Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Please, teach me how.

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.

There are a few things I already really love to do, and others I'd love to get better at: practicing yoga, reading good books, cooking delicious foods, crocheting, taking time for meditation, working in my garden, and writing.

I'm discovering that, naturally, I am finding less time to do the things I enjoy for me since my son came into this world. I also find that it doesn't take long for a past-time I love to start feeling like just another chore on the endless list of things I need to do: I have to cook dinner tonight, I need to crochet a gift for someone by a certain deadline, I should be doing yoga more regularly for fitness.

I get little glimpses of that peaceful, centered feeling I enjoy when I'm doing something I love: when I'm kneading bread dough or harvesting a vegetable I grew so I can chop it up and cook it for tonight's dinner. But those moments are so fleeting—and also far between, it seems.

I'm finding lately that between trying to help Daniel get enough sleep throughout the day, and slowly chipping away at the never-ending "To-Do" list, there's barely enough time left over for showers and breakfast, much less reading for pleasure and finding a quiet, peaceful space (in my mind and in my home) for meditation. If I don't take enough time for me, I have much more trouble coping and being an effective parent when I face more challenging times with Daniel. If I do take some time to do something that I like, I usually either end up feeling guilty for not spending that time with my kid, or the joyful activity begins to feel like just one more thing I have to do today. Plus, when exactly am I supposed to be taking time for myself?

I know we can only do so much for other people while neglecting ourselves before everything falls apart. After all, there's a very good reason the flight attendant tells you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. And yet, this seems to be something that I—and plenty of other women, mothers, and those of us who have chosen other "caring professions"—struggle with constantly. I'm doing my best to take care of my child, but who's taking care of me?

And so, since I obviously have no answers on this one, I pose these questions to all of you who seem to have it figured out: How do you do it? How do you get through your day feeling like you've been a "good enough" parent and still do the things you love to do so you can feel like a good, whole person, too? How do you keep your home, clothes, and dishes clean and still feel refreshed in your mind and body? How do you accomplish all the important things and still get enough sleep? 

Please, teach me how. I need to learn.

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. Ok:

      (1) You have a young baby. Don't push yourself. It seriously took Sam and me, like, seven months to start emerging from our fog and a year and a half to feel totally (mostly) put back together after becoming parents.

      (2) I do not have a clean house. That's all I'm going to say about that.

      (3) It seems like something always has to give, whether it's sleep, the day-to-day tasks, the relaxing downtime, the meaningful stuff, or the time spent parenting. You really can't do it all, at least not all at once. I've decided it's more an ebb and flow. It can be from one day to the next or one week to the next or even longer spans of time — I'll devote myself more to one thing than another, and then I'll drift back to a different aspect. Over time, it balances, but not in each moment.

      So be gentle with yourself, and find your balance as you're able. Add back in a thing or two as you can, and try to let go of the guilt (I know it's hard!) that you're doing something just for yourself.

    2. Would it help to find something that gets you out of the house? I felt the same way this year about our garden. What started out being exciting, joyful, turned into this horrid chore that I didn't have time for, and I resented having to do. The day I decided to mow it all down was very freeing. And I'm not sure how your kiddo is, but I simply can't get any me time at home. Kieran needs too much interaction. Even when my husband is playing with him and I am free to do my own thing, Kieran inevitably comes to me several times asking me to play. So - I'm not the expert, because I haven't figured out how to find my own balance, but coming from a kindred spirit, my advice would be to try something away from the home that holds the rest of the chores. Good luck mama!

    3. I definitely struggle with the same thing. As bad as it sounds for a while I was reading for pleasure into the wee hours. Despite the loss of sleep, disconnecting from the web and doing something entirely for myself left me happier than anything in a long time. Guess it's time to crack a new book.

    4. You really can't do it all, at least not all at once.

      Really, Lauren's right on here. That's a small baby you've got there. I feel like I've finally gotten a handle on things, but it's taken me 11 years. (It probably won't take you 11 years. I was really stubborn, and wasn't listening very well.)

      Were I you, I would start with a cup of tea. That's it. Just a cup of tea. *Before* whatever housework it is that needs to get done during the next nap time.

