Balance is Bullshit

Balance is bullshit. Yep, I said it.  Driving in the car today on my way to pick up my daughter from school, I was actually thinking about the saying "having it all."  This is something that's been said about me because I work from home.  Well, I call bullshit. After coming home, working on a billion different work-related tasks, I saw this article, written by Cali Williams Yost, posted on Linked In:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/02/08/3-reasons-entrepreneurs-need-to-discuss-work-and-life-but-stop-talking-about-balance/.  And I almost high-five'd the computer screen.

I've written about my different stints as work-out-of home mom, then stay-at-home mom, and finally work-from-home mom.  I've lived  every scenario since becoming a mom 13-years-ago.  And each time, the talk is always about balance.  When I was a stay-at-home mom, I desperately missed the creative, business woman side of me.  And when I'm working, I, of course, miss concentrated time  with my kids where I don't feel on-call all the time via Blackberry. Am I happy with the path I've chosen with my career and Mod Mom?  No doubt about it. But do I feel balanced?  Nope.

When I was a guest on the Nate Berkus show, Nate asked me how I balance and I said that for me, it was about figuring out when to try to fit it all in.  If I'm tired, it's not a good time to use the table saw.  But seriously, that's the kind of juggling I've been thinking about since 2007.  If I'm gonna be "present" with my kids after school, then I have to get up early to do the manual labor stuff so I don't cut my hand off and schedule the computer work for later.  And that being a work-from-home mom didn't mean I work less, it just means I have to weave 40+ hours of work in and out of my life as a mom.  Oh, and now that I'm not building, it doesn't mean that I'm just phoning it in.  It's quite the opposite.  Sometimes I look back at life in my garage as the "simpler" times.  It was easier to manage 100 orders in a year that I had control over than growing internationally, designing new lines, and managing manufacturing from a different state.  Wait, where was I?  See...even my brain can't keep up.  Back to balance....

Do my kids lose out sometimes?  Absolutely.  Does work take a backseat sometimes?  Yep. Mainly I think we all have to get real about what it means to run a business from home, or work in an office, or raise kids 100% of every day of every year.  Or to just live and work in this day and age, period.  It's not about balance.  For me, it's more about juggling and knowing that "having it all" is not reality.  I sometimes feel like I have it all when I manage to shower.  That's just the way it is.  Clearly, someone who has a tough time fitting in a shower during the day isn't going to win the "balance" award.  And I don't want to because, well, balance is BS.


Daniel Semsen said...

I hear ya, neighbor!

Megan said...

It is so very refreshing to hear such an honest account of what it is to be a working mother. I am presently a stay at home mother and often question my own inadequecies when the mere thought of rejoining the workforce is enough to terrify me. So many women seem to "balance" it all so effortlessly and I am certain I could not, especially at this stage (two ages 7 and 4, number three on the way). I applaud you for calling bullshit on the balancing act. :)

Mod Mom Furniture said...
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Mod Mom Furniture said...

Thanks, Daniel! I know you guys can relate. Especially working from your home studio.

Megan, thank you for being so honest, too. I've been there. When I left corporate to be with my 1 year old and 5 year old and then my husband was laid off, I was nervous to go back into the workforce. It took a long time for me to decide to leave my career and about a year to get used to being a stay-at-home mom and just when I was feeling more self assured, I was hit with the reality I may have to go back into corporate. And it was terrifying and saddening. One year out and I knew I'd be taking a cut already. Not to mention my kids would go through the reverse transition again. So I did what I could to make money from home (enter MMF.) But I can say that through all the stages, balanced I was not. It's just not the world we live in and for women (and men) to perpetuate this myth that you can do it all and feel balanced is doing everyone a disservice.

Mod Mom Furniture said...

I just want to add that for me, not being balanced doesn't mean I'm not happy. It just means I'm being honest.

sally bernal said...

i completely know how that is from past and now the present! working 2 jobs, have my dad in hospital, my daughter-in-law sick and pregnant with her 4th child. trying to work and take care of everyone that needs you is so hard!! you feel guilty for not being with the family that needs you, but still want to be able to work!!! want you have said is all so true for a lot of women in this world!! that is why we have to stay strong!! good luck!! i love your work!!

Phoebe West said...

Amen, sister. This post came JUST at the right time.

pepo said...

i saw you in shark tank, and your story made me feel happy and hopeful.
Right at this moment i'm unemployed and finding the right self-employed business it's a a real challenge, so your history gave me a cheer up.
Your products are great, and i wish you all the success.

Stephanie Lowder said...

There is no such thing as balance — for anyone in the role of mother/provider/partner/leader — no such thing. And there never has been.

Anyone speaking the Balance mantra has been either: A. trying to gather themselves into sanity (sort of like transcendtal meditation, but without the time/quiet for transcendance or meditation). Or, as you say, bs... and even worse, bs for profit.

Yes, some women appear to do it all—these women have help, and a lot of it, to do the heavy lifting

Another heads-up: In terms of human physiology and brain science, there is No Such Thing as multitasking (look up the science). The brain can attend to only one thing at a time. Shifting constantly between thoughts/tasks simply disrupts one focus, and then another, and another.

I believe what women need is Permission. To be human. To get help. To say, no I cannot do that, no I cannot attend at that time, no I cannot prepare Pad Thai and confer with clients and change diapers and workout and decorate my home at the same time.

But what I can do is one good thing at a time. At that time, I will turn off every other device and responsibility and focus on the one good thing.

And if there's no one to help with the heavy lifting, then I can eliminate things on the To Do list. Housecleaning, well that might just have to wait for, oh, another decade or so. EVP, that might have to wait, but I can contribute fully at this task, this position. Volunteer at school, well, that might have to wait until I retire.

Courage! And thanks for the opportunity to reach out and support one another — girlfriends, that's one thing Always to keep on the To Do list. So happy to chat w you (my new WithIt pal) and all of you, here

Tammy Thingelstad said...

I love this post and really all of your posts. I can only imagine how crazy your life is and I say congrats for keeping up with both sides of your life, even though it's difficult. I love your furniture and from getting to know you a bit through e-mail, you seem like a stellar person as well. So, while balance is definitely BS and there is not enough time in the day, thanks for trying to get it all done anyway.