Balance is Bullshit

Originally published by The Belle Method in The Purple Fig


When I was starting my fitness company I was dating a guy who constantly said, “Babe, you need to find more balance.” It always drove me nuts.

(I now realize what the poor guy was trying to say, but it’s taken about 7 years.)

At the time I was apprenticing for my Pilates certification, teaching aerobics in every corner of the GTA, paying off school debt and rehearsing dance until 1 am with my performance troupe.  It didn’t leave much time for couch snuggling, movie watching or eating meals together at a table (protein bars on the 401 in my Jetta were more convenient.)

I tried to find “balance”, as it were, and oh the guilt! Needless to say, the relationship didn’t work out.  I resented having to find “balance” between love and work– it was more that I wanted to love my life. In my twenties, loving life meant devoting myself to creating a job I was passionate about, paying off my debt and spending nights rehearsing aerial dance tricks with an ensemble of crazy Cubans. No, seriously.

The concept of work-life balance is bullshit. First, it presumes that work is in opposition to life.  Work is a fundamental part of life and our identity. Who we are and what we do, often merge.

Second, the concept sets us up for terrible guilt.  When you’re at your son’s soccer game, you feel guilty that you’re not answering email.  When you’re at your office, you feel guilty that you’re not baking perfect cookies for your kid’s bake sale.  You can’t win. Should I feel guilty for training clients at 6:30 am every Saturday while my guy misses out on breakfast in bed? Short answer: no. I work these longer hours to take more vacation. This March we’re trekking through Asia for 3 weeks.

I used to feel guilty about the Saturday morning thing. I’d come home from work at 2 pm to see him watching football on the couch. Instead of my usual charming self, I’d get annoyed that he hadn’t gone grocery shopping, scrubbed the bathroom and detailed the car while I was working. Basically, I got bitchy (gasp!). Enter: the epiphany.  When I feel torn between two things (work and love), I feel guilty. The guilt leads to resentment. Then everything goes to shit.  I decided to stop trying to “balance” my Saturdays and banish the guilt. It’s amazing how much nicer weekends have been since then!

Sometimes we just need to do what serves us. That might look like getting a massage on Sunday afternoon instead of attending an acquaintance’s baby shower (online gift cards = best invention ever). Throw guilt to the curb and get yourself a facial while you’re at it!

Balance is bullshit when you expect everyday to look like 8 -10 hours at work, 8-hours of sleep, a session of sex, a clean house, a home-cooked family dinner and an hour of Yoga.  You can’t do everything, please everyone and stay a well-adjusted (read: sane) person. It’s okay to let the laundry pile up all weekend and drink an extra glass of merlot while watching reruns of True Blood. Oh, and let’s stop comparing ourselves to that mom who does school drop off in full makeup with a fresh manicure. She has 2 nannies and a night nurse mmkay?

My mother has a magnet on her fridge that really articulates this point beautifully.

“I can only please one person per day. Today isn’t your day. Tomorrow isn’t looking good either.”

So what? So you need to please yourself. Pleasing yourself starts with accepting yourself. I find the more accepting I am of myself, the more giving I am to others.

Remember, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

So the real trick is learning to be present in whatever you’re living. So when you’re working, work. And when you’re loving, love. And when you’re eating, eat.  Guilt is a useless emotion that we should banish! That is the only way out of conundrum, the bullshit of work-life balance.


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