9.01.2011

minding the unruly: a mother's time (during summer)

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.)

I recently read a quote on Courtney Kendrick's blog from writer and poet Emma Lou Thayne, about a phrase the writer often said to her children: "I love you with all my heart, but not all my time."

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?

49 comments:

house on hill road said...

hi lynne. i thank you for posting this because i think it is such an important topic. my children are a bit older (9 and 11), but last summer when they were 8 and 10 was the hardest one for me on record. i was seriously depressed and the main reason was that i had very little time to myself. my kids did not go to any camps, we took all family vacations (which are still work for me as the mom) and i spent my days shuttling them to the pool and practices and even bringing them along to my exercise group because i didn't want to pay for a babysitter. additionally, i had some very high expectations of them - chores, behavior, etc. - and when they didn't meet them, it put us all in a rotten mood. this summer, i took a different approach. i dolled out the chores each week and wrote them on the calendar. they new what was expected so i didn't have to harp on them to get things done. i found a way to exercise while they were occupied at swim practice. i signed them each up for 3 separate camps, evenly spaced throughout the summer. and while we still took a family vacation, my husband i were able to get away for a week thanks to some very generous grandparents. finally, i stopped feeling guilty for doing things for myself. after all, i KNOW, even though i sometimes don't want to believe it, that i am a better mother when i get a break now and again. the girls could feel it too.

Renae said...

Well, this sure is timely for me. My 5 kids range from 5 yrs. to 15 yrs. old. This fall we'll have a kindergarter to a soph. in HS. And yesterday I left my house at 10 a.m. and didn't return home til 8:30 p.m. I was running ALL DAY LONG between all of my kids' stuff and mine. It was not a fun day. And it hasn't been a really fun summer in general either.

So I'm not sure I have any answers, but we definitely have to pick and choose what we let the kids do and what I can do. With this being the first year in a long time that I'll be solo at my home while the kids are at school it is going to be an adjustment. In the past I've done things at night when they all go to bed, but then hubby feels ignored a bit too.

I think one key is to learn to say "no" to things. If someone asks and I can't do it I tell them and then maybe offer to do something different, but still related to what they are asking.

I have a nice group of friends too that we try and do a once a month lunch, either out or at someone's home. Even when we had smaller children we would do this--the kids loved playing with each other and we got some time together too.

It continues to evolve even now--as it will for you. I don't think next summer will be as miserable--cuz we won't be doing driver's ed for 2 1/2 wks among other things, but I do think there is a time and a season and we have to remember that too.

Good luck to all of us!

Johanna said...

I can definitely relate to your post. One thing that has helped me (with no family to help out and no extra finances for nanny or babysitter options) is to get up (very) early and do an hour of exercise before my husband has to leave for work. It may not be time to develop talents in the way you were wanting, but it sure makes a difference to the way I feel about it all and has become treasured 'me' time.

Anonymous said...

Yes, something about that quote definitely rings true. Two thoughts that come to mind - one is I try to hire young teens to come a couple of times a week to take my kids to the park or the pool, something that I know my kids LOVE to do, but really I could happily do without. They're busy and happy, and I get time to myself. The other thought is that I think our kids need our time and attention when they're young, but JUST AS IMPORTANTLY, I'm growing to realize it's really important for them to see us as interesting people following our dreams as well. Perhaps it would be less of a fight to get kids to practice if they saw mom regularly practicing? I grew up LOVING hearing my mom play the piano, and wish I could play like her. Perhaps I'll take it up now. I want my kids to be engaged, responsible, interesting adults eventually, and I really think they'll get there quicker by modeling over nagging, y'know? AND I'm hoping it'll make my adjustment easier once they do move out.......... anyways, I can't imagine there's a mom at home with her kids who doesn't relate to this quote on some level!!!!!

Cheers, Erica

FrauB said...

One thing I do that I think helps me have at least some time is I keep things small and simple. Not a ton of toys (also not a huge house), not a ton of stuff in our house that needs attending to (only a duvet on the bed makes for easy bed-making), and everyone wears clothes until they are dirty (so I only have to do laundry once a week). It's not the answer to everything, but I think it helps me in staving off some resentment because I am not spending tons of time tidying (I spend enough time on this as is, but it's quick work), worrying about things getting ruined, etc. I haven't freed up three hours a day, but I might save two hours a week? Does this sound like I just said, Oh, look, I saved twenty cents on a $4000 purchase? But 2 hours actually sounds like a lot to me right now.

Bethany said...

This post resonated with me, although I don't have any answers for you. I liked what another person said about keeping things simple. Especially true with little children. They need a lot of hands on care, but they don't need much else (ie swim lessons, play dates, etc). They can tag along with older siblings sometimes, and then they mostly just want to roll around in the grass out back and read Mother Goose. Even bigger kids like that too. Every now and again kids get lost in play. You can't predict those moments, but that's when I take time to read a poem by a favorite author, or paint my toes. The fury of these years is a terrifying thing and wondrous. Your words get at that and I am just needing to let go and be in it.

katherine h said...

