LIVING OUR BEST LIFE OF CONTENTMENT
By: Michelle Rouse Fox
I was at the bar today with my 4 year old daughter and by “the bar” I mean Target. Another mama friend and I have dubbed Target as “the bar” because we kinda like the sound and humor of our possibly having an issue with going to “the bar” too often! Also, when the storekeepers know your name and the exact brand of wine you like to buy (yes, another amazing thing about living in the South, you can buy your wine at Target) then you might as well call Target “the bar”...and for the record, they know HER name and HER brand of wine, I’m clearly not going often enough! So back to my point...the 4 year old was pleased as pie when I let her purchase a teeny tiny LOL doll ball for $4.99. Fast forward to our trip home where I stopped into the local convenience store where she began to pitch a fit because I wouldn’t buy her a soda because according to her she was dying of thirst and I would not buy her candy because she hadn’t had any all day (shame, for sure) and I would not buy her food because she was starving (I’m the worst mother ever). I thought to myself how quickly I had fallen from Queen Mother to Cruella De Vil in less than about 8 minutes. Yet how often are we just like my 4 year old daughter? Our life is full of good and great things, yet we quickly want more and become not so content. Even as adults we want everything and we want it when we want it. How many times have you felt like having a full blown toddler meltdown when you realized you weren’t pulling off the career, parenting, amazing social life (as in real live people, not social media life) hobbies or any number of the things we wish we could fil our lives with in almost perfection.? I say almost because we typically understand that we are just human after all. Yet, we still get frustrated and find ourselves wanting more of what we think we SHOULD have.
I’m not a big fan of the phrase “work/life balance” in fact I kinda hate it. My reason….because the word balance creates all sorts of negative feelings. Balance is usually unattainable and it’s for sure not sustainable for any valuable length of time. Trying to achieve balance creates anxiety, disappointment and a sense of failure and OH! let’s not forget the big side order of GUILT! OH my goodness! I mean it's like the daily special...I’m looking at you sisters! When we are exchanging time for one area of our life for another, the guilt at times can almost be too heavy amiright? Since I don’t believe in balance, let me tell you what I do believe in, I believe in work/life contentment! This is something we can have and we can have it in spades! It is possible for us to work and achieve our goals that are about our desires and passions and at the same time finding contentment in our life as partner, parent, friend, student, caregiver….any number of roles we find ourselves in outside of what we do as a profession. ONe way we can grasp and hold on to this work/life contentment is to start with CLEARLY knowing what our limitations are in each of these things and CLEARLY communicating them to whomever needs to know. Talk to your partner, your boss, your best friend...whoever needs to know that for whatever reason or season, your needs are what they are. Ask for their support and encouragement. We really do have to know ourselves to know that we can NOT take on the world and why should we? We must know ourselves well enough to know when we are at our best and when we can offer our best. Knowing our limitations is not enough, we must know where our lines are...our boundaries. And listen up...it is ok for your lines to be different than someone else's. Maybe 40 hours is the absolute all you can give to your career because if you give 42 hours you cut into time with your babies and this is not a burden you want to carry. And lastly, we trade in guilt for quality. If we are giving our person or our people our best attention, then the amount is not what matters. There are times when our work may take so much more time and energy than we have to give in the hours we allotted so we may need to borrow from other areas of our life and the same is true for our life outside of our work. Sometimes our work may have to “just hang in there” because your people need you more. That saying “you can’t be all things to all people” is true, but boy oh boy, we sure live as if we can be all things to everyone. Here’s the thing, its ok to try and be all things to all our people, we just have to keep in mind and in heart that we can’t be all things to all people all the time. In a perfect world every part of our life would be (gasp!) ...balanced and we would never have to “borrow” from our various categories, yet we live on earth and most of us are humans, therefore...there is no such thing as actual “balance”. When we find contentment in our work and we find contentment in our life that means we actually appreciate all of our various roles and responsibilities and the people who love and count on us without wishing it all looked different... we can actually achieve something far greater than balance. We can actually achieve peace and satisfaction. It’s completely acceptable to want more and to want change, it’s when the wanting and desiring become what we focus on or when the wanting and desiring rob us of the in the moment joy and contentment for the life and work that is happening in the here and now.