How often do you practice juggling?

Today is October 5 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you practice juggling?” Those who navigate the chaos like British barrister and writer Cherie Blair understand the need to have a daily practice of juggling.


As Blair noted "I am not Superwoman. The reality of my daily life is that I am juggling a lot of balls in the air trying to be a good wife and mother, trying to be the prime-ministerial consort at home and abroad, barrister and charity workers, and sometimes one of the balls gets dropped.”

Jennifer Lynn Barnes, a mom, professor and young adult novelist best known for Raised by Wolves and The Naturals series, attended a Q&A with best-selling author Nora Roberts, where the author shared some sage advice that changed Jennifer's view on juggling it all. Jennifer posted Nora's nugget of wisdom on social media and made the following points.

First, for parents, especially working mothers, Roberts said that the key to juggling is to know that some of the balls you have in the air and 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, so you have to know which balls are glass and which are plastic and prioritize catching the glass ones.

Second, Roberts was not talking about juggling five balls. She was talking about juggling FIFTY-FIVE balls. The balls do not represent ‘family’ or ‘work.’ There are separate balls for everything that goes into each of those categories. Prioritizing the balls that are glass—picking the kids up from daycare, making sure dinner’s on the table, or meeting a deadline on a project—and not the ones that are plastic—crazy hair day at school, staying caught up on your email inbox—parents can assure there are no glass shards where their little ones are crawling around.

Finally, everyone drops a ball or two in a day, and that is pretty much unavoidable. Nora’s point is that the balls that bounce are fine to bounce. Catching the glass before it hits the floor means letting the plastic ones go. Thus, prioritizing can be the hardest part. How do you know which balls are glass and which are plastic? For every parent, it is different. On certain days, some balls are glass when maybe the next day they are plastic.

Barnes concluded her posts about the Roberts interview by writing “I think about this ALL THE TIME. I dropped more than one ball today. It is hard to drop any ball, and I hate it! But they were plastic, and tomorrow, it will be okay.”

Like those who learn to navigate the chaos, it took time for Roberts to understand how to juggle so many tasks.

Roberts began to write during a blizzard in February 1979 while housebound with her two small boys. Roberts states that with three feet of snow, a dwindling supply of chocolate, and no morning kindergarten she had little else to do.

While writing down her ideas for the first time, she fell in love with the writing process, and quickly produced six manuscripts. She submitted her manuscripts to Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance novels, but was repeatedly rejected. On that rejection Roberts said “I got the standard rejection for the first couple of tries, then my favorite rejection of all time. I received my manuscript back with a nice little note which said that my work showed promise, and the story had been very entertaining and well done. But that they already had their American writer.”

In 1980, a new publisher, Silhouette books, formed to take advantage of the pool of manuscripts from the many American writers that Harlequin had snubbed. Roberts found a home at Silhouette, where her first novel, Irish Thoroughbred, was published in 1981. She used the pseudonym Nora Roberts, a shortened form of her birth name Eleanor Marie Robertson because she assumed that all romance authors had pen names. Between 1982 and 1984, Roberts wrote 23 novels for Silhouette. In 1985, Playing the Odds, the first novel in the MacGregor family series, was published. The book was an immediate bestseller.

Blair, Barnes, and Roberts practice juggling to help them navigate the chaos. How often do you?