redefining balance

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


6 Comments on Redefining Balance

  1. Tanisha
    August 24, 2016 at 11:20 pm (1 year ago)

    I know this feeling all too well. The over thinker in me wonders if I’ve dedicated enough time to all aspects of my life equally. Did I spend enough time with my daughter? Or did I spend enough time with my husband? Or did I take enough time for myself? The realist in me knows that this is an impossible feat. There is something freeing when we allow ourselves room to just be, no matter which direction we take.

    There are days when my schedule is on point, my daughter is up and at ’em on time and ready to take on the day. Dinner is cooked on time, and I have some time to relax. Then there are other days when I wake up and know within the first hour if we’ll be ordering take-out, dragging my sorry behind through the day. Needless to say, we all end up winging it for the whole day. Sometimes I even get stuff prepared in advance for a future uneventful day.

    Too many people get caught up in this illusion of “balance” and truly rob themselves of being present in their lives. If you have an on point, snappy-happy day…cool! But if you have a bad day, allow yourself the experience. You never know what can come from it.

    • javacia
      August 25, 2016 at 12:01 pm (1 year ago)

      “But if you have a bad day, allow yourself the experience. You never know what can come from it.” – wise words

  2. Akirashanti
    September 7, 2016 at 1:36 pm (1 year ago)

    Work/life balance sounds good in theory; yet the application is rarely applied.

    “Letting yourself off the hook” was a fact of life that took me years to learn. I didn’t enjoy my weekends because I thought about and talked about work non-stop. While at work, I felt tired, drained and yearned for the weekends. All the while, me and my family suffered because I wasn’t present for the moment; at work or at home 🙁

    Finally, realized that my body was present but my mind was on the other side of town. I realized that life, events, moments had simply slipped away from me. I saw the error and decided I wanted a change.

    How I stopped thinking about work at home:

    If a work thought popped in my head, I busted it by saying, “This is my family time. My family is very important to me. I have designated work hours and days. This time right now is for my fam (or for me). There is nothing I can do at this moment about work. Whatever the “pressing issue” is will have to wait til Monday a.m.”

    This wasn’t a one saying. I repeated this and more as needed. But it sure did help me in creating boundaries between work and life.

    • javacia
      September 7, 2016 at 1:50 pm (1 year ago)

      This is such great advice! I definitely struggle with thinking about my business ALL THE TIME. And I need to work on being more present so I can just enjoy the moment.

  3. Kwoya
    September 7, 2016 at 6:52 pm (1 year ago)

    I receive this. I too, have times of great concentration in a particular area because I am a human, lol. We have to constantly be patient with ourselves and forgive ourselves and know we are doing the best we can, even when we’re sitting on the couch.

    • javacia
      September 7, 2016 at 8:41 pm (1 year ago)

      Yes! I think this is especially important for women who are juggling careers and the pursuit of their passion with motherhood.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *