Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Taking the Time

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.


In October, those of us in the Carnival of Natural Parenting were asked to write about how we stay centered and balanced as an attachment parent. I have to admit, I am so glad to be at the spot I am to write this post.

My girls are six and four. They both breastfed until they were just past their third birthday. Until we moved in to our current house a little over a year ago, I had been co-sleeping full-time (and doing all of the night-wakings) with one or both of my children since Iris was born (so that would be five total years if you don't care to do the math yourself). My children were parented to sleep every night of their lives, which is to say, we never shut the door and let them scream. We still parent them to sleep these days, but it's much less work on our end.

I'm also a stay-at-home mom. I have been since just before Eloise's birth (so about 4 1/2 years now). I'm in the trenches day in and day out with my girls. I prefer to think I'm an available, loving, giving, caring, nuturing parent. So let's hope when my girls look back on their childhoods 10-20-50 years from now, they'll also agree. Being an attached parent carries in to our girls' school age years by always having a parent home for them.

In addition to being a stay-at-home mom, my husband often works long hours and travels quite a bit for his job. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I ever paid someone to help with my girls while he was gone.

So all of this to justify what I'll say next: I get a heck of a lot of "me" time. The largest chunk of me time I get right now is because my children are both in school at the same time 12 hours a week. Admittedly, I use that time to run errands and do other general household management duties, but some of it, certainly enough of it, is time for just me. I swim laps. I have coffee, in a coffee shop, sometimes even with friends. I write. A LOT. I eat lunch in peace. I watch tv.

When my husband gets home at night 99% of the time he jumps right in to play with the girls. More than half of the time he puts them to bed. If I ever have something I need (or, really, want) to do at night, my husband is there to be with the girls so I can go do it.

We didn't get here overnight. Things were rough for a while, I wondered if I would ever see the light of day again. Looking back, the time didn't seem as long as it felt when I was in the middle of it.

My husband and I still very, very rarely get dates alone together, but eventually, when we have a little extra in our budget, we will do that more. For now, he gets his basketball time and time to go out to see live music whenever he wants and I get the time I need. It keeps us happy and helps a great deal with our stress levels.

To be honest, I'm pretty nervous about how I will manage to find as much "me" time once we start homeschooling, but we'll figure it out. Likely the money we save on school tuition will afford us other things, like the ability to hire babysitters a bit more often. We'll see.


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. Somehow I didn't know you'd decided on homeschooling in the future. Very cool. I'm glad your kids are ahead of mine in age so I can eavesdrop quite shamelessly on how it goes.

      I have a similar experience (right now, not so much when the next baby comes, when all will start over) of really feeling mostly balanced. Mikko has his school twice a week, but even more so, he also has an involved father who shares the parenting with me, which lets us both get our time in to do our own things (and some time just the two of us together, too, though admittedly not as much as pre-Mikko). I think you've got a great set-up, really, and I imagine even as you homeschool, as your kids keep getting older, you'll find ways to fit me time into your schedule even if they're around. At least…that's the thought that keeps me going. :) But you're right, looking back at it, those all-intensive baby/toddler days don't last so long, and even though I'm not out of it yet, I can at least see that now.

    2. Do you think that most of your "you" time is due to the time the kids are in school? Do you think it's a function of their age? The fact that they have a sibling? I wonder these things for my own family - "well once *this* happens then ____," but either it doesn't happen that way or I'm still waiting ;) I'm also curious to see what your experiences will be once you start homeschooling (that's the path we want to take too).

    3. Oh how I remember the days of working from home and having a little more time to see my friends, even if it was play dates with children in tow.

      It sounds like perhaps you & your husband don't get much of any time together (alone)... but then I know that wasn't the specific topic here. So... do you? It does sound like a wonderful arrangement, though!

      I work 8 hours outside the home, so the minute I get home I usually jump right in with the baby. Partially because my husband is sometimes really ready for a break and also because I miss her so much when I'm gone.

      We plan to homeschool, too. That should be an interesting dynamic to add to our current situation.

