Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Balance



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.


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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.



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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!


Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


(This list will be updated October 12 with all the carnival links.)


  • Balance — Sheila at A Gift Universe has put her baby first — and has no regrets. (@agiftuniverse)

  • A Moment for Mama — Starr at Earth Mama has learned how to recharge on the run, so she doesn't miss a moment with her children.

  • Take a 30-Minute or 5-Minute Me-Break — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now discusses the merits of taking small daily breaks to maintain balance. (@DebChitwood)

  • Achieving Balance — In a guest post at the new Natural Parents Network, Heather explains how yoga has helped her find balance in her personal and family life. (@NatParNet)

  • A Stitch in (Quiet) Time Saves Momma’s Mind — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma didn't realize she needed "me" time — until she got it and had no idea what to do with herself. (@kitchenwitch)

  • Attachment Parenting and Balance — Michelle at The Parent Vortex believes that the last item on the "attachment parenting" list is both the most important and the most overlooked. (@TheParentVortex)

  • Little Breaks Bring a Little Balance — Jen at Grow with Graces finds balance - some days! (@growwithgraces)

  • Finding Balance — Are you a Type A mama? Dionna at Code Name: Mama is, and she needs your help to find balance. (@CodeNameMama)

  • (high)Centered — Stefanie at Very, Very Fine has had a spa gift certificate sitting on her nightstand since last year, a symbol of her inability to take time for herself.

  • Taking Time for Me — Marita at Stuff With Thing takes refuge in the world of books, with her daughters immersed in reading beside her. (@leechbabe)

  • Writing as a parent: October Carnival of Natural Parenting — Lauren at Hobo Mama didn't let parenting put her passions on hold. (@Hobo_Mama)

  • The Dance of Balance — Balance isn't static. It is dynamic, it is a dance, it is about keeping in touch with you. Read this wonderful bit of wisdom from Seonaid at the Practical Dilettante. (@seonaid_lee)

  • Rest Hour - a Primer — Do you get 15 minutes to yourself each day? How about an hour?! Mrs. H. at Fleeting Moments shares her tips on how to incorporate a "rest hour" for adults and kids.

  • Separation Is Critical — Only through enforced separation with the end of her marriage did Jessica at This is Worthwhile realize she should have taken time apart all along. (@tisworthwhile)

  • Bread, Roses, and a Side of Guilt. — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy isn't ashamed to admit that she enjoys a pint once in awhile, or that her daughter recreates it during pretend play.

  • The World from Within My Arms — Rachael at The Variegated Life finds balance despite her work and her husband's commitment to art through attachment parenting. (@RachaelNevins)

  • Balancing the Teeter-Totter — Rebecca is rediscovering balance by exploring her interests and passions in several different categories. She shares in this guest post at The Connected Mom. (@theconnectedmom)

  • Balancing this Life — Danielle at born.in.japan is slowly learning the little tricks that make her family life more balanced. (@borninjp)

  • Uninterrupted Parenting — Amy at Innate Wholeness has learned that she does not need to interrupt parenting in order to find balance.

  • Knitting for My Family — Knitting is more than just a hobby for Kellie at Our Mindful Life, it is her creative and mental outlet, it has blessed her with friendships she might not otherwise have had, and it provides her with much-needed balance.

  • Taking the Time — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker has all the time she needs, now her girls are just a bit older.

  • Please, Teach Me How — Amy at Anktangle needs your help: please share how you find time for yourself, because she is struggling. (@anktangle)

  • A Pendulum Swings Both Ways — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment found herself snapping with too little time for herself, and then veered toward too much.

  • Finding Balance Amidst Change — It took a season of big changes and added responsibility, but Melodie of Breastfeeding Moms Unite! now feels more balanced and organized as a mama than ever before. (@bfmom)

  • At Home with Three Young Children: The Search for Balance, Staying Sane — With three young kids, Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings knows parents sometimes have to adjust their expectations of how much downtime they can reasonably have. (@sunfrog)

  • Attachment Parenting? And finding some "Me Time" — As a mother who works full time, Momma Jorje wants "me" time that includes her daughter.

