Monday, November 2, 2009

AP Principle #8: Balance and how you can't do it all, at least not all at once

This post is a continuation of Hobo Mama's celebration of Attachment Parenting Month, October 2009. This article focuses on the eighth and final principle of attachment parenting: Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life (Balance).

incoming tide waves

It's fitting that today's topic is about balance. Note a few things:

     • NaNoWriMo begins today, a month of frenzied writing in which I will try to cram 1,667 words a day of fiction into my already scheduled life.

     • I have been posting series and a giveaway, hoping to attract and appeal to you lovely readers, and then those readers come, and they comment, and I am soooo behind in responding to all those luscious comments.

     • Note that Attachment Parenting Month was October. Take a look at your calendar. What month is it? It is November. Enough said.

Today's topic, #8 of the attachment parenting principles and #7 of the Baby Bs, and the last for both, is most likely a challenge for us all:

Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life (Balance)

I've been thinking about this topic a lot, and it comes up again and again on blogs I read, so I know it's a universal one. For instance, this recent post on Adventures in Babywearing titled "How I do it all." offered this truth:

"Answer: I don't.

"If I've got a good thing going in one area, it means there are probably a bunch of other things being severely neglected in another area."

I think that's the thing right there. We can't do it all — at least not simultaneously.

One time, I was feeling guilty about not getting to all the tasks I wanted to accomplish in my life. So, in an optimism of "this time scheduling's going to work for me!" (oh, foolish heart, to hope so readily when such dreams are dashed again and again...), I wrote out all of the things I wanted to do with my time. Mind you, this was before I had kids, so that wasn't even on the list.

I don't remember exactly what was on there, but I can guess at the gist. I'll give you a rundown of everything I want or need to do in my daily life right now, organized by category. You don't have to understand or even read it all; I just want you to take a look at the volume. Crack knuckles, deep breath, clear throat...OK:

      WORK: Wrap packages to send to customers; answer customer service emails; go to post office to drop off packages and stand in line to pick up the ones that are clogging our PO box with pack slips; drive to stores to pick up packages we ordered for site-to-store pickup; wrap up inventory to send to the warehouse; drive to UPS to drop off inventory packages; list items for sale; tweak listings; process drop-ship orders; research new ways to streamline our business or make more money; download order reports and financial statements; update finances in business software; gather the rest of the information for the state audit (gag).

      WRITING: Write 1,667 words a day of NaNoWriMo novel; finish third edit of previous NaNoWriMo novel; finish two-thirds-finished novel that I've been working on way too many years; write several blog posts each week; respond to comments; read other blogs; comment on other blogs; figure out the whole Twitter thing; finalize site redesign; update ads; respond to emails; start a carnival; join more carnivals; figure out somewhere to guest post; contact companies I love to beg for — I mean, coolly request giveaway products (because wouldn't that be fun??); write poetry more than once a year.

      PERSONAL: Write thank-you notes for house-warming gifts from two months ago; finish writing and send letter to my prison penpal that I started two months ago and whom I haven't written for almost a year (I'm so grateful for his sake that he has other penpals besides me); respond to emails friends wrote me anywhere from one month to two years ago; send out mass email with new mailing address before Christmas letter season; mail in change of address to the state driver's license people (seriously, I have to do this by mail? What is this — 1950?); schedule portraits, but first decide whether to go with JC Penney again or find an expensive but fabulous real photographer; find a dentist (help!); take in seriously-overdue-for-an-oil-change, 12-year-old car so that it will keep running; send baby gifts for babies who are now three months old before they're three years old; upload overdue photos for the grandparents; find mysteriously missing battery charger for nice camera so we can stop taking crappy photos with our unreliable old camera; read library books instead of just checking them out repeatedly; clean the house; do the laundry; hang up all the clean laundry that's sitting on the floor of the closet; unpack all the many boxes that are still just stacked around (do we even need that stuff if we haven't used it yet?); sort through storage and then freecycle and craigslist and thrift shop and throw away; record the three new songs that Sam wrote; start sewing or knitting again; start thinking about Christmas presents; collect, practice, sing, play, and record another lullaby album for Mikko for Christmas (it's November and I haven't started this project — am I likely to meet this deadline?); start practicing the guitar and violin again; go on daily walks; go to ballet once a week; consider adding in other good-for-me exercise, such as weight lifting; go to Bible study twice a week; go to church — ohhhh, once a month or so; take Mikko somewhere fun like the library or aquarium most days instead of just hanging out at home now that it's getting colder and wetter outside; start volunteering at church again (you know, in my free time); and, gosh, I really should study the voter's pamphlet and mail in my ballot by Tuesday.

That is, unfortunately, not everything, but you get the idea.

