In the earliest days of parenthood, I struggled with the decisions that new parents – especially many women – face. Work? If so, how much? Can I maintain a full-time position and be a full-time mom? Child care? If so, where and how can I trust another human to provide the care I want for my daughter? Is there any compromise or creative solution in this equation?
Adding to the complexity, I wanted to maintain a healthy, loving relationship with my partner. I wanted to stay involved in my community. I wanted to commit to healthy habits such as daily exercise. And, I wanted to stay involved in my community.
I wanted work/life balance.
Fast forward, my daughter is 16 years old. Did I survive? Yes.
Perhaps even thrive? Yes.
Did I find the magic solution and achieve work/life balance? Nope.
Today’s simplicity soup recipe shares the ingredients for the flow of life and work.
And, the main ingredient to throw out? Balance.
Instead, in our life, we need to recognize that we may not find balance, but we will find FLOW. Yes, flow. Flow of different priorities in each day, each week, month and year.
Our focus and needs change during different periods of our life. It doesn’t mean we have to live without any of the most important ingredients, but we may need to reduce or add depending on the period of our life we are in.
At some times in our life, we are able to dig into our jobs more. In my early 20s, fresh out of grad school, I was all into my work. There were not as many other responsibilities or priorities. I was in a position to give all my energy to my career.
Other times, our health needs to be our focus. For me, it was an unexpected appendectomy that reminded me that work and the company moved forward, even as I healed. And, it was still there when I recovered.
Sometimes there is a personal project (i.e. moving from one home to another) that moves to the forefront. It is okay to be okay with not being able to do everything – all at once – and for everyone – all at once.
Recognizing and being settled with the fact that we cannot do it all or have it all can bring joy. I have found that people who talk about work/life balance often seem to be exasperated.
How do I know? Been there, tried that.
Does this mean you cannot work and raise a child? Absolutely not.
Personally, I did work full time in a professional career and both my child and I are high functioning, healthy individuals. We figured it out. But, I also was able to find employers who provided me flexibility, had a supportive spouse and a “village” of friends sharing a similar journey who were able to help with care at times.
At some points during my parenthood journey, my focus on my work has taken a side seat. And there are times when I have leaned into others supporting me and my child so I can focus on a deadline or deliverable for work. I have been successful at shifting priorities, letting go and trusting in others -both with motherhood and with work – in order to keep both in my life.
Please note, this doesn’t mean that my child’s care has ever taken a backseat. Trust me, she has been well cared for. It does mean that I have recognized that I am not a superhuman and I need to be okay with letting go, stepping up and communicating what I need – both with my family and my work. Both of those things – family and work – are meaningful in my life. Of course, my family is a priority, but it is also a fact that my work has benefitted the quality of our life (i.e. a paycheck) and – honestly – my work has, and continues to, make me a better person.
I also know women who opted differently. Some reduced expenses to stay home full time with their child. Some started their own businesses to provide their family with income but get the flexibility they sought.
Again, no magic solution.
No one size fits all.
No one answer.
Each of us learned to define our life based on our needs and the needs of our family. Yes, I did put “my needs” first. It’s that lesson they share on the airline as they are going through the emergency procedures: put your oxygen mask on first. You will only be able to care for the person next to you if you are still breathing.
And so, finding joy in the journey may mean:
- Letting go of society expectations and other “norms”
- Writing your own story
- Letting one thing take precedence while the other gets the back seat for a bit
- Being okay with “not having it all”
Older and wiser, this cookbook called Simplicity Soup is learned lessons – as a parent, professional and personally. And though you may not enjoy every serving, let’s be honest about the good ingredients in our lives and the ingredients that are good for you (and the family). Even if you may not enjoy eating every serving. Kinda like brussel sprouts (I love brussel sprouts, btw!).
Eat up and let me know your thoughts.