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.
Ready to explode. Off center. Not myself. Confused. Out of focus.
When the balance is lost, it’s lost. And, let’s face it, it’s easy to lose. It’s easy, no matter what fills your days to lose balance, and it’s tough to regain.
As a parent, a stay-at-home parent by choice, I have struggled at times with keeping balance. I have struggled to keep my sense of self while doing the demanding work of parenting a little one. I have struggled to carve out time for myself, time to pursue interests and dreams because it is so easy, too easy, to get wrapped in and wrapped up in this parenting gig. So easy to fall into the rut and routine of changing diapers, going to parks, doing laundry, cooking meals and cleaning up after them.
Each time I struggle, each time I lose balance, I have to take time to reflect and refocus. I have to try my best to identify why the balance was lost in the first place and how I can keep from losing it again. Each time I lose balance, I get better about holding on to it. Each time I lose my sense of self, I become more vigilant about protecting it. And, in the process, I’ve learned a few things. A few things that help me, and may help other parents (stay-at-home and not), protect the delicate balance in their own lives.
First, I don’t let my days revolve completely around my little one. Yes, he is amazing and interesting and I love to hang out with him, but I am not an entertainer. I do not believe that it is my responsibility to entertain and amuse him during all his waking hours. Sometimes I do. Sometimes we have activities planned, outings to go on, projects to make. Most days, in fact. Other times, well, he’s responsible (and has been for a good long while) to amuse himself.
This is good for me, it allows me the time to get things done throughout the day. I’m not waiting on nap or bedtime to complete all the household tasks and to eek in a bit of me-time as well.
This is also good for him. It gives him a chance to explore his world unfettered by my involvement. It gives him a chance to witness, and participate as he is able and willing, in the day-to-day tasks of life. He watches dishes being washed, meals being cooked, laundry being hung, floors being swept, sweaters being knit, pants being sewn. He takes it all in, and then starts to help. Now, when I’m hanging laundry he often comes over, grabs a piece from the basket, gives it a good shake to rid it of wrinkles, and puts it on the drying rack. He is learning how to be a member of our family and he is learning about the work it takes to make a household run smoothly. These are important lessons that would be missed if all those tasks were completed, as if by magic, while he snoozed.
Second, to keep balance while parenting you must use each moment to the fullest. Before parenting it was easy to waste away entire days and evenings watching television, sleeping in, taking long showers, doing absolutely nothing. Now that I’m a parent, while I still have the same 24 hours in a day, I find that I have so many more things to do in those hours. If I’m careful to use each moment wisely, I find that I have more time, get more things done, and feel less frustrated.
I always keep a running list (yes, I’m a lister) of things that have to get done and things I want to do. Sometimes with little ones running about, you only get five minutes while their hands are busied with play-doh. When I find myself with that spare time, it’s easy to look at the list and choose something that can be done, right then. With the lists at hand, I don’t waste time thinking about and deciding what to do. Also, with the forgetfulness that seems an inevitable result of parenting little ones and pregnancy, the lists help me keep everything straight. And, I have to admit, it’s oh-so-satisfying to cross things off.
In addition to the lists, I always keep something about in each room to work on when my little guy decides to go off on his own. A scarf to knit or a magazine to read are easy to keep on hand and it helps me to be sure that in those spare moments I can sneak in a little time to myself, a little time to spend working on something that I enjoy.
Last, I think it’s important, as parents, to rethink the way we think about our lives. Life after having little ones will never again resemble life before them. We have to let it go. If we crave, or chase, the life we had before, the balance we had before, we’ll be continually frustrated. Instead we have to focus on what we have now, where our lives are now.
While we might not get a chance to spend hours lying on the sofa absorbed in a good book, we may get ten minutes interrupted only twice by a little one needing something. While we may not get a chance to go out to a quiet dinner with our spouse, we get the chance to walk to the park after dinner and watch as our little one pumps their legs on the swing for the very first time.
Life as a parent is different. Balancing this life is different. But it is grand. Let’s soak it up and enjoy every second that we can.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated October 12 with all the carnival links.)