Balance or Not, You are Normal

Dear Debra: I ordered pizza for dinner for my kids twice this week-and last; the house is a wreck, I brought home a mountain of work last weekend and barely made my daughter's school play.  What's wrong with me?  Does everyone else have their act together?

Here's the truth that no one tells us, especially glib work-life balance evangelists: Once you get out into the world of work (and even before that-in college, for example) you should just expect that your day-to-day life simply isn't always going to flow smoothly.

You have to cede a certain amount of control in your life-particularly if and when you have kids.  And the older we get, the more evident it becomes that you have to accept that things are not going to be even all the time.  Things are going to be lopsided and messy-and that's normal.  Leslie Alderman, a magazine editor, author, and full-time working mom of a toddler and a teenage step-son, described to me her own journey of discovering how this model works better in her life: "For instance, this week, I have a couple of [work] things I have to do during the night, and I'd really prefer to be home in the evenings to see my son, because I don't see him during the day, and so I know it's going to bother him those nights when I'm working late.  But you know what?  Two nights every once in a while is okay.  So I just have to say to myself, "Okay, that's what this week is going to be like-it's not going to be a balanced week."

Some days, you're going to feel like, "S__t!  I'm so overextended."  That feeling can be extremely frustrating-until you say to yourself: You know, things are just always going to be kind of out of balance.  And once you do that-once you expect at least a little normal life chaos-acceptance takes over.  And here's the irony: once we begin expecting and accepting imbalance, that mindset paradoxically guides us to periods of-guess what?-balance.

You're normal.  I promise.  We all need to hear that sometimes-especially in this stressful, uncertain economic environment.

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