend of mine told me that “The best way to make sure you’re staying balanced is to look at the past year of your life as a whole. Were there months you focused more on your marriage, parenting, or the household. If you’ve committed a few months to each area, you are doing great.”

Despite what some people say, “You can have it all… just not all at once!”

What does balance look like for you?

Carolynn is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom to four children. She has a passion for helping parents be better parents and strive to help make life easier for them. Join her on her journey at My Little Bit of Life!

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  1. Meredith says

    It’s interesting you posted this. My five year old is in cheerleading. They just had their first competition. Their team came in last and my daughter was one of the ones who got lost in the routine. She was beyond sad afterwords. We consoled her and told her she did a good job. However, I realized that as a musician, I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. As a mom, I am like that too. I tend to beat myself up if I miss something off of my grocery list. I tend to get frustrated if a meal doesn’t work. I try to keep things in order. However, letting her know that it’s okay to mess up and that it’s okay not to be perfect is a good lesson for her. Thank you for posting this. I may just need to laugh off my muffins that flop and to say oh well more often!

    • Meghan says

      I read a fantastic book called “Nurture Shock”, which touches on some of the child-rearing ideas this blogger mentions. Basically, through scientific research, child psychologists and researchers have found that praising a child for a perfect score, being the best, etc., tends to make children less likely to try something unless they know they will succeed…..because our (American) culture puts a heavy focus on the result (perfect grade, winning the game, whatever) rather than the process (learning how to do something and maybe making some mistakes along the way). The studies and conclusions were fascinating. I have changed the focus of my praise from “You got a 100%! Great job!” to “I like how you kept trying to solve the problems.”

      This was just one part of this really thought-provoking book………I would highly recommend it to parents of all ages and stages.

      • Momof5 says

        Totally agree with this, Meghan. I know an anecdote isn’t data, but in our family, our kids are far enough apart in age that we raised the oldest and youngest with basically opposite approaches: we praised the oldest for success, but we’ve encouraged the youngest to keep trying. The oldest, much as I love him, is a mess right now: school is difficult for the first time for him (in college) and he’s really struggling. I think he hears us saying “Good for you for keeping up the hard work!” but it isn’t getting through the way it is with our youngest. The oldest would bring papers with stars or good grades to us; the youngest brings all of them, and our favorite new family phrase is one she coined as a tot: “I have a ploblem.” She never gives up – just identifies the “ploblem,” figures out what she can do herself (like use an old high chair to climb up on the fridge to reach cupboards too high for her – yikes!), and asks for very specific help when she can’t do something. Our oldest sometimes throws up his hands or distracts himself from “ploblems.”

        So for example, what we might have done in your place, Meredith, is ask why she’s unhappy (sometimes we assume it’s over winning/losing but it’s really something else), and then ask how she can make it work differently next time. Then – this is the hard part, for me at least – remember what she aimed for, help her develop the skills to do better, and praise that specific improvement as well as the effort that went into making the improvement – even if the team loses again! It is amazing how much more resilient our little one – and the middle ones, who were young enough when we read that book to adapt – is than the oldest two. For those two – well, we pray. A lot :)

  2. Lucy says

    This is SO true. I don’t have any children, but it applys to anyone and any areas in our life. That’s an exactly how I grew up and I’m still struggling with it sometimes. But I know I will recover later on and fix the problems, but not always not easy. Sometimes I do same mistakes again, but bounce back. Yes, we all make mistakes and learn from it, That’s a life and that’s what we do.

  3. Hilary says

    I think as a parent its important to admit our own faults to our children as well. For instance I have been sick for a few days. The peak of it hit yesterday I couldn’t wake up at all. I was dragging all morning. I brought my daughter to school for kindergarten and sat on the couch. I fell asleep sitting up on my couch. Next thing I knew the school was calling. It was 3:01 and school had been out for 5 minutess. I felt awful. I cried on the way to pick her up. The teacher was understanding and told me I’m not the first parent it has happened too. I told my daughter how sorry I was. That mommies some times make mistakes too. But taking care of all 5 kids when mommy doesn’t feel good is even harder work then when mommy feels good. She forgave me and told me not to cry, but she thanked me for telling her the truth and that meant I was doing my job.

    • says

      So sorry you weren’t feeling good, I hope your better now. I was sick for a couple of weeks, still trying to bounce back. I think it is vitally important for our children to see us make mistakes sometimes, it teaches them so much and be such a character builder.

  4. Emily says

    I read an article a few months ago, and it said something to the effect that sometimes we make things TOO easy for our kids, because we want them to feel successful, or spend too much time praising their successes. They end up equating their worth with their accomplishments. Instead we should make things a little too hard for them on purpose to encourage them to learn how to overcome failure, and to keep pressing on. We should praise them, not for the success itself, but for the “trying again” … because the character that is developed through failure is more important than natural talent.

    • says

      Love your last line: “…the character that is developed through failure is more important than natural talent.” Very true, it’s good to let our kids “struggle” a bit (when the price is small) instead of waiting and having them do it for the first time when there are big consequences!

