my mom and my 18 month old at Point Lobos
(Okay, ladies, I'm going out on a limb here - I don't normally post such personal things, but I'm really interested in your experiences on motherhood/time/balance...please don't be too critical of me for my honesty below.)
It made me stop and think. This summer, I have loved my children with all my heart, and also with pretty much all of my time. And consequently I have felt, to be brutally honest, a little out of balance, and to be even more honest (in the hopes that maybe there are others out there who might relate?), an undercurrent of irritation (gasp. I can't believe I just put that out there on the internet) with my children as we've flown through our summer, our days packed with swimming, play-dates, cleaning, cooking, blah blah blah. All day long we go because that's what kids do - and when I force my unruly lot to stop for a quiet hour or two I am usually still right there going- putting a little one down; squeezing in one more load of laundry, folding another batch of clothes or trying to speed-clean the car. And overall I feel a little brittle, strung too tightly; less able to appreciate those sweet moments of brilliance you can experience watching a child grow. All the while I am acutely aware of the fact that my children's smallness is day by day slipping away from me as they fight their way forward to independence and (another gasp!) toward junior high.
On one hand the pragmatist in me is not sure how I can agree with Emma Lou Thayne, at least not yet. If I don't give my family all my time right now, really, who would feed the baby? Who would make sure the 4 year-old learns good manners, or help the 7 and 10 year-olds learn to do their chores consistently? I want so much for them all to be hard workers. Who would keep the TV off, and make sure that everyone is fed, and fed healthfully? Who would make sure homework gets done and instruments practiced? Who would make sure we have fresh clothes to wear and a home that is clean(-ish)?
I've been so fortunate to be the main at-home shepherd for my little flock, and I'm exquisitely grateful for opportunity to do these things for my family. I love it and am satisfied by it, even on the hardest of days. But I also absolutely see the beauty of what Emma Lou Thayne said, and I wonder: is it the ages of my children that don't allow for personal time, or my parenting style? And, would I be a better mother (and, woman) if I was better at somehow carving out more time to continue developing parts of myself that I think are important, too? It's funny how many of us spend the formative years of our lives acquiring skills and talents, and then at some point when we become grown-ups, kind of stop. One example of this -- we've talked before about music lessons on this blog, and my mother worked very hard to make sure that I was shuttled to, and prepared for, my own years and years of piano lessons. I love to play but very rarely sit down to seriously practice now. It makes me feel like somewhat of a hypocrite that I diligently set the timer each day for my own children and yet don't require the same from myself, and although my mother never asks me about it, I wonder if I'm kind of mocking her efforts by my own failure to keep up what she worked so hard to help me learn. You could maybe apply that same reasoning to any of the talents or skills that we are trying to help our kids learn, and yet do not practice ourselves.
I have no answers here, but I'm really interested in having an honest, non-judgemental discussion about this topic with other women. How do you personally find internal balance as you mother young children in your own situation, whether working or at home? If you do manage to carve out time for yourself, how do you do it? I'm really interested in specifics. We all have so much to learn from each other. Enlightenment, please?