Not too long ago, I came across a Twitter thread that really stuck with me.
In the thread, @jenlynnbarnes described a time when author Nora Roberts was asked about balancing work and kids:
“The key to juggling is to know that some of the balls you have in the air are made of plastic, and some are made of glass.
If you drop a plastic ball, it bounces, no harm done.
If you drop a glass ball, it shatters.
You have to know which balls are glass and which are plastic, and prioritize the glass ones.”
The thread continued:
“Nora was not talking about juggling five balls, she was talking about juggling fifty-five balls.
The balls don’t represent ‘family’ or ‘work’.
There are separate balls for everything that goes into each of those categories like ‘Deadline on Project Y’ or ‘Crazy Sock Day at School’.
Her point (…) was not to prioritize kids over work, it was that some kid stuff is glass and some is plastic, and sometimes, to catch a glass work ball, you have to drop a plastic family one, and that is okay.
And the reverse is also true. Sometimes to catch a glass kid ball, something at work has to slide, and that is okay, too.
If you are juggling 55 balls, some are going to drop, so you have to focus not on broad categories, but on the glass balls.”
This is a clear and tangible way to explain the many things a mother deals with. Deciding if the things on our to-do list are either a plastic or a glass ball is a simple way of prioritizing.
Sometimes you have to make it to that early work meeting, so the kids will have to skip breakfast and have a granola bar in the car on the way to school. Other times, your child will need some quality time with you, so the dishes in the sink will have to wait.
As I was telling some friends about this newfound analogy, one of them mentioned something that made it even more interesting. She said that we all have different balls, whether they’re plastic or glass. Everyone’s priorities are different and what represents a plastic ball in my life, might be your most sacred glass ball.
Maybe for you, cooking a healthy meal for your family every night is a glass ball that you’re not willing to drop, and that is okay. Maybe for someone else, this represents a plastic ball and will order takeout in order to catch a glass ball, and that is also okay.
Perhaps having dinner with your family every night is one of your glass balls, or maybe it’s that business trip, or making it to your child’s recital. For someone else, their glass balls might be going to the gym, putting in extra hours at work, and limiting their kids’ screen time. No one can do it all, and we have to be okay with the fact that we will never be able to successfully juggle 55 balls at the same time.
It’s interesting to see how different people prioritize certain things over others. Some things give us no option, like deadlines at work; some other things we decide to commit to, like volunteering at school. Sometimes we’re even carrying our own baggage of glass balls, and we set our priorities based on our life experiences or the way we were raised.
In motherhood, all these balls that we’re juggling are just moments in time. They change, things change, life changes, and some balls don’t have to remain plastic or glass forever.
We should find people whose glass balls are similar to ours, and lean on them.
We should find people whose plastic balls represent our most precious glass balls, and learn from them. We should listen to their whys and their struggles, and share ours.
We should give ourselves some grace and don’t try to do it all, moms.
Something’s got to give… and that is completely okay.