There is no physical way to fit all that in to one day. It can't be done. Not in 24 hours, not even in one week. And certainly not if you include such little things as sleeping, eating, and goofing off (oh, how I love me some goofing off!), not to mention all the little time stealers, such as errands and commuting and brushing your teeth and, you know, parenting.

But seeing it all written down like that, that first time I did this exercise, actually made me feel better. Because I realized it was not all my fault, that it wasn't simply some inability on my part to schedule and prioritize and manage. It really was an impossible calculation to fit all the time that those activities take into one short day.

Once I knew that, I widened my time span. What must fit into a day usually solves itself. I needed to figure out what I could fit into a week, or a month, or even a year. In some cases, some tasks might come around only every few years. (Such as putting away laundry?)

And here's where I gained some wisdom, and I will impart it to you, for what it's worth. In my thirty-three years of life, here is one important thing I've learned:

Your life is a series of waves. One interest will peak, and you will ride on it for as long as needed. Then it will wane, and you can let it go as you ride the next.

By this I mean, take a little lesson from the unschooling crowd, who follow their children's interests wherever they lead. Your daughter might be obsessed with dinosaurs for six months to the exclusion of all else, and you just go with it; next week, she suddenly switches her focus to rollerskating and crochet, and away you go.

Allow yourself the same latitude to pick and choose, and to let go. If you want to write a novel, maybe write one this month (just sayin') and let everything else go to pot. If you need to focus on housekeeping, maybe let your hobbies slide as you become more intentional about dusting and canning for a time. If you want to blog and comment and become immersed in the virtual world for a month, and then take a time out for a couple after, I won't judge you for flitting.

I used to think it was somehow bad to get caught up in an activity for awhile and neglect the rest. Now I know that it's the only way that anything gets done at all, at least for me.

This is still something I struggle with, this guilt and pressure over what I think I should be getting done versus what I actually want to be doing at any given moment and in any given week, but I keep trying to let go of the outwardly imposed feelings of guilt and find my balance over the long haul. I may not look balanced if you see what I'm doing today, or this week, or this month, but over a span of years you can see what matters to me, and what I choose to devote my time to.

Writing this attachment parenting series has actually been kind of a strange experience, because every day I've been blogging and thinking about blogging and commenting on other people's blogs, because I'm already online, and I've felt like I've been in a fog of blogginess. I've taken a break here and there, such as for trick-or-treating, just to remind myself that I live in a real world and not just a virtual one.

This next month, I will enter a new immersion into the world of writing a novel. I will plot and plan and dream about characters and imagine dialogue while I pretend to listen to sermons at church and will have wonderful ideas just before I drift off to sleep that I will promise myself I will remember the next day, and of course I won't. And I just hope that, through it all, I will retain some sense of balance.

Well, if not this month, then maybe the next.

Here are some other articles that came to mind or came to light as I was writing this. Please feel free to add links to any you know or have written about this topic, because I think it always helps us feel less alone when we hear, as many times as we need to hear it, we are not alone in seeking balance. No one else is doing it all, either. At least, not all the time.

      Cave Mother writes about "Paddling Furiously Beneath the Surface," about how the public face of the blogger (or mother) we see doesn't show the real and messy life underneath. "So what I am trying to say is that it is easy to look at other people and imagine that their lives are more enjoyable than your own, or that they are much better parents than you, or they are happier than you, or whatever other metric you use to measure your own self-worth. But I don't think it's true. I think other people look at you and think exactly the same thing."

      Woowoo Mama in "hey matey, let loose your ship" writes about letting go, even about letting go. This sounded like me: "and it turns out that what i really think is that i have the potential to be a good mother but i don’t live up to it. it turns out that i think i have to get everything just so all the time and that i am in the habit of trying to think ahead of the game and be prepared for just in case." (Thank you to Mama-Om for directing me to the newest addition to my bloated Google Reader!)

      Raising My Boychick writes an impassioned post titled "One foot, alone" about the difficulty in parenting alone while a co-parent works and juggling that with creativity, sleep, and sanity. "I’m not asking for much. A little time, spent solely on myself. A little intellectual outlet, thoughts beyond 'how do I tell him one more time not to kick the cat without kicking something myself?' A little purpose, a little art, a little craft, a little creation of my own, a little something to show for myself. My virtual, actual, I was here, scratched in the screen before me."

I know I've read other good ones on the same theme, but in the interests of balance and letting go, I am posting this and calling it a day. I still have 1,000+ words to write on my novel tonight, after all!

Attachment Parenting International month Oct 2009This post concludes Hobo Mama's celebration of Attachment Parenting Month, October 2009, considering I couldn't even fit it all in October!

