A few years ago, I found myself without a sitter for my two sons, who were about five and seven at the time. I was scheduled to teach my Yoga class at Utah State University, and I figured I could set them up with a movie in the back of the gym while I taught.
About 35 minutes into a 50 minute class, they began to get a little restless and started to wander around a bit. They didn’t leave the room and they remained silent, so I figured all was well.
A few minutes later, the fire alarm went off.
I immediately scanned the periphery of the space and found my two kiddos, standing stone cold and beet red next to the little red box on the wall. One of my students rushed to the main office to inform them of the false alarm, but it was too late; if there is an alarm, the fire department is required to respond. The building we occupied was huge. Numerous gyms, two swimming pools, locker rooms, offices, classrooms…everyone had to be evacuated, fully dressed or not.
In the end, everything was fine and my boys learned what that little red box was all about.
I learned that sometimes the work-life balance can be….messy.
Messy, but do-able.
It doesn’t matter if you work from home, away from home, or if your primary work is being a stay-home parent. It takes balance to make it all work, and balance is never at a still point. Balance is about shifting, moving and compromising; it’s about the give and take; the picking up and letting go. It’s about knowing how to care for your work and care for others; but also care for yourself.
Here are a few ideas that might help make it easier to juggle it all:
Trust. This is a big one. You’ve got to cultivate the trust that, as a family, you’ll be there for each other. You’ll hold each other up and fill in where there’s a need. Trust that life will support you and things will work out every.single.time. …even if it’s not exactly the way you had imagined or hoped it would. Trust that the work will get done, the house will get clean, your children will be loved, and at the end of the day, you will rest and be ready for another one.
Be Present. In order to maintain some small amount of order in the chaos, practice being present. Whoever or whatever is in front of you deserves your undivided attention; and your attention might bounce from one thing to the next as rapid as a ping pong ball, but each moment deserves your unbroken focus and awareness. If your mind is scattered between twenty things at once, you might end up feeling fragmented and broken, and whatever or whoever is on the receiving end of sparsely scattered attention will only be partially fulfilled. Give all of you to whatever is in front of you, even if it’s only for three seconds, and both you and the receiver will be felt, heard, seen and appreciated.
Fill up. Another key element to juggling the work-life balance is to fill your own cup. That means you must do whatever you need to do for yourself to feel replenished. The moment you feel drained or depleted, that’s your sign that it’s time to refill. For some, that might mean taking the entire weekend away from it all; for others it might mean taking a few minutes to be alone or going out for an evening with friends. Figure out what it is for you, and do that thing. It’s not selfish, it’s essential.
Forgive. Do I practice all of these tips, all the time? No. That’s why one of the most important things to remember as you juggle work and life and everything in between is forgiveness. Forgive yourself daily, because you won’t always get it right, and you can’t expect anyone else too, either. Forgive yourself and forgive others, because ultimately, we’re all in this together, and you’re doing the very best you can.
Add joy and pleasure. Add joy and pleasure to your life like it’s your job. Seriously, it is as important (if not more) than anything else you do. This one is hard, because there’s this idea floating around that pleasure and joy only come after the work gets done. If that rings true for you, untangle yourself from that belief system. You don’t have to go crazy or do anything elaborate; just do one tiny little thing each day that brings you pleasure—don’t wait until you feel like you’ve ‘deserved’ it, because guess what? You’re alive, and you got up this morning, so you already deserve it. Go do something wonderful for yourself. Right now is a perfect time for that.
At the end of the day, balancing life can be messy, but it’s also a fun and crazy ride full of twists and turns, ups and downs, growth, surprises, and moments of pure magic. The never-ending mystery of it all is worth every second. Enjoy the ride.
…and for a quick glimpse of my magical, messy life as I prepare to teach my yoga classes, take a look at my latest Instagram post. You can check it out right here.