Balancing this Life

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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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.

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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)
  • Share
    • http://codenamemama.com Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

      Great tips! I think my biggest problem finding balance the last almost-three years has been the fact that Kieran is such a high needs kid. By high needs, I mean that he *does* need interaction all.the.time. I’ve tried and tried (and tried!) to help him gain some independence, but success now means that sometimes I get 30 minutes a day to myself (and that’s usually when I give in and turn Signing Time on). But I will keep trying! I’ve been thinking of turning my love for schedules and lists into a learning tool – perhaps a calendar with daily “things to do” might help. Maybe he’ll even accept a daily independence “to do” activity, if it’s something fun to mark off a list.

      [Reply]

    • Pingback: Little breaks bring a little balance / GROW WITH GRACES

    • Pingback: Rest Hour – a Primer « Fleeting Moments

    • Pingback: Achieving Balance | Natural Parents Network

    • Pingback: Take a 30-Minute or 5-Minute Me-Break | LivingMontessoriNow.com

    • Pingback: (high)Centered « very, very fine

    • Pingback: Finding Balance Amidst Change | Breastfeeding Moms Unite

    • http://agiftuniverse.blogspot.com Sheila

      So true! As the mother of a six-month-old, I tend to imagine my baby will always need me all the time, but even now he plays well on the floor for short periods while I do other things. And he loves to watch me working around the house. I hope that lasts, and that he gains more independence.

      I certainly don’t think I should (or can) provide every bit of my son’s entertainment, all the time. Sometimes he’s going to have to dream up his own ideas! Other times, I would love to include him in my own housework. That is a great idea, and one I’m looking forward to using when he’s older.

      [Reply]

    • Pingback: Taking Time for Me | Stuff With Thing

    • Pingback: October Carnival of Natural Parenting: A stitch in (quiet) time saves momma’s mind. | Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma

    • http://LivingMontessoriNow.com Deb Chitwood @ Living Montessori Now

      Great ideas! I found using Montessori techniques from the time my children were infants was one of the most helpful things in giving me extra time for myself. When my children had learned to concentrate and accomplish tasks on their own, I was able to get things done while they worked independently (often alongside me).

      [Reply]

    • Pingback: Uninterrupted Parenting

    • Pingback: The World from Within My Arms

    • http://ellabeanandco.blogspot.com Andrea!!!

      Funny – I wasn’t able to participate in this carnival because I was off-balanced and needed to regain composure before committing to anything else. This post made me feel much better, though, sometimes I feel guilty when I let Ella play on her own – part of me feels that I should be engaging with her (since being a SAHM is my current full-time job), but the other part of me feels that playing on her own is just as important. Sometimes it’s nice just to know you’re not alone.

      On a side note, I saw you two bike by Welles park today, we were toddling around the new park :)

      [Reply]

    • Pingback: Carnival of Natural Parenting: Attachment Parenting and Balance

    • Pingback: The Dance of Balance « The Practical Dilettante

    • http://www.toloveeverymoment.blogspot.com Kat

      “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. ”
      I really like this. I love your idea of having something for you to do in each room!

      [Reply]

    • http://www.kellynaturally.com kelly @kellynaturally

      I agree that you don’t have to entertain your children every waking moment…. I think that as parents we fall into that mindset sometimes, maybe because we weren’t played with enough as kids, or maybe because we feel guilty about working or doing other things in our life, but then our children suffer for it… because when they’re NOT entertained, they don’t know what to do with themselves! Its a good reminder that children should see you doing things for yourself sometimes too – and through that they’ll learn to do the same.

      [Reply]

    • http://www.HoboMama.com Lauren @ Hobo Mama

      I wish I had a child who could entertain himself for longer than a few minutes. I really need to work intentionally at increasing the time he can amuse himself, and suggest and set up some more things for him to do so it’s possible. I’ll have to look into Montessori methods for sure. Maybe I need to bring some other playmates in, too! I do like it when I do chores and he pitches in. I find I still have to do a lot of leading during them, but it’s so rewarding to see him enthusiastic about the daily tasks I take for granted.

      [Reply]

    • http://fltngmoments.wordpress.com MrsH

      I love your point about your days not completely revolving around kids. That’s something I’m slowly learning. While their needs might come first, that doesn’t mean their entertainment comes first. I hope my kids don’t grow up thinking that the house magically stays clean! I only just realized that my mom probably DID actually mop, although I have not a single memory of her holding a mop!

      [Reply]