Motherhood. Synonymous with the juggling of balls. Many balls. The needs of others, the requirements of day to day life as well as the needs of ourselves as an individual. While my husband can disappear upstairs to attend to his work, his absence barely noted by our two daughters, I find myself at the complete other end of the scale. Shadowed, even to the toilet by both my daughters, and now also our puppy.
As I battle my path through an always growing to-do list of beds to be made, school drop-offs, washing, cooking, grocery shopping, floors to be cleaned, clothes that don't put themselves away I find my mind drifting to my other list. The list of to-do's for the work that I love doing. The work that I am pulled to do. That brings me personal fulfillment and enjoyment.
With only 24 hours in my day, and at least six to seven hours of these having to be devoted to sleep (damn that) I find myself wondering can I really have it all and accomplish it with the level of success that I desire to. And if so, at what cost? To myself and others?
Yes, I have the same hours in my day as Beyonce, but let's be real, I don't have her chef, housekeeper, personal trainer or personal assistant either.
Historically, it has been considered that women must choose between their art/their work and motherhood if they desire to do anything of significance. You seemingly can't have one without compromising the other.
But in the era of "having it all," is it now possible for women to pursue their own creativity and have a successful career, remain an engaged and fun mom, have a happy family life while still getting enough sleep in your day? Am I being unrealistic here?
What have I come to realize about balancing motherhood with a continued and undiminished passion for my creative pursuits and work is this.
Work/Life Balance, It's A Myth.
While some days you might achieve the perfect balance of work, mothering and sleep often it's not going to be the case. Rather than trying to have it all worked out embrace the juggling act. You don't need to be a perfect parent, or have the perfectly tidy and styled home to be a great mom and a good wife. In fact freeing up some of your time to do what you enjoy, and to explore your own ideas and inspirations (creative or not) might actually be the best thing that you could do for yourself. Create space to do what most brings you fulfillment and enjoyment, even if it's just in the background of your day or in the evenings.
Stay In Touch With Your Creative Playful Side.
If it's important to you then that's all that matters. Whether it's a hobby that creates no income or one that makes a little cash on the side for you. Keep doing it. It's so easy when we are busy and wrapped up in child-rearing to only focus on the routine and responsibility of life but where is the fun in that? Life works better when you are enjoying it, so make regular time for what you enjoy doing. Even if what you enjoy doing seems frivolous or unimportant to others who are pursuing a more 9-5 traditional paying job.
You Can't Run Off the Smell Of An Oily Rag Forever.
If the only time you really get to spend on your work is of an evening once your children are snuggled up in bed then you need to prioritize your own sleep. Be honest with yourself. How many hours of sleep do you need to be at your best? For the ones you love, for yourself and for your work. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Aim for balance. While there might be times where you might be up late to meet a deadline or to complete something that you were so involved in that you just couldn't put it down, also allow yourself the chance to catch up on sleep too. Have an early night when you need to or take the occasional day-time nap if you get the chance.
Ask For Help.
This is a given for all situations, but one that we can all be terrible for not doing, including myself. Put simply don't try to do it all. If help is available to you, even for just a few hours a week, to look after your children, tidy your home, to cook you a meal than say yes before it becomes an urgent overwhelming need. Be inventive about it, you don't necessarily have to pay for help. Child share with a friend on alternate afternoons for example.
Despite having less time to myself since becoming a Mother I'm also now more productive then I have ever been before. Choosing to make a priority the pursuits that bring me enjoyment and fulfillment has made me not only a happier and more rounded version of who I am, but has also made me a better Mother. For me that is more than worth the juggling act that is Motherhood and pursuing what I love doing. When I do have moments of feeling tired, of feeling overwhelmed, I realize that ultimately there's nothing better to be tired over.
Image credit here.