Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Centered, Finding Balance
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they stay centered and find balance. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
This post is written for the Carnival of Natural Parenting. I always mean to participate, but keep missing the deadline. Last month's was on homeschooling; I can't believe I missed it! Especially as this post totally would have been perfect.
This month, though, the topic is more difficult: balance. The description at Hobo Mama reads:
For parents who practice attachment parenting, it can be tempting to center our lives around our children — but it's not healthy. This month we're going to talk about taking time for ourselves. Here are some possible topics for you to discuss: How do you take time for yourself? What passions do you pursue? How do you find the time and balance it with being a parent? And if you aren't taking time for yourself, what will you do to start? Think about how you feel when you do not get adequate time for yourself versus how you feel when you do.
The first sentence made me stop and re-think. Maybe this wasn't the carnival for me. Because I do center my life around my child. Take a look at how this blog has changed since Marko was born. It's gotten to be baby-baby-baby all the time. My blog reader is categorized Mom blogs, Parenting blogs, Breastfeeding blogs, Birth blogs, Homeschooling blogs, Catholic blogs, and Food blogs. 90% baby-related. I am that mother, the one who puts her baby down for a nap and then goes to watch videos of him on her computer because she misses him already.
The weird thing is, I really like it this way. I don't feel conflicted or like I'm losing myself. I feel like I'm finding myself.
In the same way, John and I decided before we got married that the advice they always give to "put your spouse first and kids second" didn't make much sense to either of us. Instead, we decided to put first the one that needed us most, and not to neglect either of them for too long even if they didn't need us urgently. In other words, of course we weren't going to stop spending time with each other because of the baby (and why would we, when dates for the three of us are so much fun?), but neither were we going to neglect the baby to have "couple time" when he really needed us.
Aside from those caveats, though, I really do think balance is important. Balance between John's needs and the baby's needs; balance between playtime with baby and activities I choose. I don't consider following my own pursuits to be opposed to being with the baby, though. I just bring him along to my job, or, as I am doing right now, rock his bouncer with my foot as I write a blog post.
I'm sure if I didn't do those things "for me," I would be frustrated. Like before I started working, I did feel a little isolated from being at home all day. Yet I wouldn't have taken up a job if it separated me from my baby. I'd prefer being isolated from other adults than being lonely for my baby.
I guess that's what it comes down to: my two closest friends are John and the baby. My interests are cooking and the baby. I don't think I'm narrow-minded, but I just don't feel drawn much outside this sphere.
In fact, the one thing that I could use more balance in would be to be on the internet less. I discovered years ago, while babysitting my younger brother, that few things are more frustrating than trying to multitask with a baby who really wants to play. I would be sitting on the computer and he'd be pulling at me, trying to get me away from it. And I'd go with him, do the bare minimum, but the whole time I'd be annoyed and frustrated because I wasn't doing what I wanted to do. When my parents would come home, I'd say to myself, "That was a poor use of my time. I didn't get anything done."
So the next time I would leave the computer turned off and just play with Joseph. He really bloomed when he got someone's 100% attention. He was tons of fun. I would get down right on his level and see things the way he saw them. We'd roam around the neighborhood just looking at stuff. I no longer felt conflicted, frustrated, or torn. I felt good about the way I spent my time.
Sometimes, when you're a mom, trying to be everything -- mother, wife, homemaker, blogger, and whatever is expected of you to do to appear a "fulfilled mom," one who "has her own interests," you end up more frustrated than when you put it all to one side and find the joy in the moment. Of course there's time here and there for blogging and for cooking and for this or that interest, but it's okay to let all that take second place to the baby. It will all still be there when the baby's grown.
So, in the end, of course you can't be everything. You can't be everything to that little baby who grows up to be an independent kid. You can't keep up the pace of your pre-baby life either. But that doesn't mean you have to lose who you are. You will always be the specific kind of mom you are because of the specific kind of person you were before you were a mom. And the kids will remember those interests of yours that you taught them.
But maybe, just maybe, putting baby right smack in the middle of your life is okay. If you're like me and (secretly) do it too, you shouldn't make that one more thing to feel guilty about. Just enjoy the moment with your child(ren) and let things happen. So long as they have a happy mom, that's what they'll remember.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated October 12 with all the carnival links.)