  • A Balancing Act — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes has concrete ways to help keep centered with a little one and a new baby on the way, from exercise to early bedtimes to asking for help. (@sheryljesin)

  • Aspiring Towards Libra — Are your soul-filling activities the first to be pushed aside when life gets hectic? Kelly of KellyNaturally.com aspires to make time for those "non-necessities" this year. (@kellynaturally)

  • SARKisms for Sanity — Erica at ChildOrganics has found renewed inspiration to take baths and laugh often from a book she had on the shelf. (@childorganics)

  • 10 comments:

    Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

    I agree with so much of what you say, although I found that as my baby grew older, I did enjoy more and more time not as focused on him. Though I suppose that's a natural progression in itself, as he needs me less (at 3 years old, of course, he still needs me plenty, but not as much as at 3 months). I think if you and your husband feel happy with the balance in your family life that there's nothing to "fix." I know my husband and I agreed much the same thing: that our children need us more than we need each other at this early time in their lives, and that we're adult enough to step aside (within reason) and do what's called of us as parents.

    I also sometimes have those feelings of guilt that my reading and interests are so parenting-focused right now, but you're right: It really doesn't matter. If I enjoy it, and I can still converse with people about things that interest them, it's not hurting anyone, least of all myself.

    I really like your tip to be in the moment, too, because I have that same frustration when I try to multi-task at a time my child's demanding attention. Might as well let go of the to-do list in that moment and just enjoy the time to mother!

    Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

    I felt the same way - I have enjoyed every single moment with Kieran, and I wouldn't have traded anything. As Kieran has gotten older, I have felt more of a need to do things for me - to remember what it's like to do things for myself apart from my role as a mama. I don't think anyone should feel guilty about where they are in their parenting journey - we all need different things to feel balanced - what's healthy is when we know that we need to make adjustments!

    Momma Jorje said...

    I often miss my previous opportunities to go out and socialize. I read my friends' FB pages and see they are going to lots of fun events.

    But when it comes right down to it, and I find myself wanting to do or attend something with which I cannot take my baby... baby wins. Hands down, every time.

    There is just nothing as fulfilling as just BEing with her. Thank you for your perspective of the balance IN that very thing!

    Melodie said...

    When our children are babies and we enjoy spending our time with them then we're the best parents and individuals possible I think. Our lives should revolve around our babies when they are babies. Nature intended it to be that way. I never went anywhere or did anything when my kids were babies or toddlers. It is only now that they are 3 and 6 that I actually get out. And it's wonderful, but I would have never been the person I am now if it were not for the early years of devotion.

    Sybil said...

    I also think that while your baby is so young, the focus is still very nearly entirely on them. It will decrease more as he grows! No need to rush in to any sort of separation before either of you are ready.

    I'm so glad I found your blog through the Carnival, what a sweet little family you have!

    Jessica - This is Worthwhile said...

    When your baby is little and developing he needs you every second and it feels good to provide those things. When my son was little I never hesitated to pour all my energies into him. I made a mistake, however, as he got older by not carving out more space for myself when I needed it.

    They don't call it a "balancing act" for nothing.

    Sheila said...

    That's true; definitely when baby's older, he'll need a lot less of my attention. Of course, by then hopefully I'll have another little one to lavish my attention on!

    Michelle @ The Parent Vortex said...

    It can feel really good to just totally be in the moment of being there with your kids - I think this is a big part of balance. There is a season for totally being there and a season for reaching out for your own interests too, and I think you'll recognize it when it comes.

    Heather said...

    Loved reading this. What you said is so true, and a lot of the time we are made to feel guilty that we don't "have lives outside of our children" - it's funny when I actually do get time away from my kids, I find myself talking about them the whole time anyway. I also like how you said that all those interests and hobbies we have will still be there later - sometimes I feel the pressing urge to continue pursuing certain things at the rate I did before my babies, or to pick up where I left off as if nothing had changed. It's good to be reminded that even if I don't jump right back into my marathon training (what I was doing before I found out about baby #2), I can still do it later - the opportunity is not going to disappear. Babies are only babies once, and it's much more worthwhile, and far more rewarding, to enjoy them at each stage of their lives than to glaze over it preoccupied with goals that could possibly be accomplished later, because you can never get those early years back.

    Rachael @ The Variegated Life said...

    I was at a coffee shop recently with my 2-yo Critter, and we ended up sitting near a small group of women with their teeny weeny newbie little ones, and for all the rest of the day I felt such nostalgia for the early days with my boy, when, yes, I had no idea what the heck I was doing, but I had this marvelous little guy always smack in the middle of everything, as you say. Instead of, say, running ahead of me as he tends to do now ...

    It seems to me, too, that you are happy and balanced having your boy smack in the middle of your life because it is such a rich one.

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