November 10, 2020

Balance is a Myth: Mothering in the Tension


I am no scientist, but I do know one thing- balance can’t exist without tension and movement.


Newton’s first law of motion states: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” Equilibrium, or balance, means there is no unbalanced force acting upon the object and thus the object maintains its present state of motion.

Notice, there is no presumption that anything is ever fully at rest. Even when you are resting, you are moving, you are breathing. The molecules and cells in your body are acting and being acted upon.

Reaching a state of balance or equilibrium simply means that we maintain our present state of motion.

It doesn’t mean everything stops. Balance in itself is a fluid state. Have you ever had moments that you wish you could freeze, make them stop and linger just a little while longer? That’s the beauty of them- they are fleeting. Change is inevitable.

You may reach a state of equlibrium for a moment, but with life, you can always guarantee that an unbalanced force is headed your way.

We are objects in motion, all the time. Balance, then (with respects to my yoga instructor) is constantly making tiny micro-adjustments to stay upright, to keep our footing, to keep those unbalanced forces (unexpected events) from knocking us over. To keep gravity from pulling us down.

So as mothers, what does this look like?

The myth of balance is constantly sold to us- you can make it all work! You can balance your career dreams and that dinner that needs to get on the table an hour ago! You can balance those precious moments with your kids and the time you need for yourself! Or, conversely, we are told that women actually can’t have it all. The opposing messages leave us feeling equally exhausted and discouraged.

Both of these messages do not serve women. No matter what we wish were true, we only have two hands and one mind. We can multitask, for sure, but there are questions about how this affects our brains over time. Our attention is either on one thing or another, and we don’t get a do-over. So let’s be clear about what matters to us, redefine success by our own standards, and drop the myth of balance.

There will never be a “perfect” season, a perfect day, or even a perfect hour.

But there can be perfect moments. Inside those tiny micro-adjustments, we can be adjusting ourselves. We can work toward a culture and workplace environment that is more supportive of caregivers. We can adjust our expectations and our boundaries, and start saying no to things that drain our time and energy.

And when we work, when we cook, when we plan, when we comfort, when we read stories, when we commute, when we cuddle, we stay in motion, and we remember- we don’t hold up the world. We know who does, and He hold us up as well. That’s the secret- God never asked us to live “balanced” lives. He asked us to follow Him. To be with Him. To let His grace and love be the air that we breathe. And that makes everything easier.

It's time to thrive, mama.

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About The Author

Hilary Barnett

Hilary Barnett is the founder of The New Mystique where she believes every mother is extraordinary, and typically writes the words that she most needs to hear.

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