The Work (and the Seemingly Endless Pursuit of Life Balance)

I have been speaking with friends lately about finding life balance. Some questions we have asked are: Does it exist? How do you get it? Is it ok to have passions and pursuits that are internal and just for you? [Paused this to help P with her playdough]. I haven’t written here for what feels like an eternity, though I do regularly write draft posts that never see the light of day (I currently have 145 draft posts that I have begun and discarded). So rather than begin another, you’ll know by now I whinge about this topic regularly and, what do you know, there was a post about something similar waiting patiently in the wings. I thought I’d publish it today. I wrote it last year and it was originally titled The Work.

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I was listening to a podcast recently where a writer was interviewed about the work involved in writing her first novel. It took years. Writing, rewriting, editing, pausing, submitting. It took hours each day, after other work that consumed her daylight hours. It took brain space, it took energy, it took an unending amount of commitment and will. It took sacrifice of other enjoyable things; relaxation, time with friends and family, television.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this work. At first I was relating it to my own writing pursuits, and still am. Then today as I was getting P her lunch, it dawned on me: this writer was also describing the work of motherhood. The end product of her lunch was absolutely insta-worthy. Bento serves of bits and bobs. If you saw it you’d assume the person who prepared it is a mother in control, someone who’s really got things together. In reality, her lunch took me 45 minutes to prepare. P got down from her chair 11 times (yes, I counted)*. And wanted my help each time to climb back into her chair, but at the same time she wanted to do it by herself so I was required to stand behind the chair and hold her hand while she climbed up. I walked back and forth from the kitchen, trying to put together something for her to eat from leftovers in the fridge. She ate the mandarine and the kiwi fruit. She stuck her hands in the yoghurt and smeared it on the table. She threw the vegetables on the floor and didn’t eat anything else.

This was just the work involved today in one small meal, for one small person.

Now I’m cleaning the kitchen so I can cook dinner before collecting the other two from school – I tore off my dishwashing gloves to write this. P is watching an episode of Play School and I am feeling guilty as she hasn’t watched telly for days and I was feeling good about that. All these thoughts are spinning around in my head.

And I realise. To do anything we care about, there is work. There is sacrifice. There is mind-shattering frustration. In saying that, there is nothing more important in my life than being a mother. And I don’t say that to be a saint, I say it because it’s true. I knew from an incredibly young age that I wanted to be a mum, and I never strayed from that vision. And that is why I do the work, that is why I try my hardest every day. I often get things wrong (like everyone else), but I try.

The conversations I have with other women are like sneak peeks behind the scenes. At school pick up I see smiles and sunglasses and nice jeans or swish sports clothes. But I know that behind each face are the hidden moments of loneliness, of self-deprecation, of inadequacies.

Let’s share them sometimes. Because we’re not designed to face these things alone. Just like any other great work of art, motherhood takes time, it takes brain space, it takes energy. I hope you know that, and I hope it helps you not to be too hard on yourself in those sticky moments.

* Pearl can now (finally) (usually) get up and down from her chair by herself – let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief!

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