See the introductory post for a listing at the end of all the articles in the series.

Thanks for reading along and responding, because I've learned from reading your comments. And happy attachment parenting to you all! (Can that really be something you wish on people? I say so. And you can wish it on back to me! Peaceful AP vibes floating your way...)

Photo courtesy Cheryl Empey on stock.xchng


Stephanie Wilson she/her @babysteph said...

Oh, this is such a great perspective and something I am sure MANY of us can relate to. I often think that parents that practice AP might have this even harder, because we are always "so there" for the kids and don't let them CIO or resort to convenience products compared to other parenting styles.

It's a relief to know we're not alone.


Cave Mother said...

Your list of tasks is frighteningly long. Seriously, I would have no hope of doing half of what you wrote. Even blogging twice a week is a tall order for me. And thanks for linking to me.

I know I don't leave many comments (because of lack of time) but I have greatly enjoyed your week of posts. Now I hope you can take some well-earned time to write your book!

Anonymous said...

hi, thanks for stopping by my blog, commenting, and the link up :) i am honored to be on your bloated google reader :P

Anonymous said...

This is something I am continually working on. Figuring out what I can let go, what I can't, and how to make it mostly work. I'm getting better at just going with the flow, but some days are more successful than others.

This is one reason that I find mothering to be such a growth experience. I have to let go of MYSELF and MY STUFF and just roll with it. It's stretching me, in a good way.

Sarah said...

Hi All,

I stumbled across this blog today trying to find indoor activities to do with my 2 year old boy since the cold weather is approaching.

While on the blog I came across the idea of Attatchment Parenting. I have never heard of this before and I like the concept.

My question is where do I begin with a 2 year old?

A lot of what I have read starts with breastfeeding and he is obviously past that point.


Sarah :)

Lauren Wayne said...

Thank you all for your comments! I keep wondering how "normal" people live (parent, clean, sometimes work outside the home, look presentable), and I think I have to let go of the idea that there even are normal people!

Sarah: I hope you get lots of other good responses. Here's what comes to mind. I have a 2-year-old, too, so I hope some of this will be helpful!

First, I think that if you're resonating with the attachment parenting ideas, that you're probably already a pretty connected parent, even if you didn't follow all the steps when your son was a baby. Attachment parenting is all about being responsive toward and respectful of your child, and I would guess you're already inclined toward that.

But, for nitty-gritty, here are some resources:

If you're a doer, I would try concentrating on that connection (attachment) thing, finding ways to use gentle touch and playful interactions and have conversations. If he asks for something, try to make your first response, even if it requires a pause to collect yourself internally, YES, and see how that goes for you. (This is something I'm learning, too! Not trying to be preachy.)

If you like to talk things through, I'd recommend heading off to and asking the same question there. I bet you'd find lots of mamas in the same boat of changing their parenting style in the toddler years (or later). I also found signing up for Scott Noelle's Daily Groove (short emails) to be a really helpful reminder of how I ideally want to parent in a joyful, centered manner.

If you like books, here are some good ones for parenting toddlers on up: Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves (how to change our learned responses to respond empathetically to our children), Unconditional Parenting (about discipline), Natural Family Living (whole-life natural parenting manual), Hold On to Your Kids (or save time & read my excerpt :), or Playful Parenting (connect with children through their natural form of communication: play).

If you really want to jump in and replicate some Baby Bs, I find babywearing for walks & cosleeping still work well for our toddler. For babywearing, I'd recommend a structured carrier (like a hiking backpack or Ergo, Kozy, Beco, or similar) & back carry if your son's heavy. I'm giving away a fleece mei tai, which could work comfortably if your son's light. For cosleeping, you wouldn't need to go all out (unless you wanted to), but consider allowing your son to sleep in your room (on a mattress or sleeping bag) or in your bed if he wakes up scared during the night. I know kids haven't outgrown that need by 2, so if it's something you're interested in, you could try it if it comes up. I want to emphasize that these aren't requirements to do things "right," just suggestions that might help as you pursue a different style of parenting.

I'm thinking you might have come in through my post on rainy-day movement ideas for toddlers, but if not, there's a list of some activities for indoors!

OK, if I don't post responses to comments right away, I tend to let them linger and linger, so I'm going to post this and hope it's somewhat helpful. If anyone else has input, please chime in!

Lauren Wayne said...

Just wanted to share that I went OVER THE CHARACTER LIMIT for comments and had to edit my incredibly long comment down several times till it fit. Apparently I should have made it a post instead...

Kara said...

Oh, how I struggle with this. Somedays I don't know what is the most overwhelming, all the stuff or all the parenting. Maybe I shouldn't compartmentalize it. LOL Thanks for a great post full of great resources!

