For Moms (& the rest of us): Balance is a Moving Target

I have come to an “aha” moment in the past year.  When I originally thought about my goals for my practice, I came up with this: I wanted to help my patients live a more “healthy, balanced life.”  That was my first website (  My blog round-up feature is still called Mid-Week Balance.  But what I have realized is that balance is a moving target.  For those of us living in the real world, balance doesn’t quite look like this:

For those of us living in the real world, balance often looks more like this:

For most of us, actual balance starts with a wobbly, full-body effort and then only lasts for brief moments before we are back to wobbling.

As Mother’s Day approaches (and I had the privilege of catching a bit of the excellent #ppdchat Tweetchat about the challenges of Mother’s day for moms with postpartum depression and anxiety), I’ve been thinking about the pressure that the drive to get “balanced” can create.  And I think that this pressure is actually counter to the entire principle of balance.

For most people, on any given day, you are more likely to spend time out of balance than in it.  You’re focused more on your kids than on your housework–or vice versa.  You’re focused more on your job than on your health.  Your illness has demanded your entire focus and you can’t think past your next doctor’s appointment.  You’ve just survived a crisis, and it feels like all of your attention is still on managing the fallout.

So, if that’s true, maybe we need to rethink what balance means.  I would love it if the moms among my readers (and the rest of you as well–since struggling with balance applies to dads and non-parents as well) took a moment to answer these questions:

  1. What are the top five most important things in my life?
  2. What are the top five things that use up my time?
  3. How well do these lists match?
  4. If there’s some mismatch (there was for me!), what can I do to readjust so that my time reflects my values and priorities?

Okay, do me a favor.  If you have just done the list exercise and you’re feeling some anxiety (or if you read the questions and didn’t do the exercise and you’re feeling some anxiety), please stop right now.  Take a nice gentle breath in and slowly breathe out.  These four questions are about some big stuff.  I’m not asking you to turn your life upside down right this minute.  What I hope that you do is answer the questions, compare your lists, and begin looking for small ways so that, over time, your second list can look a lot more like your first list.

Sometimes, just stating your priorities and values can be a big step towards helping your use of time match them.  And sometimes, you may need to weed out a few distractions.  Mostly, on this Mother’s Day weekend, I hope that you can be gentle with yourself about the moving target of balance in your life.


Image Credit: Photo by (aka Brent) via Flickr
Video Credit: Video by ExpertVillage via YouTube


8 thoughts on “For Moms (& the rest of us): Balance is a Moving Target

  1. This is wonderful advice. I keep trying to live my life in more balance and yet I’m not being very successful in doing so. I will be making this list. And who doesn’t need to weed out some distractions? Thanks for this post!

    1. Nancy,

      I think that many of us are trying to reach balance–and feel like we’re not being successful. That was part of what inspired this post. I wanted to try out the idea of balance as something that is a journey more than a destination. I hope that the list is helpful in focusing your journey!


  2. Ann,
    Once again you have simply and clearly articulated a big one. Thanks very much. I haven’t done the list exercise, but I hope to. I know that for me it is difficult to be honest about how I really spend my time. I try to fool myself by telling myself that I’ll fit everything in, and I hate making choices. Thanks for the challenge!

    1. Carolyn,

      I think that you make an important point. Sometimes we dodge assessing our time and our priorities because we want (or expect ourselves) to “do it all.” Making choices, even healthy ones, can be very hard. That’s actually a topic of an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned.


  3. Hi Ann,

    Your description of balance as a moving target is helpful – and I love the photos you chose! I’m a working mom, and people talk about “work-life balance” like it’s something you can achieve, a target you can hit. Perfectionist me gets upset when I don’t hit that target. As you’ve said, though, what defines balance changes as circumstances change. Thank you for the reminder to be gentle on ourselves!

    1. Rachelle,

      From one working mom to another, I think that our “perfectionist selves” do tend to get triggered by the cultural idea that balance is a destination. I’m glad to hear that the post helped remind you to be gentle.


    1. JoAnn,

      I really like that image–it does a lovely job of conveying the movement that most of us experience in our quest for balance. 🙂


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