What the Hell is Balance Anyway?

Before I had my daughter the idea of “balance” never even once crossed my mind…well aside for the times that I was assigned to produce (while working in network news) a piece on it, usually related women and the topic of work/life balance. You know the ones I am talking about, where you total up all of the work that (typically) mom does around the house and extrapolate a value of this work. I knew that this so-called topic of work/life balance existed and was…discussed…and I also knew I had a sum total of zero interest in exploring it.

I worked in network news, and I had always wanted to, so naturally my life was my job. And I was perfectly fine with that. I went to work at all sorts of crazy hours, all of my friends did the same, I never went more than a couple of hours without watching or reading something about the news – and that doesn’t even begin to explain my compulsive blackberry checking. When I would go to a bar, I would usually read the closed captioning on whichever news program was on. Work 18 hour days the 3 weeks leading up to Christmas to cut the end of the year piece? Sure!

I wore my sleep deprivation with pride, and would pat myself on the back for the time I was able to go a full 36 hours without one bit of sleep – and then – head out to the bar for hours, so that we could all rehash all of the coverage we had just put on the air. I will say, right before I got pregnant with my daughter I began to become aware of the fact that I may have been kicking ass at work, but I was sort of sucking at life.

Despite the fact that my sister told me around that time that there was no happiness or life in my eyes, I was hooked on the adrenaline in the biggest of ways. And that addiction is hard to break, even though my exhaustion was hitting an all-time high. But it was 2009 and we were in the midst of one of the greatest economic downturns in our country’s history – so I sucked it up.

And then…I got pregnant. Without planning to. All of the sudden there were a number of situations I needed to manage in my personal life and the conversation about work/life balance became real personal, real fast. When I had pre-term contractions at 6 months and was told that I needed to be on bed rest for a couple weeks, and that returning to the 3:30am control room shift was not going to happen, the need for “balance” was elevated to a new level of priority. Which was terrifying because at that point, I had absolutely no idea how to even work the idea of balance into my thought process. I was a single mom. I needed to earn a living, I needed to pay for diapers and bottles and child care and – well you know how long and all consuming that list can be.

But once I had my daughter, I realized that without balance and boundaries, I would be completely incapable of being the type of Mom that I’d like to be and the type of parent that I needed to be. So slowly, and with growing pains, I began to realize the importance of having a life outside of work, and now, even a life outside of work and being a mom. I never, ever, ever want my daughter to look back at her childhood and say, “My mom was tired and stressed all the time.”

It’s not easy, but my fight for balance is fueled by the fact that the more well-rounded my life is – the better Mom, sister, daughter and friend I am. Very simply put – I don’t want to suck at life. I want to have a life (which I am learning also makes me much better at my job because my brain is actually fully functioning.)

So when writer Susie Orman Schnall reached out to me last year to interview me about balance I was excited to discuss the topic with her (read the full interview here), and I am even more excited to read her new book, The Balance Project, which will be available on April 28th, but you can order it now.

Susie was kind enough to share an excerpt from the book with us.

by Susie Orman Schnall

Katherine adjusts her earpiece and returns to a phone call that she had put on hold while we were in the elevator.
I am happy to have a moment to breathe. Between handling the incessant calls that came in for Katherine today and managing her social media accounts (tweet, retweet, favorite, post, share, like, comment, begin again), and every other little thing that I do to keep her life—personal, professional, and otherwise—in order, I realize I’m praying at the altar of busy and lighting incense to cover the stench.
I’ve been thinking about what I want a lot lately. Both as it relates to my future with Nick and my career. The Nick part seems simple. We’re happy being Nick and Lucy. Sure he’s frustrated that I’ve been so busy lately, but he’s building his career, too, so he understands why I have to do what I do. Lately, though, when I think about my career, I get a nervous stomach. This running around, putting out fires, existing only so that Katherine’s life runs smoothly is not what I picture when I envision a perfect day in the life of Lucy’s career. But I’m paying my dues. Head down, hard work, no complaints.
“Okay. So,” Katherine says, shifting her position so she can look me in the eye. “How is everything going?”

Well, my boyfriend is upset with me because not only am I missing the dinner celebrating the biggest thing that’s ever happened in his career, but I’ve also been terribly neglectful of our relationship. Taking proper care of your balanced life is preventing me from having any semblance of balance in my own. I haven’t gone for a run in months. I have been going to bed way too late and getting up way too early to keep up with everything at work. My face is a swarming mess of angry, stress-related zits. I haven’t had time to do laundry, so this is the fifth time in the last two weeks that I’ve worn this whitish blouse, if you haven’t noticed. I’ve been eating spicy Cheetos for dinner. And things are so busy at work that I never feel like I’ll ever catch up.

“Fine,” I say cheerfully. This is my job after all and I can’t afford to lose it. Rent. Cable. Spicy Cheetos.
“I know I ask a lot of you, Lucy, and I hope you know that I appreciate you more than I can even say.”
“I know. It’s all good, Katherine. Don’t worry about me.”
“Okay, but if things start really getting out of hand and you need me to bring in reinforcements, I can do that. My life might be out of control, but your life doesn’t have to be.”
“Got it. Work-life balance and all. Thanks, I’ll make sure to let you know if I start taking up the bottle due to my high stress levels and lack of time to eat.” I smirk. She knows my act by now.

You can order The Balance Project on Amazon!