Sarah said...

Hi Hobomama,

Thanks for the great information. I already ordered Unconditional Parenting and Playful Parenting from Amazon last week. I am anxiously awaiting them.

Yes, I came across your post on rainy day activities and checked out the rest of your blog.

My husband and I already try to be very calm and laid back with our son but during the toddler/tantrum stage it is becoming a challenge. We find ourselves getting frustrated quickly with him and we know this is not the proper way.

I was in a family where there was lots of love but also lots of yelling and I want to break that cycle.

Our son has always been a great sleeper, falling asleep on his own from 6 weeks of age so I don't think we will start having him sleep with us now as he is a GREAT sleeper. If he is sick or scared, of course he can come lay with us but that is something we don't want to change full time.

I tend to want to console my son through tantrums and fits to calm him then I can explain the situation better because he is not so upset but conventional ways say to put them in time out or let them cry till they calm down. I just don't want him to ever feel like we are not there for him and that we abandon him when he is upset and don't want to send the wrong message so I think these books and your suggestions will really help us through this new journey.

Do you have an email address to correspond or is all of your interaction through posts and replies?

Sarah :)

Swistle said...

YES. And not having to do everything FULLY AND PERFECTLY. I'll think, "There's no sense doing this unless I do it ALL THE WAY and TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY"---and yet, no. Half-assed works for a lot of things.

Lauren Wayne said...

Swistle: Half-assed does indeed work so much of the time!!

Sarah: Please feel free (anyone) to email: mail AT

See, I knew you must actually be an attachment parent at heart! Sometimes the label comes later, as many other parents attested to in my post on how we got to attachment parenting.

If your son is sleeping so well on his own, I always say: let sleeping babies lie. Ha ha!

I totally love your perspective on consoling your son through tantrums. At this age, I think emotional outbursts like that are so about frustration, wanting desperately to communicate, being tired, etc., and not about pushing our buttons as parents, even though of course they do as a matter of course! So it's a great message to send your son that you'll be there to help him cope with the emotions he's going through. Even though it is hard, especially if we were (and I was, too) raised a different way.

Kara: Agreed! There's so much to do either way, and hard to make both the parenting and the stuff happen smoothly at once, huh?

Lisa C said...

Sarah: Hi. I think you might like to read 'Tears and Tantrums' by Aletha Solter. If it weren't for that book, I would be frustrated by tantrums, but because of what I read in that book, I feel I understand tantrums and I am totally fine with them. I just stay calm, either hold him or stay near him, and listen. I wrote a post about it here.

Hobo Mama: I love the waves analogy! I totally ride the waves. I just jumped on the knitting wave right now. I do attempt to have some balance in the things that actually NEED doing, but for the things I would LIKE to do, I just go with whatever fancies me at the moment. And by NEED, I mean buy groceries, eat food, get sleep, spend time with child and husband, do basic house cleaning. By LIKE, I mean have an orderly house, get connected with people, work on hobbies, etc. No need to feel pressure to do things that aren't necessary!

amy friend said...

Great series. This is the hardest part of AP....and I think that you could spend an entire month - or year - on the topic of balance....because despite what is conveyed by any book, person, culture, mamas are still expected to put everyone else first. Ironically, I've realized that I must explore my interests even more since my little guy was born. How can I teach him to follow his passion if I don't do so myself?

Em said...

I really love this post. It's so easy to beat ourselves up for not diong it all. I love what you said about not being along in seeking balance, that everyone else is doing it, too. It's nice to feel that solidarity!
I love reading your blog!!

Jessica said...

Man... what serendipity brought me here! Well, it was your comment on MY blog, of course, but I'm so glad you did! I love what you're doing here and I feel like your voice could be mine.

I've been struggling with balance all summer, self-identity, motherhood AS an identiy, even, and just still being true to myself. I'm on the cliff edge about to fall off, but am desperately looking for an alternative and I have found so many through wonderful writings (and comments) such as yours.

This is just so freaking awesome! I can't wait to dive deeper into your blog.

Sarah said...

What great feedback to a great post! I so greatful to have found this blog.

I have to say that I am reading Unconditional Parenting and only in chapter two I am amazed at the information and ready to absorb it all.

How to talk so your kids will listen and listen so your kids will talk is also a book I am reading. It is great so far too.

My hubby is reading Playful Parenting.

Lisa: I will have to check out the Tears and Tantrums book. That will be next on my list.

Thank you all so much for your help!

Hobomama: I came across another post on your page that I am going to read, it is about potty training without rewards. I was struggling yesterday to figure out how to potty train without the traditional "rewards" system. I will be reading this post all day.

Thanks everyone!

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