A few years ago I had the honor of attending a lecture by renowned journalist Soledad O’Brien. During the Q&A period of O’Brien’s talk an audience member asked her a question often asked of highly successful women who juggle busy careers with motherhood: How do you balance it all?
O’Brien’s answer was quite simple. “I don’t,” she said.
O’Brien said sometimes she has to pour her whole self into her work and at those times she’s probably a crappy mom. But at other times she puts work on hold so she can focus solely on her family, even if that makes her a bad journalist in the eyes of others. She said she realized she can’t always be great at all her roles in this world and that’s OK.
O’Brien’s words reminded me of a profound statement I’d heard a month or so previously, also spoken by another woman juggling a career with motherhood. During a panel discussion at the 2013 Blogalicious conference Aliah Davis McHenry — a blogger, PR pro, wife and — was asked the key to balance. She leaned into the microphone and said, “Balance is a unicorn.”
The crowd erupted into laughter and applause.
Personally, I hate the phrase “work/life balance.” It implies that our work can’t be life-giving and that living doesn’t take hard work, neither of which is true.
But I found both O’Brien’s and McHenry’s words quite comforting. Even though I am not a mom, I am a wife, daughter, sister and friend and I often feel as if I’m failing the people in my life because I’m so busy building my business and my blog along with my writing and teaching careers. And when I do spend time with family and friends I often feel I’m slacking on my professional life. But with their words I decided to let myself off the hook.
So I have decided to redefine balance.
On some days I get up at 4 a.m. to write in my prayer journal and work on my business before heading to my day job. I go to work and teach all day to a classroom of students captivated by my every word. I come home, run 4 miles in my neighborhood, call my mom and cook dinner for my husband.
But on some days I hit the snooze button for an hour and a half. I don’t pray. I don’t write. I hate my business. I hate everyone. I can’t bear standing up lecturing all day, so I give my students a lengthy reading assignment so I won’t have to talk to them and they won’t have to talk to me. I get home and I toss my phone across the room when someone, anyone, calls or even texts me. I flat out refuse to exercise or cook and so I sit on the sofa and binge on candy and chips while watching old episodes of Law & Order or NCIS.
Some days I’m superwoman. Some days I super suck and that, my friends, is as close as I’m going to ever get to balance.
A portion of this post originally appeared at WriteousBabe.com.