  5. says

    Balance is my word for 2013. I have a tendency to delve into projects at more than full speed, forgetting all other tasks. These marathons would often leave me feeling burned out, and little got accomplished. I now ask myself the following before starting any new project. Can this task get completed? Is this project’s “payout” worth the time (time=money) and effort I have put into it? How is my family going to be effected by this project. Using these questions and through good old fashioned conviction, I realized couponing had to go. I saved TONS of money, but also gave up valuable family and personal time. I now save money by looking through sale papers, buying sale items before I need them, and avoid purchasing fancy junk foods.

  6. says

    Carolynn, that’s a super perspective. I remember being the kid (from a pretty messed-up home) who wanted to work and work to be perfect at everything. It was my way of trying to earn love. It took a lot of change and inner healing as an adult to get rid of that mindset. Three cheers for every person who can look at life from a balanced perspective from the beginning–or help their child to do so–and not have to go through that.

    • says

      I used to think that being perfect would make people like me more. I’ve often found the opposite to be true, it’s just too unauthentic. I think most people want REAL and to feel like they aren’t alone when they feel overwhelmed.

      Congrats on working through that mindset!

  7. Anne-Marie says

    Thank you for this. I think that, somewhere along the line, the media we read and see (and the expectations of our culture) began equating “balance” with “it’s not ok to just be great in one or two areas–in order to achieve balance, you must work hard at these particular other areas, too.” And then the source proceeds to instruct you on how to work hard to be better in whatever area it’s pushing.

    I’m a lifelong perfectionist. To me, “balance” is not the pursuit of excellence in areas in which I’m lacking. It is becoming the intentional letting go of the inner mandate to WORK HARD at being good at everything, and the letting go of expectations that my husband and children (and co-workers–I’m a career woman) do the same. It’s removing some of the weights from the scale, so to speak. It’s balancing effort and drive with rest, renewal, margin, tolerance, and, dare I say it, a little bit of chaos and a cultivation of an attitude that recognizes that not all of these things are important.

    God’s love and peace to all of you who strive for balance, whatever that means to you!

  8. says

    Great post! As a mother of 5, I wholeheartedly agree that we must find balance in all areas of life. It’s a burden upon ourselves and others to expect someone (or us) to be perfect & fit into a certain mold we have created.

    Part of finding balance is seeing where we can be “extreme” or “over the top” in areas. It can be found in the biggest or smallest of matters. Some examples are fitness, food, appearence, friendships, acceptance, parenting, marriage, religion, employment, & the list can go on.

    If you don’t know where to start, be assured those closest to you can be of tremendous help. They can let you know where you are extreme and over the top. If we humble ourselves and are willing to hear others out, we can truly work to balance our lives.

    Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! There is so much to be thankful for!!

    • says

      Very true. I think it’s vital to have a “safety” person. Someone from the “outside” whom you respect enough and they love and respect you enough to let you know when you’re starting to get extreme. My mother is that person for me.

  9. Laurie G says

    Let me preface my comments by acknowledging that we are going to come at this from different angles. For me, my faith in Jesus Christ has an integral part to play in this scenario. I have found that what others think of me, my children, how well they do this, what car we have, where we live, etc. has less and less importance as I have acknowledged my idol of approval from others- and in turn began to embrace the truth that all the approval I will ever need I have in Christ. Not needing others approval of me has been one of the most freeing things in my life. I am not saying I don’t need balance, because I do. We can all go over board- even with trying to be organized/frugal, but I will just say that for me it was freeing when the approval issue was no longer part of the equation.

  10. Elizabeth Kane says

    Carolynn, this is a great perspective! I remember growing up thinking that once you were an adult you were perfect at everything, never failed, and had it all figured out. Imagine my surprise. I think showing your kids that learning never stops and grownups make mistakes is absolutely invaluable to a great life education. Kids don’t need perfection – they need you.

  11. says

    Balance = Do your best! It’s simply doing what you can do and discovering your strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. In doing your best through the journey, God will open and shut the doors to lead you to your destination.

    • Amy says

      Where I grew up in suburbia they brain washed us all to be “well-rounded”. I think it harmed me to have to try everything and be good at all subjects in school. It was stressful to try to be perfect at everything. A different sport each season, clarinet lessons, a high school job on the side to learn responsibility, perfect grades to get into a great college. I realize now as a young adult that I’m not passionate about anything and have been stressed out since I was 10. Well, now I’m passionate about my family and trying to make sure I keep them in my forefront thru the demands of a full time job and housework. And, try to find a little “me” time. BALANCE seems impossible, so I don’t even try to be balanced anymore. I got to work b/c I have too and then after that I choose to focus on my kids. My goal is to raise responsible, empathetic children, that know how to find their own way and are okay with that. I praise them for life skills, not for achievements. My analogy is, if their bed is made wrong w/ the covers half falling off, I don’t yell at them, but instead praise them for making it at all…. and eventually they make it right if it’s important to them :) When my toddlers cry in frustration b/c they’re bad at something or can’t do something, I say “don’t worry; that can be really tricky. You should feel proud that you tried to do something so difficult. “

  12. says

    I’m so sorry I missed when this originally posted! I’ve been pretty sick for a few weeks and haven’t made it down the stairs, let alone to the computer. I love being a part of the conversation and hearing what others have to say. Thank you all.

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