How we loved the idea that were having it all, family, career, aspirational lifestyle, whatever we wanted, just by keeping all those balls in the air at once.
There we were, striding through the workplace in our natty trouser suits, bulky cell phone in one hand, crying baby in the other, desperately trying to keep everything in balance and moving smoothly in the right direction.
Three decades on, not much has changed. Smarter phones, yes. Smarter lives? Not so sure.
The metaphor of juggling is still relentlessly applied to the lives of women in particular, and we don’t stop to question its helpfulness.
Juggling effectively requires relentless concentration and highly-tuned physical coordination. One wrong move, one moment’s inattention and whoops, oh dear, there goes the baby, or your health, or your chance of promotion.
There is no time or space for thought or reflection or mistakes. In the desire to balance everything, we lose sight of what matters. We forget why we are performing this circus trick, day in and day out.
We congratulate ourselves for fitting things in, squeezing in activities, stealing a minute here and a minute there, just about managing, just about keeping those balls in the air.
Could it be that we are patting ourselves on the back for sabotaging our lives?
There’s no avoiding the fact that this is a girl thing. Nobody asks the fellows in public life how they manage to juggle their commitments. We know how they do it – there’s an army of jugglers running backwards in high heels helping them.
Of course we all have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Of course we all have conflicting needs and commitments. But you can decide where you want to put all that effort.
There are some balls you can drop, and others you want to keep spinning around. But you need to choose. Choose what really matters to you. Say goodbye to the ones which don’t. Watch them roll right away and out of your life. Now you can deal more easily with the ones you want to keep.
Balls to drop
The perfectionism ball. Don’t even try to do everything perfectly. It’s not smart, and no one cares.
The yes ball. Life will be so much better when you don’t say yes to everything.
The I-can-do-it myself ball. Of course you can, but at what cost? Ask for help.
The I should ball. Let it go. Who says you should? Decide if it is something you actually want.
The I-haven’t-got time ball. You have time. Choose how to use it.
Letting something go is not only a great relief, it’s an essential part of a fulfilling life. Just feel the relief and the liberation when you let go of something which causes you stress.
Better hang on to the baby, though. And your friends. And your health. And so on. But don’t juggle them, they are worth more than that. Just enjoy them.