Say Goodbye to the Balance Burden

“The balance what?” you ask.

I am referring to the burden and guilt trip we give ourselves each day over our attempt, and quite often failure, to balance all aspects (mom, caretaker, professional, student, friend etc.) of our lives.

I call it the Balance Burden and, truly, I spent my first year and a half of motherhood often riddled with guilt because I couldn’t seem to juggle it all.  It wasn’t until the birth of my second daughter (18 months after my first) that I finally threw my hands up and admitted defeat.

With the slow realization and acceptance that balance was unattainable came a sudden relief, and the mommy baggage was quickly lifted off my five-foot two-inch frame.

In the days (specifically 20 months) since becoming a mom of two amazing, extremely energetic, and willful little girls, I have learned a few things about the best approaches for me to manage my multiple roles.  I learned most of these lessons the hard way, as in coming home from work stressed about an undone project, only to be a bit cranky and short-tempered with my family followed by a sleepless night feeling downright crummy for not being a better worker, spouse, and namely mom.

Through trial and error I have discovered that these tips work for me and I hope they are of value to you:

  • Create a priorities list and re-evaluate it monthly. Take stock of what you value and write it down.  Make choices on how you spend your time based on that priorities list.  This list can change as your work goals change, seasons pass and kids’ extracurricular activities and hobbies change.
  • Take charge of your schedule.  I have been notoriously terrible at saying no. I am slowly learning the art, beauty and necessity in saying no.  Decline requests that don’t fit into your priorities list.  Say no kindly but firmly and embrace the freedom of not adding something to your plate.
  • Give your kids uninterrupted kid time. When I got home from work, I would be greeted with a cluster of hellos, cries and questions. I tried to tending to my girls’ needs, inquiring about my husband’s day, and making dinner – all at the same time. How did that work?  Terribly. Now when I come home, I devote 30 minutes with my daughters. I then chat with my husband and think about dinner. This works much better.
  • Give yourself “me” time. I am no pro at this and don’t practice it as much as I should but when I make time for myself, I am a better mom. I’m kinder and more patient and I feel like me. One piece of advice I received not too long ago was to put “me” time on the calendar. If my Outlook calendar says yoga, I am more likely to pull out my mat and work on my yoga warrior pose.

Above all, stop comparing yourself to others. Embrace and accept who we are as women, mothers, and professionals.  Unfortunately, girls are taught at a young age to compare themselves to the females around them from the classmate with the better math test grade to the supermodel on the cover of the tween magazines. This self-comparison carries itself into motherhood and we are constantly contrasting our mothering skills with those of the stay-at-home mom down the street or the VP who seems to have it all.

Stop it.  Embrace yourself in all your glories and flaws.  Your kids, your spouse, your boss only want you and no one different. Say goodbye to the balance burden and hello to you.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Maggie Tomas

Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), and Brooks Institute, a well-known film, photography, and design school where she served as Director of Career and Student Services. She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR, and Job Dig.


Lynda Rolf

Hi Maggie,

This is the first time I have ever visited a blog of any type – and somehow I was led directly to your article! I enjoyed it so – and found that I took so much comfort from hearing what you have to say. I’ve been working for a long time and have already struggled through many of the things you mention, but now face an aging parent issue that will start a new cycle of responsibilities for me within a few days, and reading your comments made me realize that I have gone through this before, but at a different cycle of life. I also realize I had forgotten the tips, tools and attitudes that will help it balance out. The written down priorities and monthly review I know will be a tremendous help. There is something about writing things down … thank you so much for your wisdom!

Maggie Tomas

Hi Lynda,

So glad you liked the article. I agree that many of the tips can be useful when taking on the role of caretaker of a parent or relative. I am glad that you have managed multiple roles before so you know that it IS possible, challenging at times, but definitely possible.

Best of luck!


Lynda Rolf

Thanks, Maggie! And continued best to you as well. These are, truly, the happiest times of your life. Its so good that you realize that and don’t miss out on the joys of motherhood – which is SO challenging with a career that you also enjoy. As I often tell others, though the years pass and their bodies grow larger, your love and desire to nurture and protect your children does not slack off one iota! Have fun with all of it!

Sophie Lemieux

Maggie, this is a great post! Thank you. A subject that I am very passionate about! I often review my priorities and make sure my life balance still makes sense to me. But it’s a never ending challenge

Nisha Raghavan

Hey Maggie, I enjoy reading your blog and thank you for the tips which I feel very true when we work at the same time manage our personal life just the way we wanted it to be. Most of us might find it difficult going through a stressful day at work, leaving it in office and be a different person at home meeting all personal responsibilities.

Andrea Ballard

Maggie, thank you for encouraging us all to drop the illusion that we can perfectly balance everyone’s needs and still take care of our own. Great post!


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