Balance. Work-life balance. Leading a balanced life. A life is hanging in the balance. This cereal is part of a balanced breakfast. We hear advice about balance all the time, particularly in this balance-challenged holiday-crammed time of year. It’s everywhere. So why is achieving balance so hard?
December is affectionately known in my family as the Great Never-Ending Month of Birthdays and Also Christmas. Along with several aunts, uncles, and cousins, my parents’ birthdays are in December – the 21st and 30th, to be exact. (Fun fact – my mother and my husband’s mother share a birthday, which leads to a yearly awkward dance of who’s planned what first.)
This year my parents will turn 60 and 65. They also celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary, and my dad retired – all momentous occasions that deserve celebration. So, at the beginning of the year, I thought about planning a surprise party for them. Midway through the year, I thought about planning a surprise party for them. In October, with the prodding of some relatives, my procrastinating self was thrown into full party-planning mode. Being the dutiful daughter, I called together my siblings and an aunt and uncle and we got to work. Except that I assigned nearly all of the tasks to myself. Evite? I’ve got it. We’ll do potluck – I’ll coordinate it. Decorations? I’ve got the time. Dishes? My in-laws have a rental company. Cakes? I like to bake, so I’ve got it.
I sent the Evite. I managed the RSVPs. I fielded questions. I organized potluck menu and sign-up. I ordered the dishes, silverware, glasses, mugs, and chairs. I planned out a beautiful banner to make. I searched out the best cake recipes – cherry cake for dad, and gluten-and-dairy-free chocolate for mum, and cupcakes for extras. I thought up fun ideas for cake decorations. I planned the extra dishes that I would make in case it seemed like there wouldn’t be enough food. Then, the beginning of last week found me knocked out with a bad cold and a bad case of anxiety. I’d forgotten to get to my doctor to refill my prescription. My postpartum depression symptoms were dragging me down. I was low.
And I thought, where’s the balance in this?
So I asked for help. And, what do you know, people were there to help me. One of my younger brothers and his wife made an amazing banner and an extra appetizer. My aunt brought two kid-friendly main dishes. My two other brothers drove to the party location with me to unload all of the dishes, cakes, balloons, and chairs. My amazing husband, a true Renaissance Man, iced chocolate cupcakes on the morning of the party as I whipped up the vanilla icing. (And then, because he did such a good job, he did the vanilla ones too.)
So, what does it mean to have balance?
It means letting go of the responsibility for everything and sharing the load.
It means not having to be perfect.
It means whipping up cake toppers out of scrapbook paper and cardstock, because you forgot to get the numbered candles at the store.
It means enjoying the party so much that you don’t worry about getting the Pinterest-worthy shot of the two cakes and two batches of cupcakes that you worked so hard on.
It means being okay with the fact that your toddler ate exactly 1.5 white buns and the icing off of one cupcake, because you can get some better food into him tomorrow.
It means letting your kids stay up until 10:30 (when your in-laws take them home to bed) because it’s a party, and it doesn’t happen every day, and the experience of tonight is more important than the potential meltdown tomorrow.
It means having a drink and visiting with friends and family, because enjoying the party to honour your parents is way better than doing dishes. Dishes can wait.
It means enjoying the things that are going right, instead of worrying about the things that aren’t.
In the end, the complete shock on my parents’ faces as they walked in the door, the delight when they realized all these people were there for them, the huge smiles as they recognized guests who had travelled, and the tears in my mum’s eyes as she spotted her dearest friends – these things were more than enough to balance out any of the hard stuff.
What does balance mean to you?