Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Pendulum Swings Both Ways

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.

When you have children, balance is something that often seems elusive. A place off in the distance that you can see but you're just not quite there. As parents we know we have to get there, but many times we don't. And after a while we start to feel that unmistakable heat of burn out.

I've been there several times. And sadly, the ones that have had to witness my near-self destruct crises are the ones I hold most dear. This is unfair to them, after all they are just innocent little beings. Untainted. They do not need to see their mother yelling and falling apart because she has neglected basic self-care. And my wonderful husband does not need to pay for the broken china {that I broke}.

I know there are many ways to seek and find balance. Balance may mean different things to each of us. Yet, in the end whatever it is that makes us feel like ourselves, like we are at peace, is what counts. For me {and for the particular experience I am writing about today} balance had to do with letting myself have alone time. Yes I also love spending time with my husband and I even find balance sometimes spending time with my family. However, today I am sharing my experience of how I came to allow myself some "me" time.

I often found myself putting my own care aside thinking that I just couldn't spare the time, that my kiddos needed me, that things would fall apart if I was not the one holding them together. But seriously, I was not doing them any good. At all.

After seeing myself through the eyes of my children {a mean, cranky, tired, no-fun woman they were supposed to call mommy} I said "enough is enough." I acknowledged and allowed myself to accept that doing things for myself, alone, was not selfish, it was necessary for me and for them. And I had to admit that my mom had been right {sometimes it's very hard to learn from the experience of others}. I was not going to leave them for weeks at a time to go on a fling across the world. All I needed and wanted was a few hours a week to do things I enjoy. To regain my sense of self, to feel like the whole me again.

I know this may sound overly dramatic, but it's all true and I'm sure many of you reading this can relate. When we have our children we give so much to them. We give them our bodies, our time, our energy, our knowledge, our heart, our love...we would even give them our life if we needed to.

We forget that we need to replenish the chalice in order to keep giving.

I hit my limit about the time Isaac was 6 months. I'm not saying I had not done anything at all to feel balanced before then, but it was always a little tidbit here and there {nice little tidbits but definitely not sufficient to overflow my giving bank}. There was nothing consistent that I could look forward to.

If it had been just Maddie {and Ken} requiring my giving, then I could have handled this inconsistency, perhaps for a while more. But Isaac is now in our lives and he is the most demanding little being I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. I gave {give} to him freely and happily, but I quickly ran out of stuff to give.

And so I burnt out. And I recognized that if I didn't do anything about it, quickly, I would probably start doing stuff that wasn't stuff I'd normally do {hmmm I seem to recall one day where I seriously considered doing a shot of tequila at 10am; I think the last time I did a shot was in university!}.

I started replenishing by first asking for help. I told Ken that I needed to get out. Ken being who he is, was more than supportive. Next, I needed to remember what it was that I enjoyed doing and what would be the best way to feel refreshed without spending too much time away or too much money! After putting it out there, the answer came easily: yoga.

So, about 5 months ago I started going back to classes two days a week. It felt good. No, it felt marvelous. Just me and my mat, my practice, my world for an hour and half. I quickly noticed a decrease in my stress, patience was once again one of my virtues and I could easily prevent the escalation of my temper and frustration. I was in balance.

Now having felt the serenity of being balanced, I can't get enough. When I don't get to go to my classes I feel strange and I don't like it. When you get used to being in homeostasis, and you suddenly find you are there no longer, it's all you crave! I realized how easy it was to get me time and I actually over-did it. I am ashamed to admit it, but I did. I started scheduling myself for all these amazing things I had always wanted to do. I signed up for a photography class, I planned dates with my friends and I considered attending any event that seemed appealing.

Friends, for a few moments there, I let my pendulum of balance swing way over to the other side.

But thankfully, I did not stay there long. Perhaps if I had not been an attachment parenting mommy I would have thought nothing of fulfilling all these desires for grown-up life. But the moment my daughter was born, I made a commitment to always put the well-being of my children and family first.

And it took three-and-some years for me to realize that putting my children and family first does not mean that I have to ignore myself {after all, I am part of that family too}. It just means that I have to find those hidden, gift-moments when life says, "here you go, your kiddos don't need you right now...go and replenish for they will need you again soon."

Photo credit: I got this in an email...so I apologize I can't cite the actual reference!


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)


    1. It’s so true that we do need some alone time to replenish ourselves each day! I'm similar in my need for regular prayer and meditation. That was something I could always do at home, but it made a huge difference in my life anyway. It's helped me enjoy every part of my life more.


    2. "I am part of the family too!" - love this! What a simple, true statement. We want to make sure the other family members are "fulfilled," are happy. Why not ourselves?! I am definitely at a point where I want to create that me time, but the answer you had (yoga) is not coming so readily to me. I just can't decide where I want to focus my energies. But I'm working on it!

    3. I laughed out loud at the part about the tequila. I always consider myself in trouble when alcoholism starts to sound like a reasonable lifestyle choice. There are times that the glass of wine is just a LITTLE toooooo comforting. Yoga is better in those moments, but sometimes its hard to get onto the mat.

    4. What a beautiful and moving post! Sam and I actually had a similar experience, where we shut down and focused inward during Mikko's newborn months. Then, about 7 months in, we realized we wanted some of our "adult" life back — and we added too much back in and completely exhausted and overwhelmed ourselves. It really is easy to overdo it, either direction! I'm so glad you've found the activities that keep you centered and happy to return to your mothering. It's so important.

    5. Remembering what you liked to do... I think that's the trickiest part for me! Something I'm still working on. Thanks for reminding me to think of that.

    6. It is SO easy to put ourselves at the bottom of our priorities list! For me, the stress indicator is cigarettes. When I was going through my divorce, my boyfriend (now husband) would offer me a cigarette to gauge my stress level. It has become a bit of in-joke, but a way to communicate my stress. I haven't actually smoked in some 14+ years, but when I tell him I want a cigarette, he gets the signal.

      I think we have good reason to lose ourselves in our newborns, then we all go through that phase of finding ourselves again. Trouble is... sometimes the things we found fulfilling as child-free adults don't fulfill us as parents. Time to find something new... which can be a whole new challenge!

    7. Thank you for the reminder that we are part of our own families, too. Love the way you've written this.

    8. I LOVE that last quote. Yes, fill up when you can, they (and life) will be needing us all soon. Such is the way things go.

    9. Thank you for this post! I like the image of the pendulum swinging back and forth until you find the right balance. I don't think we have found it ... plus things are always changing ... but as long as we keep moving with the changes and adjusting what seems to need adjustment we'll be doing as well as we can be, yes?

    10. Thank you all for your responces. I am happy that some of my experience is resonating with others. It's a good feeling to know we are not alone!

      Rachel-Sounds like your question is rhetorical, but I also just wanted to say that I totally think that's what finding balance is all about...about knowing how to change with the flow, but also not letting it take us under.


    Thanks for letting me know you stopped by!