A friend recently celebrated her birthday.
On Facebook, her husband wished her a very happy birthday and praised her for always putting his needs and their children’s needs above her own. That because of this, she would have his love forever.
Reading it riled me up.
Maybe it was because, at that moment, I was feeling pulled in too many directions and negatively judging how I was showing up in life.
But I felt defensive for her. Why was he celebrating and encouraging her selflessness? Did she really want to put herself last every single time?
There are many messages on how to be a good human. Many of them are rooted in the idea that we should give 100% at all times in all directions. But a healthy life balance is essential for happiness and well-being—for all of us—not just a few of us.
Since becoming a parent over a decade ago I, on the other hand, have been fiercely protective of my time.
I remember an early Saturday morning when I was 6-months pregnant with baby #2. I was getting ready for my weekly yoga class when my husband Randy mentioned that he wanted to go ride his road bike for a few hours with his teammates. This meant I would need to stay home with our 13-month old son playing dinosaurs.
He optimistically offered up that I could just do yoga at home instead.
That didn’t feel the same to me—at all.
When I pointed out that he had already exercised 40% more than I had that month—I used to keep track of his exercise in red and mine in blue on the kitchen calendar in a desperate attempt to keep things fair—his rationale was that this was okay because he needed exercise more than I did.
He needed more exercise than I did.
And I think he believed it. He might still believe it to this day.
Regardless, it didn’t go over well. I stood my ground—my emotionally and hormonally charged argument was that if I didn’t get in some yoga that morning, I might lose it.
Knowing that we both needed an outlet, and wondering if he really did need it more, I shouldered what felt like about 100 pounds of guilt up until class started. Staring up at the ceiling, a calm spread across my body and I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be and that I’d be able to pour from a full cup again once I got home.
That day, Randy waited to ride until the afternoon. And by that evening we had both found our way back to happiness.
When we first met in our mid-20’s, Randy spent most of his free time on his road bike and kayak. In one of our very first conversations, he told me he was more of a taker than a giver.
He’s always been clear on what he wants and doesn’t apologize for it.
Today he still prioritizes self-care, although he’s more of a giver than he’ll admit. He makes time for the things that matter most to him—regularly playing sports with our now 9 and 11-year-old boys, doing more than his share to make sure we have healthy, satisfying food in the house, and reading each evening before bed. He’s healthy, fit, and just joined an adult soccer league. He doesn’t shy away from hard work, but he’s very aware of what long work weeks will do to him and makes sure to recover when he spreads himself too thin.
He’s actively creating the life he wants to live.
And he very much likes the balance he has.
But for most of us, balance can feel elusive.
Up until recently, I was trapped in a story that I didn’t have balance. I told myself that there weren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things I wanted to do, and this felt chaotic and heavy.
Then I saw that Facebook post that triggered me and in my next session with my coach I mentioned that I wanted more balance.
She asked me a simple question.
What does balance look like for you?
I paused for a moment. I had spent much more time thinking that I didn’t have balance, versus what balance actually was.
And then I spoke from the heart.
I defined it as leaning into a sense of purpose during my day and serving my clients fully, getting out into nature and moving my body regularly, having fun parenting with my husband, going to our boys’ soccer games, walking with my oldest in the evenings and sometimes playing backyard croquet with my youngest.
And then it hit me, I had balance.
I was doing all of those things, just not at the same time or even in the same week. And that’s okay. Because balance can be a shifting state and I know that I can always trust myself to get back to wherever I need to be. That is, as long as I take care of myself.
Maybe you want a better life balance yourself?
Here’s a simple place to start:
- Get really clear on what you want and what you yearn for. What does balance look like for you?
- Differentiate the sentences in your head. Challenge any thoughts that start with I have to/should/need/I don’t have a choice so that you can create time and space for the more empowering I want to and I get tos.
- Give yourself permission to create clear boundaries. Start saying no to the things you don’t want to do. Boundaries are for you so that it’s clear to you (and everyone else) that you own your life and the way in which you’re going to move through it.
Want to be a good human?
Well, first, you already are a good human, and second, it’s okay to bow out when you need to. You don’t have to do it all, all the time. Be both the giver and the taker.
Now I’d love to know, what do you do to create a better balance?
About the Author: Heather Aardema is a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach living in Colorado with her husband and two grade-school boys. You can find more of her essays focused on growing healthy and living fully at RootofWellbeing.com.