    5. I will echo everyone else...be patient with yourself. It takes time to find a comfortable rhythm and even then sometimes there are days when everything falls apart;-) Take time, flow and relish this beautiful opportunity to nurture your family and your home.


    6. unless having some dirty dishes and a pile of laundry really stresses you out, let cleaning take the furthest back seat. when my son was still brand new and my partner and i were freaking out about making the house presentable, someone told me that i'll never look back and think about how tidy my living room was. if putting off a load of wash until tomorrow allows for 10 minutes of yoga, go for it.

    7. I love the comment about "mowing down the garden" and feeling free!! If I were doing it all again, I'd let go of more things I thought I had to do (buy a gift instead of making one this time?). Piles of things left undone will be a permanent fixture. Your baby is fleeting.

      Having said that, it is critical to your peace of mind that you take care of yourself. NO GUILT. You will be a better mother for it, happier, more relaxed - baby (and Daddy!) will appreciate it.

    8. I'm with Lauren, it's an ebb and flow rhythm. You find some weeks you get more time for you and some weeks, you barely get a meal in you during the day.

      Also have to agree that the clean house, and even sometimes a little sleep, is faaarr less important than a little bit of time to yourself. I spent several hours this summer staying up late with my sister to watch Grey's Anatomy or Sex in the City reruns. What did I sacrifice for it? I'm pretty sure there were plenty of chores and sleep, but I don't remember those specifics. I remember the quality free time!

      Lastly, just like Dionna said, get out of the house! It's easy to forget the mess when you leave it :) Seriously, if your babe will let you, meet a friend for coffee or a walk in the park any chance you get. You all will appreciate it!

    9. I don't do it all. I try and fail, but I forgive myself an keep going, keep trying. As you know, I think of myself as a foodie, but you know what? Some weeks I'm lucky if I make one interesting/new dish. Some weeks it's the same old thing, and I wonder how everyone else manages to keep it up! Since I can't post the same recipe over and over I take a picture of every new dish I make (some weeks are more productive than others) and then I have a dish for that week. But that's my goal. Make one new dish per week. Blogging helps me do it, for if I wasn't in need of a recipe each Friday we'd be eating well but same old same old. It was hardest when the kids were babies. Much easier now that they are older and can entertain themselves a bit more. But remember that so many blogs only talk about their successes and keep readers in the dark about all their failures. I don't think anyone actually does it all. Be gentle with yourself. :)

    10. It's clear from my carnival post that I'm in the ebb and flow camp as well. And I ditto veryveryfine on letting the cleaning come last unless it stresses you out. I suggest trying to find a way to take the things you like and incorporate your baby into them. Like go for a walk while wearing him. Or read something you like out loud to him.

    11. Wow, thanks everyone! I've been reading the carnival posts and I've gotten a lot of great ideas about how to work on balance. I'm going to start with daily coffee/tea time and go from there.

      I really appreciate the reminders to be patient and gentle with myself and give myself time--it's so easy to forget!

    12. Amy - you read my mind with this post! Nice to read all the great responses... I like the idea of starting with tea time. Kind of like baby steps ;)

    13. One thing I've found helpful is playing music! I used to appreciate some music with dinner but my husband is the more musical one... but now, since I don't have a whole lot of time to read and Think Deep Thoughts, I find that I notice a whole new texture and world to music... I can play it in a hands-free way and enjoy the elegance of it, the sophistication, while my baby remains happy. I keep one foot in the grown-up world that way. Of course, if music upsets your baby it might not be as easy... maybe use an ipod?
      I also have a few of friends who come over once a week to either hold the baby while I do housework or other little projects, or they clean while they're here. Maybe that would help?
      Make big pots of things and freeze portions. Instant lunch!
      My son isn't quite as sensitive as yours, but he definitely needs to be in my arms pretty much all day. So I can relate, a little.

    14. This is a topic I keep on running into, both online and with real life friends. It is a very important part of AP, because if mom is not happy, nobody is. As a full time WAHM with hardly any childcare (once a week, five hours), and living in a foreign country, my solution has been this. I try to take as much pleasure as I can in parenting my kids, and doing all kinds of fun stuff that we all enjoy, together. Could you do yoga together with your kids, for example? That might be a lot of fun!



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