Finding Balance: October Carnival of Natural Parenting

October 12th, 2010 by Dionna | 17 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, natural parenting, Strive for Balance

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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 andHobo 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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Type A Mama

I’m not going to pretend I have any expertise whatsoever into this month’s carnival topic. To be quite honest, I don’t know if there’s ever been a time in my life in which I’ve been perfectly balanced – I am too obsessive, too much of a perfectionist, too bent on overachievement. Whether it was school or work, I focused every effort on making top marks, gaining responsibility, being a role model.

One might think parenting would force me to relax. And, to an extent, it has. But here I am – researching every parenting option, figuring out what is “best,” focusing an inordinate amount of effort and energy into being the best mama for Kieran, and let’s not forget the hours I spend every week writing about it. In fact, when I originally sat down to write this post, it was going to be something along the lines of “things that help keep me focused as a stay/work at home mama.” What kinds of things would I have included?

  • Meal plans
  • Schedules
  • Activity plans

I mean – those things are really great and help me stay organized, but what a typical example of my Type A over-the-topness! It’s pretty exhausting. It always has been.

And I don’t know how it’s going to get any better. The thought of homeschooling terrifies me, because I know I’m going to over-analyze every philosophy, spend too much time looking at educational resources, and heaven forbid I pass on my over-achieving tendencies to Kieran.1 And what if I start working outside the home again? Even if I get a part time job, I’m still going to require the same level of commitment from myself that I’ve given up to this point.

Help Me Find Balance

So what is my point? Well, I guess it’s simply this: I know I need to change. I just don’t know how. Admittedly, I’ve been reading this month’s carnival entries with great interest. Yes, daily breaks sound great. Yes, it would be nice to have a hobby. But I can’t just get a “hobby.” My hobby would then turn into something else I’d have to perfect.

At this point, I’m focusing so much energy on parenting that I can’t even think of a hobby that I’d like to pursue. How sad is that?! I’ve tried sewing, I got frustrated because there’s only so much you can learn on your own. I’ve tried knitting, it was not relaxing for me. I’ve tried running, but I wimped out when it got too cold last year. I’ve tried yoga, but I’ve never been able to quiet my mind and relax – I think that just comes with the Type A territory. I’d love to pursue writing as a passion, I have several ideas kicking around in the back of my mind for children’s books, but I have a feeling that would just turn into another project to (over)achieve, not something to make me feel centered.

Surely among my fellow natural parenting bloggers, there is someone like me. Someone for whom perfection and overachievement is a way of life – but she has found a way to move past it.2

Is it a simple matter of scheduling a big chunk of “nothing” into our day? Do I need to pick a few things that I can let go?3

How does an overachiever find balance?

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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.)

  • 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. Yes, we are planning on homeschooling.
  2. At this point, therapy isn’t an option, so please try to suggest things that I can achieve (ha!) on my own.
  3. Sadly, regular bath tub scrubbing finds itself firmly entrenched in this category. My equally-Type-A sister would be shocked and shaken by my perpetual soap scum.

17 Responses to:
"Finding Balance: October Carnival of Natural Parenting"

  1. Sheila   agiftuniverse

    I am totally the opposite! My house is a mess, but generally I’m very relaxed. My ability to ignore dishes lying in the sink borders on a superpower — one my husband would rather I didn’t have.

    I agree that getting a new hobby would just end up being one more thing you felt you had to do. I certainly would recommend “scheduling a big block of nothing.” When you’re with your son, a big block of nothing ends up being fun unstructured play time, or time when you take a walk and it doesn’t matter where you go because you’re walking at a child’s pace and smelling all the roses. And when you’re alone (if and when that ever happens ;) ), a big block of nothing gives you time to read a book, leaf through a magazine, drink a cup of tea, think. If you’ve got something scheduled for that time, you’ll never relax, even if it’s something fun.

    If I were you, I’d resolve to leave one hour a day completely unplanned, and see where that takes you!

    As for me, perhaps I should start having a plan for one hour of every day. It would be nice to get something done for a change!

  2. Boy, can I relate! I consider myself a recovering perfectionist. I’ve been helped the most by prayer and meditation. It helps if I focus on a higher purpose. I’ve also been helped by FlyLady at FlyLady.net. FlyLady often addresses perfectionism and helps me set basic routines.

    I have found areas I can comfortably let go. I think in this world, some things have to slide. It’s just not possible to do it all. I searched for the perfect homeschool curriculum, too, but I thought it was fun and didn’t feel bad about it. I wasn’t obsessive about my homeschooling planning or record keeping for some reason. It really helped to realize in the end that it didn’t matter. My kids turned out great and were well prepared for college anyway.

    But, as I said, I’m still a recovering perfectionist.

  3. Seonaid   seonaid_lee

    I grok. (I hope you might know this word. It is code for deep understanding in geekland.)

