Harmony in motherhood focuses on our ability to work together with those who we co-exist with, and allows us to weave in and out of our family’s big moments, while still holding space and energy for ourselves.
Balance, on the other hand, places the weight on the shoulders of the individual.
I don’t believe that there is such a thing as balance in motherhood. The idea that we can achieve balance if we just try harder is detrimental to our confidence, to our health, and to feeling any sort of contentment; we’re left feeling guilty and inept when we can’t make it all work.
There are seasons where the scales are entirely tipped with the weight of parenting and no force that we add can change the balance. Add in a career, extra-curricular activities, marriage, social commitments, self-care and everything else, and the idea of balance feels as far-fetched as unicorns.
Harmony, though, is about all of those pieces playing together; sometimes simultaneously, and other times they command a solo piece.
There are moments where our family of five works in concert together, our lives moving, flowing seamlessly in and around each other. However, there have been moments where one of us must take center stage. My husband and each of my daughters stepped up during certain seasons of their lives and those of us left in the background supported them while they shined.
I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that my own voice was never loud enough to command that spotlight.
In the fall of 2016, I found myself in a slump. I was stressed, short-tempered, unhappy and unfulfilled. On paper, I, “Had it all.” I had an amazing husband, three incredible, beautiful, healthy daughters, a successful career, and a beautiful home. My social media feed would have had you believe that I was absolutely in love with my life, and I was, but the whole truth was that I was in love with my husband, and my kids, but not myself.
I happened upon a free online tool called the Year Compass that helped me reflect on the previous year and asked questions about the year ahead. That workbook was such a wake-up call for me. I worked through the reflection of 2016 with increasing disappointment. Any area of significance was centered around my children, my husband, or my job. The big events in my highlight reel were not my own.
I was a cheerleader on the sideline of my family’s lives.
I had dedicated myself to supporting their care, their education, their work, their hobbies, and their endeavors; there was no harmony. It’s not lost on me that my realization came at a time when my youngest daughter, two at the time, was becoming less dependent on me. I didn’t know who I was if I was not mother and wife. I had no goals of my own or independence, and I wasn’t growing in any way.
My husband recognized a shift. He knew I was unhappy, but I couldn’t explain to him outside of bursting into tears about every two to four months when the weight and monotony of doing everything for everyone else became too much to bear. When that happened, it felt like I was blaming him for not carrying his fair share of the load when it really had nothing to do with that at all. In reality, it was simply that he had his own personal goals, he was successful, he was growing, and I was accommodating his need for space to do that. Had I been working towards anything for myself, I know that he would have made the same adjustments for me, but I wasn’t.
I was absorbing everyone else’s needs, believing that their fulfillment would lead to my own.
I would love to say that this discovery was like turning on a light switch, but it wasn’t. It took months of work. I dug into personal growth and development books. I discovered podcasts. I mind-mapped and journaled. I worked on communicating my own needs, asking for help or space and time for myself. Over the course of the next couple of months, I stumbled around trying new things: I enrolled in a painting class, a cooking class, and I started practicing yoga again. And then, about a year later, I discovered writing. Or, I should say, I rediscovered it.
When I was young, I read voraciously and chronicled everything by writing. I had lost my connection to these two areas of joy.
Finding writing again has created such a shift for me. I created a blog. I submitted writing pieces to other blogs. I became a contributing writer to this blog. And I discovered how my words can give me meaning, how I can add value by sharing my stories, and how my words allow me to connect with people on a different level than I had been experiencing.
Perhaps you have a proclivity for crafting, or you enjoy cooking and creating new recipes. Maybe you have another unique skill or talent. There are a number of ways that you can express yourself, find something that gives you fulfillment and joy, reignite your passion, and bring harmony back into your life.
When you rediscover your value and your worth, apart from mother and wife, you begin to feel whole again. When you rediscover this feeling, you make time for it. You have your own thing; your husband and your children have theirs. One does not carry more weight than the other and making sure we each get our piece of contentment is a study in harmony.
There is no balancing motherhood and self. You cannot balance your career and your children. You have to prioritize them, and then understand how to make them work in harmony.
On certain days, and in certain situations, one will have to come before the other. You can’t do it all, and you can’t have it all. You have to be exceptionally tightfisted with your energy and what matters to you. The rest of it will fade into the background; as long as you’re successful in maintaining what is important to you, you’ll feel like you’re ahead of the game.
Motherhood is not about balance. It’s about harmony; how all of the pieces in your life, those values that you prioritize – yourself and your passions included – work together.