"A balanced life is often ridiculed as impossible--a goal that many have abandoned because it makes us mere mortals feel bad when we can't achieve it."
This is the opening line from chapter 3 in our book, Equally Shared Parenting. It is an acknowledgement to the common media perspective that the pursuit of balance is a joke. With all the job pressures, kids activities and otherwise hectic pace of life these days who can afford the luxury of pursuing balance?
But wait a minute. What other ideals should we toss aside just because they aren't easy to achieve: equality, peace, love? We're not ready to give up just yet! Yes, we agree that pervasive perky tips to find balance are not particularly helpful, but hopefully we are ready to take a more serious approach. Nothing worth having comes easy. You want equality? Try sharing each of the main areas of your parenting life with your partner -- honestly and deeply -- not to achieve some arbitrary division of responsibilities but because you believe in the value of walking in each other's shoes every day. You want peace? Try existing amicably with that unreasonable neighbor or ornery coworker, and seeing the beauty in his/her presence. You want love? Try treating your spouse as the most important person in your life. If any of this sounds easy, you are a better person than either of us.
When it comes to balance, we have heard from numerous equally shared parenting couples that the first step is to hold onto the dream. The dream of a balanced life is different than the fantasy of 100 percent unharried days. It is of a life in which one has enough of what really matters -- things like meaningful work, adequate income, time and space with our children/spouses/families, time to breathe and give to others. And holding onto this goal can help shape reality through a myriad of decisions. How much money do I need to be happy? Do I need more training to obtain more job flexibility? Do I believe that our children need to attend the best schools to be successful? How big does my house need to be to make my family comfortable?
We honestly don't believe there is a right answer to any of these questions but we also don't believe that balance will just happen (or never happen) regardless of the answers. We must own our dreams and walk confidently towards them -- step by step, inch by inch. For parents who aspire to balanced lives as a couple, the goal here is a worthy endeavor summarized in the last lines of that same chapter 3 from our book: "By balancing your life, in concert with your equal partner's balanced life, you both get breaks from the occasional crazy days in any role. You share the load, the joys and a full life in which -- by your own definition -- you each have it all."
Again, if you think this is easy, we salute you. Otherwise, we recommend persisting. As far as we know, each of us has only one life - the dream is too good to throw out with a laugh, and too important to ignore.