I was recently re-listening to Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes. If you haven’t read it, it’s awesome. And I totally recommend the version on Audible because her narration is fantastic and gives you a much clearer connection to her and her story. She’s funny, endearing, self-deprecating…and a wicked writer.
If you don’t know her, Shonda Rhimes is the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. She’s a hugely successful writer and showrunner, and she’s a single mom to three kids. To say she’s busy as she leads her mom life amidst her work and celebrity lives is a crazy understatement.
At one point she talks about how she’s often asked in interviews “How do you do it all?” She used to say something glib like “I’m very organized,” but she finally started to claim proudly that she gets a lot of help. But she also shared in her book something that really struck me. She said that the illusion that she’s doing “it all” is actually just that – an illusion. It is something that I think more moms need to hear on a regular basis. Even WITH the extra help, if she appears really successful and it looks like everything is rocking in one area of her life, it is guaranteed that she is failing in another area. If her show is crushing the ratings, she is missing her kids’ activities. If she is at her kids’ stuff, chances are she’s letting something else slide. What she says is:
“ANYONE WHO TELLS YOU THEY ARE DOING IT ALL PERFECTLY IS A LIAR.”
I was so grateful for this statement. I needed to hear it. If I’m playing with my kids, my house is a mess and my side business is slipping. If my house is immaculate, my kids are likely watching an iPad for longer than I feel good about. If I feel on top of stuff at work, I am probably working later hours and missing family dinners. There is no circumstance where every area is excelling at the same time. Something always has to give. And if every area feels equally mediocre, my stress levels skyrocket because I actually feel like I’m failing in every area.
But here’s the thing with balance. Think of a scale. It’s virtually NEVER level. There’s always a wobble or a lean, one side sitting higher than the other. And yet it STILL stands.It stays steady. It BALANCES. That’s the whole POINT.
As long as one side doesn’t STAY down, or the scale pitches back and forth so violently that the whole thing topples over, it’s OKAY to have one area of your life take a little less attention every now and then.
Unless you are independently wealthy you will likely have to work, probably outside the home. And you will have clean up your own home. If you have kids, they won’t get 100% of your attention 100% of the time. And if you don’t take care of your health with good nutrition and exercise, the system falls apart because you won’t be able to do ANY of it. So you NEED to find the balance. You need to let things slip and then play catch up, or be okay with a messy house once in a while. Or an hour of iPad time for the kids so you can get your workout done. You don’t need work-life LEVEL, you need work-life BALANCE. You need the ability for the scale to alternate back and forth. And it’s OKAY.
Shonda says if one part of her life is succeeding, another is failing. But try not to think of it as failing. It’s just taking a backseat momentarily. That’s what I am TRYING to tell myself, because I really don’t want to let my inner critic rise up and tell me I’m failing. That’s just mean and doesn’t help anything, it just adds to the stress.
Be kind to yourself. Allow the scale to shift back and forth. Shonda writes that anyone who says they’re “doing it perfectly” is a liar. But I would suggest if you are BALANCING things, allowing the priorities to shift when you need them to, then you ARE doing it perfectly.