    One of the most useful things I’ve ever heard was Pema Chodron talking about meditation. She is a Buddhist nun who has written a big stack of books, and she teaches this stuff day after day after day… and she said that when she started to meditate, she could never follow *even one breath*. Her mind ran and ran and ran. She also said that meditation is still a struggle. It’s not really the point, the mind stilling. I mean, it is, but it’s not. You can pay attention to the endless stream of chatter and start to recognize that you don’t have to respond to it.

    But for you, I would start with Martha Beck. I tried FlyLady myself for several months (not just 20 minutes, despite my claim in my own post). My house looked much better, but it was just one more thing to beat myself up with. *First* I had to learn to not beat myself up, *before* I could start implementing organization… and then it turned out that when I could hear myself, I had more important things to do. Like writing. And canoeing. And petting the cat. And skipping stones. You know, important things like that. :)

  4. Kellie   MindfulLifeShop

    I can completely relate! I actually told my therapist once, “I logically understand that I cannot be perfect and that I have to let go of something. I just can’t figure out what it is ok to let go of.” For me, I just had to practice loving myself through my mistakes and allowing myself to not accomplish everything. I had to make a list of my priorities with what was most important being what I couldn’t let go of and what was least important being allowed to slide sometimes. And that list looks different from day to day.

    Also, spending time with, reading from, and hearing about other actual moms and their parenting journeys and mistakes has allowed me to reassess my own journey from time to time and find what is truly important to me and what is something that I can be ok with not being perfect all of the time. Knowing that some of my favorite moms make mistakes and have flaws has allowed me to be more ok with my own flaws. And learning that taking time for myself is actually a VERY important part of the process of being a better parent allowed me to feel better about doing that.

  5. Kat

    Sounds like you could use a monthly day at the spa! Sometimes you just have to let it go…I know first hand how hard this is, but there comes a point when you realize you just can’t do it all perfectly. Some things are worth the effort, like when it comes to the care and parenting of our children, but other things maybe don’t need ultimate perfection. When you let go of those things you find you have some time. Maybe if you just went for a daily walk on your own to just relax and be all in the company of just yourself. Good luck figuring it out, I’m sure you will :-)

  6. I could have written your post, seriously! It’s been the hardest thing for me to let things go. Can’t say that I’ve learned how to do it yet, but am working on it.

    One thing that is helpful (when I remember to look at it) is my mission statement as a parent. I used Kat’s tutorial at Inspired to Act, http://inspiredtoaction.com/2010/02/purposeful-motherhood-how-to-create-a-mission-statement/. It sometimes help me keep perspective on what’s important and what to let slide.

    Let us know how it goes for you!

  7. Jessica - This is Worthwhile   tisworthwhile

    What an amazing question. I’m not an over-achiever (at least I don’t think I am, and my late carnival entries and general lateness with most things probably attests to that – ha), but I think scheduling a day off weekly, even half a day, where you were removed from everything you work so hard on might do you wonders. You could start out small – baby steps – like taking off for an hour, maybe two, and build it up to a half a day or more. And your only rule would be to have nothing planned except something unrelated to everything else you’re always working on.

    OR star thinking about yourself as a project and put just as much effort into your well-being.

    Different side of the same coin ;)

  8. Melodie   bfmom

    I had a counsellor once tell me to schedule time for nothing so that is a very valid thing you could try. I couldn’t do it though. But maybe, even though you are a self-proclaimed perfectionist, you are at a time on your life when parenting is a perfectly perfect place to be and thing to be putting all your focus on. You ARE an amazing mom. I often think to myself – “I wish I could be more like Dionna.” It’s true! Kieran is so fortunate to have you, and you obviously love what you do otherwise you’d be complaining a lot more. Wouldn’t you? Yes, you need to take time for yourself, but if you aren’t then perhaps it isn’t as important to you as you think it is. When my girls were younger I wanted time for me but whenever I took it I felt guilty and couldn’t really enjoy myself. Deb Chitwood’s idea of having quiet me time with your child right next to you doing something quietly on their own might be a good pace to start for you. Read a novel instead of a parenting book while he plays with playdough. Baby steps are in order and would be a”perfect” place to start, I think. :) Good luck!

  9. kelly @kellynaturally   kellynaturally

    I find that blogging, while time and brain power and energy consuming (and definitely something which feeds the “perfectionist” tendencies), is also relaxing – so I find peace in that. Its a time when I can sit down, and mull things over in my mind, and do what I like to do. So, I consider that a break. I have never been able to schedule time for nothingness, and feel the same striving for perfection that you do. I think the way I deal with it is realizing that maybe not everything can be perfect; but continue to give everything your best shot as if it can be. Also, I don’t believe in overacheiving – there is only acheiving.

    Like Yoda says:
    Do or do not. There is no try.

  10. Andrea!!!   EllaBeanAndCo

    Balance, like many things, is a moving target. It’s something that you can’t be perfect at. You can’t “overachieve” balance.

    When I feel like I’m slipping into perfectionist mode with Ella, especially when I feel like I’m not being present to Ella’s awake times, I unplug. No phone, no computer, no radio, no TV, just us. I just follow her lead and it tends to be surprisingly relaxing.