      They school elsewhere for 12 hours per week now, when do you plan to start HSing? I'm just curious.

    4. Lauren—don’t worry, it will come around. Again! I think that was one of my worries about spreading the ages of my kids out too far, that I would lose too much of my “me time”. But truth be told, it goes so fast. SO fast. Now that we’re through that intense baby/toddler period, I can’t believe I worried so much about it. Now I sort of even miss it (dare I say that?!?!) And yes, we are homeschooling! I can’t wait.

      Dionna—Yes, yes and YES. Having a sibling for each of my girls, while incredibly difficult at times, is also such an amazing blessing. They are sisters and friends. Having a sibling was the best thing I could have given either of my girls.

      Momma Jorje—You’re absolutely right, my husband and I don’t get nearly enough time together. Even at night we’re either too exhausted or have too many of our own projects to work on to really spend time with each other. It’s definitely a place where we have room for improvement! I plan to start HSing next year, but we’ll see. Some days I feel like pulling them out of school and starting immediately! Next year I will have a Kindergartener and a second grader. My little one *might* go to ½ day Kindy because she is incredibly social and it would be hard for me to meet that need in her while simultaneously meeting my older daughter's need to be at home.

    5. The me time I get homeschooling my daughter this year (I had the same concerns as you just a month ago) takes place when we go out in nature. I spend a bit of time teaching her about the plants or sea life and then she goes off an plays and explores while I read a book or walk along with her. Being outside is a great form of me time whether it is shared or not. Good luck!

    6. I wonder about homeschooling and finding time for myself, but I hope that as they get older and more able to do things and learn on their own some of my time will become free again. Most of the time I spend wiping bums and washing diapers will be free again, anyway!

    7. I don't know many (if any!) parent couples that couldn't use some improvement on the "couple time" front. It is, at least, reassuring to know that we are each not alone in this, right?

      I wish you luck & inner peace with your HSing journey! There are SO many options out there as to how you can do it. I'm sure you'll find what works for you & yours!

    8. Hi, Sybil! I have a question about this: "We didn't get here overnight. Things were rough for a while, I wondered if I would ever see the light of day again. Looking back, the time didn't seem as long as it felt when I was in the middle of it." Did you intentionally strive to get where you are now, or did you just look up one day and notice, hey, there's the light of day! If you follow what I mean?

    9. Melodie—thank you for the suggestion on! The one thing that I think will be nice about jumping in with kids who are a bit older is that they will be a bit more independent and able to occupy themselves for long enough stretches for me to get some writing or other projects done. At least, I hope so!
      Michelle—Exactly! I think when you’re knee-deep (elbow-deep? Neck-deep?) in butt wiping and diapers it’s hard to imagine that there is the light on the other side when you will some day almost *gasp* FORGET you ever spent so much time doing it.
      Momma Jorje—thank you for the reminder that many of us are struggling with finding the right balance of partner time. I definitely takes the backseat right now. I’m grateful for our resilience and dedication to our family to get us through this time of not being the most connected as a couple.
      Rachael—I think it was definitely a mix of both. Some things were very purposeful—like enrolling my kids in school! Other purposeful things were just scheduling more time for myself (and my husband has done this, as well) at night or on the weekend where I (or he) can be gone doing something and the other parent is at home. The older the girls got, the easier this became. Right now on any given week, between my husband and I, we are gone about four of the seven nights for an hour or two. This is, by far, the most time either of us have ever spent away from our family but we’re both trying to exercise more so he is playing basketball and I am swimming.
      But a lot of it did just happen. The kids grow. They started getting along better and entertain each other for longer stretches. They get more self-sufficient, not needing me to get every single snack or help them in the bathroom every single time or get them dressed, etc etc. They don’t nurse any longer, they don’t need as much parenting at bedtime and are asleep for the rest of the night. You just start accumulating a little more time every day as the kids grow until you realize, wow, I’m actually starting to have more time to give to other areas of my life now!


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