When I prepared to go back to work after having Levi, a lot of the blog posts, books and articles I read talked about balance.
One of the terms that I heard a lot was “work-life balance.”
Essentially, the premise of work-life balance – as I understand it – is that work can’t be all consuming.
Since most of us are consumed by work, we need to bring ourselves back to the things that are important – things like family, rest & our spiritual lives – by creating a balance.
If you read time management strategies & parenting books, there are all sorts of formulas and plans that can help you do this.
Charting out your time, realigining your priorities and making a schedule are a few of the most common suggestions.
Anyone who knows me and my type-A, strategizing, planning self knows how excited these ideas would have – and still (in theory) make me.
Give me a plan, give me a spreadsheet, give me a calendar, and I am in my glee.
Work-life balance? Sounds good!
A formula to make it happen? Sounds great.
Sign me up.
However, here’s what I learned after approximately 3 hours back into my new life as a working mom:
Toddlers aren’t really into balance.
In fact, they aren’t into at all. They are the most adorable, fun and self centered creatures on the planet.
Balance isn’t exactly on their radar.
Levi wasn’t enthralled by my schedule that slated he would go to bed at the same time every night so I could casually relax with a cup of coffee and work on blog posts after supper.
He wasn’t torn up at the idea of having a nap while I prepped wonderful healthy meals- he’s more into trying to destroy everything in his path & making Mommy laugh while she’s trying to implement some form of discipline and chop up veggies.
And to be honest, I wasn’t all that into balance either.
I love my job – but I can’t just turn off Mom-brain when I arrive.
I want to watch cute videos from his sitter and think about what we’re going to do on my days off this week.
The same was true when I got home – I love spending time with Levi, but sometimes a great idea pops into my head that I just want to jot down before he goes to bed – not after.
That’s when I was introduced somewhere along the line to the idea of rhythm.
I’m not sure that it was from one particular source but from a number of them.
There was Frank Bealer’s Myth of Balance that I heard about on a podcast.
There was Crystal Stine’s amazing book Holy Hustle.
It came along at just the right time.
The Facebook group that I started with women in a variety of stages of life to explore the idea of rhythm brought a lot of wisdom and things to think about.
And so, I threw the idea of balance out the window.
And started to think about rhythms instead.
Rhythm, as I understand it, starts with the premise that everything in life cannot be perfectly balanced. Balance eventually gives way to chaos, stress and frustration.
Take the example of balancing on a tightrope. It may work for a while, but it is exhausting. I’m sure no tightrope walker would say they are their best self when walking on a tightrope – they are focused on just one thing: achieving balance.
Rhythm then, is the idea that no person can be perfectly balanced. I cannot, physically, emotionally or spiritually, allocate the exact same amount of resource and time to every area of my life every day. I can’t work for 8 hours then spend 8 hours of quality time with Levi – every single day. Extreme, but you get the point.
Living a life of rhythm then means figuring out what your life looks like right now, what you want it to look like, what’s important to you, and what season you’re in, and working with it instead of against it. It doesn’t mean that you work all the time, or rest all the time, but what it does mean is that every single day doesn’t look exactly the same or perfectly balanced.
Let me give you an example.
Easter Week just ended – and in ministry, it’s a crazy week. There are more services, more people, more prep, more ministries. It means more early mornings at the church, more late evenings, and more takeout.
Balance would say – Regardless of what this week entails, I need to keep a balanced schedule and routine.
Rhythm says – I know this week will be busy. I will give myself grace, and adjust the things that are lacking in the days prior and the days following.
What that means is that I took Monday & Tuesday off work to spend quality time with Levi after a busy week.
What that means is I’m okay with wearing my pyjamas all day this Friday instead of running around doing all of our errands.
What that means is I fully lean in to the ministry moments during Easter, and fully lean in to the moments with Levi following.
In case you think this is crazy talk, I actually think it’s biblical. Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, talks about his yoke being easy and his burden light. The Message Translation puts it this way:
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I love that. I think that’s exactly what finding rhythm is all about. It’s not forced, it’s not guilt-driven, it’s driven by grace.
Finding rhythm allows me to embrace the fact that every day and every week may not look the same, but there is grace for that.
My life surely doesn’t look like yours, and the routines and patterns that allow my family to thrive, may be different than yours. But that’s okay.
Because it’s about grace. It’s about embracing the life you have, and making the most of the season you’re in.
With that in mind, here are 5 practical ways I’m learning to do this (notice I said learning, because I’m far from perfecting this):
1. Recognize the season of life you’re in, and be okay with it. I am the mom to a toddler – and in addition to that, a toddler who doesn’t sleep well and has a LOT of energy. That means that I cannot do some of the things other people in ministry or a similar position to me are doing. That means I’ve had to say no to some great opportunities. That means I work less hours than I did before I had Levi. While I wrestled with this at first, I’ve had to learn to just embrace it.
2. Simplify where you can. For me, the key to having an unforced rhythm has been simplifying some areas of my life that were once more elaborate. Decorating for holidays? Simplified. Grocery shopping routine? Simplified. Morning routine? Way simplified. This has even meant working on physically simplifying – the amount of clothes I have in my closet so getting dressed is less stressful, the amount of toys that come into our house, and the amount of clutter on my counter. This is still a work in process, but simplifying has made rhythm come so much easier.
3. Let some things go. If you get on Instagram and look up #momlife or even #reallife, you will feel horrible at your present situation. It’s just a fact. You will feel like you have to work out, cook elaborate meals, meal-plan, have a Pinterest-worthy house at all times, eat and clean naturally, be dressed perfectly, and be a #girlboss. It’s just not possible. I’ve had to learn to let some things go – and be okay with that. That means I vacuum less. That means Levi’s room is not Insta-worthy (so don’t expect to see it) as much as I may like it to be. That means my social media posts don’t have perfect lighting or editing. I’ve had to decide what’s important to me, and let the rest go.
4. Rhythm doesn’t mean you don’t have a routine. Routine has helped strengthened our rhythm. It’s more of a guideline than a law, but it still helps. We do have a normal routine of getting ready, getting out of the house, going to bed, etc. – and it works most of the time. When it doesn’t, that’s okay. But, routine has helped our lives!
5. Plan ahead and be prepared! Rhythm only works if you have an awareness of what is on your calendar and what’s ahead. Sure, I know unexpected things come up. However, being planned up and prepared help bring margin for those unexpected times. In my earlier example of Easter week, I knew what was coming, and was able to allot my time at work accordingly in the weeks prior. I was able to prepare mentally for what would lie ahead, and even make plans for and with Levi. Having a plan helps prepare for this.
Friends, this concept of rhythm has helped me tremendously. Holding less tightly to balance has made a difference for me – and has helped me embrace the life I have – with its mess, chaos and unpolished edges – and work to thrive within it. I hope you can too!
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