  11. Amy   anktangle

    Yes, we are kindred spirits. I definitely strive to do my best in all things, but I know I can’t be perfect. That doesn’t make the lists go away though!

    One of the things that several people have written about is taking time to have a cup of tea. There’s still a task involved, so it’s not as if you’s be scheduling time to sit in silence. But there’s till that moment for you to maybe step out of perfectionist mode and enjoy the warmth, scent, and taste. A moment to breathe. I’m going to try it, will you join me? =)

  12. Michelle @ The Parent Vortex   TheParentVortex

    I wouldn’t really describe myself as a perfectionist, but I see some of myself in your description. Sometimes I sit down after a day of parenting and dive straight into reading whatever parenting book I am currently reading and I think, “Maybe I’m a little too focused on parenting right now!” On the other hand, it’s like unschooling – people get into learning jags and just soak up everything they can on that subject. Learning about parenting and child development is the same.

    As for finding peace in imperfection, I’ve found meditation/yoga helpful, as well as The Work http://www.thework.com/thework.php Byron Katie’s approach is a simple yet profound way of questioning the things we say to ourselves and others that cause us suffering. It really changed the way I looked at my relationships, and it fits really well with the principles of gentle discipline.

  13. Rachael   RachaelNevins

    I’m far more relaxed than I used to be, and so many things have contributed to the change. OK, therapy helped, but not as much as practicing Zen. I learned to meditate at a Zen center, but you can get the basic instructions on meditating from a book. Pema Chodron’s are among the best; she practices Tibetan forms of Buddhist meditation. And, as Seonaid points out, you don’t actually have to be good at meditation for it to work! How’s that for anti-perfectionism?

    But. Meditation isn’t for everyone. Another idea: maybe if there’s just one area of your life where you can relax a little, let go, you’ll find that that relaxation spreads to other areas of your life. For me, it was first giving up running marathons and then giving up racing altogether — but continuing to run anyway. It has been such a gift, really, because I had to discover again what I love about running in itself, without having to compete. This not needing to compete, not needing always to be improving, going faster, etc. has helped me loosen up in other arenas.

    Best wishes!

  14. I think you are absolutely amazing.

    I think this post reveals a very healthy self-awareness.

    Forcing a hobby on yourself is, of course, a bad idea.

    I sense that you think you should be doing something other than parenting, reading about parenting, or writing about parenting, but that you don’t really want to. I think the key thing is do things you want to do, instead of just things you need to do, or things you think you should want to do.

    If you want to read nothing but parenting books, go for it. If you want to be a bloggy superstar sharing your research and philosophies with other parents and forging great communities of mothers, then you should! It’s actually not the same thing as parenting at all.

    My point is that you are probably doing a lot to replenish yourself that you’re just not aware of. Because you think it doesn’t count because it’s not something like yoga or needlepoint that obviously has no benefit to anyone else but yourself.

    Sometimes when my husband takes the kids to the park for an hour because I’ve turned into a snarling basketcase and he tells me that I should use the “alone time” (i.e. with just one baby) to “recharge” myself I get so stressed out at the onerous task of resembling a human again that I basically use the time to have a breakdown. I decide that I’m not going to do a single thing, in fact, to “recharge” and so I squander that time folding laundry and rehashing petty grudges and doing a sinkload of dishes, but somehow, at the end of the hour, I feel much better.

    That’s totally non-advice, isn’t it? It’s what I got!

    I guess what I’m trying to say, is don’t be too cerebral about it Ask your heart what it needs! Ask your body!

  15. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    Ok, not being someone who makes everything perfect, I don’t know exactly how to guide you. :) But I wonder if you could try my idea of taking one full day a week to do nothing you don’t want to do. I understand if you’re an overachiever, that maybe you do want to do everything — but maybe you make a pact with yourself not to do anything that feels, in any way, like a task or chore. I know I found (find) it hard to let go on that rest day, but I feel so much better after if I do. It gives you the chance to veg, to spend time as a family goofing off, to watch some DVDs, play some computer games — whatever feels like “doing nothing” to you. Then you might (hopefully) be refreshed for the rest of the week.

  16. Danielle   borninjp

    This is such a good question, I wish I had an equally good answer.

    I guess it comes down to whether or not you’re feeling unbalanced as you are. If the way you live, despite the fact that it may seem over the top as an outsider looking in, might be the perfect level of balance for you.

    Does that make any sense?

  17. Casey   CBerbs

    I think it depends on how you define finding balance and what you think you are balancing. For instance, if you think finding balance means finding time to be quiet that can be one solution. If you think it means doing something other than parenting related reading, writing, and research that might be something else entirely.

    I would encourage you to ask yourself specifically what you’re looking for in your balance and go from there. Do you want to create something? Do you want to think in a way that causes you to use your brain in a brand new way? Do you want to have time not to think about anything? I think balance is a very personal and possibly spiritual pursuit. No one else can tell you what you need or how to get it. Also, I don’t think you’ll just find it one morning. It’s a journey, a moving target, and a process.

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