Balance is Impossible?
Steve Martin hosted Saturday Night Live on 10/23/76. This was his opening line:
"To, uh, open the show, I always like to do one thing that IS impossible."
I remembered this piece of trivia while reading an article on CNN a couple of days ago. The author shares her desire to find balance in her life with the following statement, "I didn't say such balance is difficult to attain. I didn't say it's rare. I said it's impossible." Ultimately, she encourages women (she doesn't mention men at all) to pay attention to the roles they are playing and the cultural expectations they are trying to meet. She offers this advice as a path to being at peace with a hectic, unbalanced life.
I really like her approach to paying attention to roles and cultural expectations, but her premise about balance is flawed. I understand that life can be hectic at times, maybe even most of the time, but that only precludes the possibility of balance over a short period. Just last week I had a classic unbalanced day with the kids. It included a messy failed attempt at potty training, a large bottle of hand lotion dumped all over multiple rooms and surfaces by my son while he was supposedly napping, a scary fall off playground equipment that luckily didn't require a trip to the hospital, several trips via bike and/or car for dropoffs and pickups, several calls looking for a last minute babysitter, food shopping, a phone interview, and two children that wanted very little to do with Daddy, followed by Amy being away for the evening with a work obligation.
What a day! By Martha Beck's analysis, this is parenthood and I'd better make peace with it - accept that this is my lot in life and skip trying for a balanced life. I say, "No way." I'll make peace with it and go one better - I'll love it. But I won't settle for my life being one day after another of this chaos any more than I'll settle for it being endless runs of 12-hour days at work. By sharing the childraising with Amy, and also sharing the breadwinning and housework, we both get breaks from the occasional hairy days in either role. And lo and behold...the impossible becomes possible.