You can’t have it all (but you can balance quite a lot)

I’m reading a rather terrific book right now called Equally Shared Parenting. It’s based on the idea of creating a life with your partner that allows for as much balance and equality as possible, in whatever ways you choose to define them. It’s about bucking traditional gender roles – which are generally just as unfair to the men who are expected to work and sacrifice time with their families as they are to the women who are expected to stay at home and sacrifice their careers and creativity – and it’s about designing a better lifestyle that works for your and your kids.

That said, it’s not a set of easy answers, and it does involve its share of sacrifices. Equally shared parenting isn’t about “having it all”; it’s about having enough, in terms of your home, your family, your career and yourself as an individual, to make you feel like you’re living a balanced and well-rounded life.

It doesn’t push a lengthy set of rules and regulations, and it doesn’t tell you how to raise your kids. Much like Under Pressure, which I recently discussed in another post, it shuns aggressive and obsessive approaches to parenting, and it advocates a more relaxed and flexible approach to your family and your daily life.

“One might argue that a balanced life is a mediocre life,” authors Marc and Amy Vachon allow. “If you devote yourself to experiencing it all, you never get to fully master any one aspect. You are left knowing a little bit about a lot of things and doing none of them very well, right?

“Life is full of pros and cons, sacrifices and benefits. If you choose to pour your time into researching theories of relativity, you may become the next Einstein (or not), but your decision will surely guarantee that you won’t be America’s next top chef. In this respect, we truly can’t have it all – and ESP won’t solve this problem. The balance afforded by ESP gives us well-rounded parenting lives and prevents either partner from sacrificing a fun life the moment a child is born.

“Although the world needs individuals who are able to devote their lives to singular missions – to be our presidents and baseball hall-of-famers – their decisions do have consequences. The personal consequence is mediocre (or nonexistent) balance. The wider loss is the chance for their partners to be everyday equals. ESP awards you with a wonderful life – one in which you can experience many things in smaller doses, and be in a position to give enough to your job, to your children, in service to others, and to yourself. It gives the same opportunity to your partner. With a balanced life, we can have it all – just not in extreme doses. To us, that’s anything but mediocrity.”

It’s a terrific philosophy, and one that appeals to me as a parent and a person alike. I’ve never been very good at “doing one thing and doing it well,” and I think there’s a lot to be said for living a multidimensional life that still allows your to prioritize your role as a parent. I’m learning a lot from this book, and I’d recommend it to anyone out there who’s interested in a similar approach to parenting. You can learn more in the meantime at

What do you think? I’d love to hear from parents who have tried to strike this sort of balance in their own lives, and I’d love to know what sort of successes and failures you’ve had along the way. Even if you don’t have kids, I’m sure you’ve got your own stories about struggling to balance your work, your family and your personal life. Feel free to sound off in the comments.

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