Motherhood: The Elusive Balance
If, like me, since becoming a parent, it’s shifted a large bulk of the way you use media and social media. In the years before I was a mum, I would have spent much time looking at things like fashion, bags, make up, and checking out café reviews so that I could hunt down some great pastries to nibble on the weekends.
After becoming a mum, the newborn phase was spent Googling everything under the sun from how to stop the baby from crying to how many hours of sleep should my baby be getting. As the years have gone by, my mummy style has evolved and these days I’m less into “fixing” what’s “wrong” with my kids and more about hearing what other mums have to say about their experience. Not necessarily to compare, but simply to know that I am not alone in my struggles.
One of the YouTube mummy channels I watch often is AmandaMuse which centres on the life of a Canadian mum, Amanda. She does a variety of videos, from lifestyle, vlogs, make up, and motherhood style videos to cleaning and just a good old fashioned sit down and chat over a cup of coffee. She lives in Canada; however, she did spend several years living as an expat in Penang. Her two kids were born in Malaysia. Her YouTube channel AmandaMuse has over 50,000 subscribers. When I contacted her about using her video “I call BS on balance in Motherhood”(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPoY2gzAaiw), as a springboard for this story, she agreed, as I knew she would, because Amanda is all about mums helping mums, empowering women, keeping motherhood real and inspiring us to just brew that cup of coffee, take a moment for ourselves to rant and get it off our chests, and then getting on with it.
In the video, Amanda talks about how busy her life is, and wonders about how she’s going to make it all work between her career and her role as a mum to two young children. With so many things going on, she said that it’s about prioritising what needs to be done first and figuring out what can be left for later. Pick and choose. She talked about how modern parenting and the tendency to hover over our children meant that a lot of the times, we are tied up doing things that we could actually let go of. It’s about having realistic expectations, re-evaluating our lives, finding ways to make our situations better so that we live our best lives.. To her, “balance” is not the right word when it comes to handling motherhood. It’s about reprioritising: it’s about shifting things around if they can wait. There’s another side of motherhood and that’s about not forgetting about yourself, and remembering that it’s ok to put yourself up there as a priority.
Is balance even possible in motherhood? Maybe as Amanda suggests, it’s not about achieving balance at all. The word balance implies equilibrium. That if you give some, you lose some. By going along with this popular culture mentality, are we doing ourselves an injustice? Or should we try and shift our mindsets away from this. Maybe it’s not about balance but prioritising. The typical week doesn’t even follow the “balance” idea; there’s five work days versus two days of the weekend. Perhaps you don’t even get Saturdays off.
If you look at a typical work day, you know that the morning is a blur of getting yourself and kids ready. Then you’re out the door and you spend hours in front of a computer or in meetings or meeting clients. By the time you get home, you’re hungry, knackered and just wanting to relax and have some family time. You might steal some moments to scroll through Instagram or Facebook on the sly but even then you feel a little guilty about using your phone while your children are there. You put your kids to bed and then you might have some housework to do, or other household matters to attend to. How much time would you really have of “me time” on a typical day? The mere idea of ever achieving any sort of balance between motherhood/work and finding some time for yourself is not even possible.
So let’s switch our way of thinking and say throw the idea of “balance” out of the window. Let’s say you have an hour to yourself of an evening. Now let’s say you’re going to prioritise yourself during that one hour. You’re only ever going to get those small windows of opportunity, so savour them to the max. As bartenders say, “what’s your poison?” DIY spa at home? Netflix and cheese till you fall asleep on the sofa? A good work out? Building your own legacy?
Why is this discussion important? At the end of the day, on a superficial level, nothing changes. By reading this article, what can you as a reader stand to benefit from? Tomorrow morning, you’ll still get up, and as a mum at the breakfast table, you’ll be stuffing kaya toast into your mouth while wiping up your kids’ crumbs and spills and hoping your pencil skirt doesn’t get stained. You go to work. You go home and you spend the majority of the evening putting your family’s needs before yours. You may… or you may not… have a small gap of time to just relax before you go to bed and start it all over again the next day.
The media already does women a great disservice by continuing to perpetuate certain highly unrealistic portrayals of motherhood and womanhood. It was only less than a year ago that for the very first time ever, one feminine hygiene company decided to push the boundaries of portrayals of realism by using red liquid on a pad instead of blue. The media hype was insane. Why should this even be an issue? We all know that blood is red. Why have we been shown blue liquid for years? It’s ridiculous. Perhaps the concept of balance in motherhood is simply another cog in the conspiracy.
There is no balance in motherhood. It doesn’t exist. So to feel exhausted and stressed everyday and then think there’s something wrong with you because you’re stressed and not getting any balance in your life is going to make you feel worse.
Set yourself up right. It’s about taking those really little moments here and there in your day and making yourself the star of your show right there and then. Whatever your poison is, I’ll drink to that. Cheers!
Janice Zheng is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. Born and raised in Singapore, she has also lived in Vietnam, China and Australia. She has written and edited across a variety of genres including hard news, feature articles, technical and specifications writing and press releases. Her coverage of a 2009 Australian oil spill disaster and its impact on the marine environment earned her a nomination to the Professional Online Writers Guild. In 2013, her family moved to China for her husband’s work. She joined the expatriate women’s volunteer-based society and wrote prolifically for its print publications and contributed to other expatriate magazines. Since her return to Australia, Janice has turned to writing and blogging about parenthood.