Photography Credit: eKate Photography
I make no secret of the fact that I’m adamantly opposed to Donald Trump. I’ve not really thought much of him over the years, until he held the national stage hostage as of August 2015. I have however, from time to time, followed Ivanka Trump. She’s done several interviews in some high profile magazines.
While I don’t know that I can relate to her or even admire her, a couple of years ago she had a comment about work life balance that really stuck with me. She is absolutely coming at this from a perspective of extreme wealth and privilege that few can emulate, but I think the core message that she’s attempting to convey is really valuable, simply for piece of mind.
In the Business Insider piece she stated that a work-life balance is impossible and that you can’t truly have it all. But before you get all depressed about yet another high profile, successful woman telling us that our dreams are impossible, Ivanka Trump is actually taking aim at how we think about our work life balance vice actually making definitive statements on what we can or can’t do.
As I wrote in my prior post about my struggle to lose weight, balancing priorities can be maddening at times. My best tactic is to work on changing my thought process, rather than allow myself to drown in how overwhelming it feels. If I were to sit and focus on all the things that I’m not getting done, I would be paralyzed, depressed or generally unable to find happiness and joy in my days. That’s no way to live.
Rather, I work to create the mindset of not worrying about that which I cannot control. Repeating this mantra and working hard to practice it and live it, goes a long way in easing my mind. Part of that is probably my personality and then part of it is a commitment to continuously reinforce those thoughts.
But what I find additionally helpful is actually Ivanka’s piece of advice about viewing work-life balance.
In the article she talks about how it’s not really a game of balance. She openly admits that she doesn’t try to balance work and life. She argues, in my mind correctly, that “a scale is only in balance for a brief second. Inevitably the pendulum swings”.
What she’s saying here is that you’re never actually balancing anything. She’s saying that life is a series of competing priorities that simply revolve to the top and then once dealt with, are placed or moved to the bottom as required. Sometimes work comes first. Sometimes fitness comes first. Sometimes the baby comes first. Sometimes your partner comes first. Sometimes the housework comes first.
Of course, this assumes that you are getting the appropriate amount of ‘life’ that you want and the appropriate amount of ‘work’ that you want over time. Flexibility and time are elements of a privileged life. But a good analysis as to how you’re spending your time, what needs to be done and what can be done is a critical element in gaining perspective.
The other week, I had to leave for a doctor’s appointment and missed seeing my baby in the morning. I spent the day wrapping up a project and got home with just enough time to get changed for my workout session at the gym. I missed my quality evening time with my baby. On that day, my health came first, then my work came first and then my fitness came first.
Was I sad that I missed my precious time with my baby? No doubt. So the next day, my baby came first and I got to work a little late and burned an hour of PTO so I could play with my baby.
Maybe I’m mincing words here. Maybe that is the definition of finding ‘balance’. But I do find a lot of truth and comfort in how Ivanka defines work and life balance as being a series of changing priorities. It means that one day when I don’t get enough time to do X, I shouldn’t feel guilty. After all, as I mentioned in my last weight loss post…tomorrow is a new day. It’s a new start to re-prioritize and make up for whatever I felt was the loss of yesterday.
That perspective does a lot to quiet my mind. It can’t help everyone. There are a lot of people out there who simply don’t have the flexibility to work as little or as much as they want. But for those that do, I’d imagine it could help a lot of parents who write long blog posts about how their guilt permeates every daily interaction. Those blog posts make me tired, irritable and sad.
Take this mom for example, who wrote an entire list of all the things that she constantly feels guilty about. She discusses how many tell her to bury the mom guilt about things that she doesn’t accomplish or get done. She talks about things like not spending enough time playing with her kids, or feeling bad that she went to the grocery store without them.
Then she talks about how her plan to deal with this is just to own it and lean in to her mommy guilt because it means she cares. I mean, I guess you could make that argument, but why not try to work toward reframing your thinking and reinforcing the good things that you do? Maybe she can’t…as I’ve argued over and over, anxiety and depression can hold one chemically hostage from reality and clarity.
I personally was a victim of that and as such am a huge proponent of medication, when warranted.
I certainly don’t have all the answers with this competing priorities mess that a lot of us struggle with and I’m not even that far into my motherhood journey. But I do believe in approaching this emotional minefield with a proactive and positive mindset to the best of one’s ability. While this wasn’t possible for me when I was going through my postpartum depression, now that I am in recovery, I’m working toward controlling that which I can.
A critical eye on perspective and framing thoughts in a careful manner to ensure my peace of mind is an incredibly important process as a mother – it’s one of the ongoing tactics from therapy that I deploy during my recovery.
So now I’m going to go play with my baby…until the pendulum swings to the next task.