The Meaning of Motherhood Balance

As I started researching for this article, I soon realized that the word “Balance” in the motherhood world is not a very popular one. It simply doesn’t play well with some mothers; it seems like an unattainable goal, that has the potential of hurting more than helping women to succeed. The single concept of “Motherhood Balance” can literally provoke anger and frustration in some women.

Consider the following comments from a mother in the article Finding balance in Motherhood is a lie “The fact is, we cannot have it all and perpetuating the lie that we can have it all and find balance is detrimental to the emotional health of the modern woman. Trying to achieve this falsehood leaves mothers feeling guilty and inept. Arguing that moms can reshuffle their hours of “free time”, and they will find a harmonious mosaic balance is laughable. Being a mom is complicated, unpredictable, stressful and unbalanced and to say otherwise is promoting an expectation that mothers can’t meet.” When I read this phrase I literally got goosebumps. This very same week I saw a post on social media from a mother that also got me thinking about the “balance” concept; this beautiful mother said in her post that after 2 years (I suppose the age of her kid), she can finally sit and have a cup of coffee. And then, the expected reactions of other mothers, who feel identified, refreshed, and gleeful with that perspective… finally taking a break!

I took a couple of days off before finishing writing this article, because I couldn’t find the answers I was looking for. Perhaps, I was expecting to find some hope, that this concept of “Balance” was somehow attainable… a real possibility. And then, I also looked at myself, a woman without children, who is constantly trying to juggle several tasks at the same time, while expecting to be successful at them all. And yes… I constantly burn out. And as I see how motherhood is pictured by many women as this incredible sacrificial stage in life, I keep wondering if I am ready to step up into this new and according to some women, very difficult world.

There is an undeniable resistance from some women to embrace the typical concept of “Balance” in motherhood, and it is understandable. In western society, women are expected to play different and even opposite roles in life, while being successful at them all. And additionally, we are expected to achieve a state of “Balance”, where everything is supposed to flow in a well-organized manner. Realistically, women (with or without children), don’t live in a system that supports this type of ideal. Therefore, if we still want to talk about “Balance” as a real possibility, we will have to re-define this concept, giving it a more reasonable and healthier meaning.

The rejection of a balanced life is often associated with feelings of guilt, experienced by mothers who feel the “need to choose” between their children and another important situation, or task. The common result is to feel unsatisfied, no matter what direction this decision goes. Some mothers live in a constant cycle of guilt and regret, feeling that somehow they are “missing” something. Or trying to internally justify decisions that deep inside they don’t make wholeheartedly. The best way to achieve balance in decision making is to understand that there is no way to achieve perfection. Sometimes a mother needs to choose spending time on self-care, or any other activity that is not necessarily correlated to her child, and that is ok. Sometimes even this kind of decisions can benefit the entire family.

Another obstacle into achieving balance is the overglorification of motherhood. It is simply this concept that a mother has to be always sacrificing something, that a mother is an omnipresent and almighty being that has to resolve all issues, clean all messes, calm all cries, and do it all by herself. A sort of  lonely “superwoman”, that was supposed to be born to become a caregiver. Women are supposed to be “mothers”, therefore, to be “good”, and this may sound old fashioned in this modern society, but it remains in our DNA. As Theodore Roosevelt said once on American Motherhood, “The woman who is a good wife, a good mother, is entitled to our respect as is no one else; but she is entitled to it only because, and so long as, she is worthy of it”

The overglorification of motherhood has contributed to a less balanced life for women. Mothers live in a very demanding society, that is not designed to support the incredibly challenging tasks they are supposed to accomplish. The article from the Washington Post: Mommy, the martyr: How the overglorification of motherhood hurts us all, goes deeper in this perspective, “As mothers, we are not martyrs, nor should we expect ourselves to be. We are doing a job and engaging in a relationship and loving as best we can. Is being a mother hard? Of course. It is brutally hard. But so is being a father or caring for a sick parent or battling breast cancer or serving overseas in the military.[…] Have I put my children’s needs first? Of course. But not always. My children are, after all, part of a family in which everyone’s needs are taken into account. Obviously, children need more help, protection, and guidance than the adults in our family (i.e., my husband and me), but that doesn’t mean that my children’s needs are the only ones that count or that they are always the priority.”

I still love the idea of becoming a mother at some point in my life. I think that it is by far the biggest responsibility that a human being can take on. But I also believe that if as women we need to re-define the idea of balance, perhaps into being more present, learning to accept and receive more, and adding more quality, rather than quantity to our lives. It is important to accept that balance doesn’t necessarily mean to have “at all”, but it means instead enjoying wholeheartedly what we have, and the conscious decisions we make every day.  Re-defining the concept of balance can help us build a more sustainable motherhood system, for ourselves and future generations.