I’m not the first person to ever say this, and I’m confident that I won’t be the last, but here it is anyway: balance is a myth.
More critically, it’s terribly misunderstood. As we talk about it in Christian circles, this elusive thing we call “balance” seems to mean everything in our lives getting equal emphasis. We seem to think that we are balanced if we don’t over-emphasize any element in our lives, never leaning too much in one direction or another. But this would only work if nothing in our lives ever changed. In reality, as any slack-line or tight-rope walker will tell you, staying upright means adjusting to constant changes. If the wind blows in from the left, you have to lean just a bit harder in that direction to stay on the line. If you get heavier on one side (maybe because a really big horse-fly landed on your shoulder?), you have to lean just a bit more in the other direction to compensate.
The other problem with the way we so often talk about “balance” is that it assumes we’re standing still, rather than moving forward while remaining upright. And really, that’s the goal, isn’t it? To stay on the line, to stay upright, to stay in the game. We’re not trying to stay immobile. We’re trying to move forward in spite of the things that conspire to keep us from advancing. And that means that sometimes we have to lean into some things harder than others for a season. When things are really pivotal at work for a while, we have to lean into them a bit more. And that means that our families are going to get a little less emphasis than we might like for a bit. But only for a bit. When that season passes, we have to intentionally lean into our family more, perhaps clocking out a little early for a while or cashing in some of those PTO chips.
If our goal is to give everything equal emphasis, we’ll never give anything the emphasis it really needs at the time it most needs it.