A great discussion point.

I think if we fail to be honest on these issues in public forums, it can put a lot of pressure on mothers to be "perfect" mothers...and lead to consequences not dissimilar to the body image problems that result from the distortion of perception that results from being bombarded with perfect "magazine" images.

I think that many of us struggle to be the type of mothers that we idealise.

I used to worry that I spent too much time on the computer that could be spent looking after my children. Then my computer broke. I didn't spend any more time with my children...I took up Sudoku instead. So it became to clear to me that I was spending the limit of time that I could with my children whilst maintaining my own sanity (or some form of it!)

I think we have to embrace the concept and recognise the importance of unsupervised play...where the kids remain within earshot, but are left to their own devices regarding activities etc. (Sometimes this does lead to extra clean-up later!). Then you have the choice whether to use this time for chores or for your own fulfilling activities. I have had to adapt my hobbies to those that I can do at home...so that I can hear them and they can come to me with problems. This is partly why I got back into sewing. I have also set up an exercise area at home...so I can interrupt my squat to tie shoelaces in the morning...couldn't do that from a gym! Stay-at-home days are regularly scheduled into our holidays. And every now and then, we would have a movie day, when everybody was tired, and I didn't fret about screen time and read a book instead.

It does get easier as the kids get older. Mine are 6, 8 and 9 now.

I have no family around to help. I do remember, when I was pregnant with the third, dead-locking the front and back doors so that the 2 little couldn't get out, falling exhausted into bed for an afternoon nap, and then waking up to the carnage created by my two toddlers, who had outgrown their daytime naps.

Riddlez said...

Lynne,
First of all, I love your writing style.

Second of all, I'm so glad you decided to write about your personal feelings. You are a wonderful mom and a very dynamic and talented woman; I think we all benefit from your point of view and honesty.

Thirdly, I think that quote does have clout. As the adage goes: When mama ain't happy, nobody's happy. The ages of your children do make it somewhat difficult to carve out consistent personal time, but it sounds like you are hungry for it.

I find that after my babies gets to be about 10 months old and I start to feel a little less pregnant and a little more womanly again, I start to yearn for bits of myself that have been hiding beneath the business of the newborn months.

With Emily approaching 18 months, I, too, am seeking for something that takes very little time, very little money, and can be done when the timing is right so that I can feel a little more like myself.

The art of running a household is a full time effort. Add your children and you are working yet another full time job. And your marriage; you're supposed to nurture that too!

I'm gonna get a little molly on you here and suggest that after you get the discussion you have asked for, you take the ideas that appeal most to you and present them to the Lord. He will help you know where your time is best spent. He will also release you from the mom guilt that will try to thwart your efforts.

Good luck!

Ondrejka said...

Hi Lynne.
Thanks so much for your honesty in this blogosphere, where everything can seem so well put together to the observer. I think the answer to your dilemma is different for every woman and every family. It has been helpful for me to realize that the idea of any of us having personal time when we are in our family years is a very new concept. Until recently no one had or expected any time away from family. When my children were very young I tried to repeat the mantra of, "let go" very often. On my best days I would consider our lifestyle my gift to my children, and on my worst days I would remind myself that it was also a gift to myself. Now that my baby is 5, I realize that it was a gift to us all.

Jen said...

Lynne,
Don't be hard on yourself that you get irritated, annoyed, or down-right tired of your kids. We all do! Take a step back and look at how much we do for and with them, of course we get frustrated with them and they do with us too! It is natural when we spend most of our time with them.

I think it all boils down to priorities and boundaries. Of course, our children are our main priorities but we need to set boundaries. Showing them that you have set boundaries for certain hours of the day is an important lesson you will teach them. In result, they will see you as a mom but also as a person with your own interests and skills. I think you've done a good job in this so far, as your kids appreciate your sewing and art.

My other advice is to take guilt out of the equation. Guilt is an emotion that gets us nowhere. If you want to take an hour or two to do what makes you happy (mine is a nap a couple of times a week)then do it! I know it makes me a better mom, when for a small percentage of time, I take time for myself. The only way I did that was to be firm with my kids with boundaries and telling them it was my time and that they needed to occupy themselves. You know what the result was? Kids who could be independent enough for a couple of hours...and isn't that the goal? To raise independent thinkers?

I always have the thought lurking in my mind, "one day they will leave and what will you have left?". I, personally, would rather have a well-balanced skilled woman, as an example to them, versus a woman who has to relearn and rediscover herself. I think that is what Heavenly Father wants too. Take this struggle to the Lord and I bet a few minutes will open up for you here and there.

I love that one of our friends admitted on her blog that the first day back at school, while her little one was napping, she ate ice cream and watched Netflix! Did anyone judge? No way! I , myself, wished I could've told her "that is awesome!"
Final thought: you are a great mom! You are a great woman! You are a great friend! Cut yourself some slack and go read a book! :)
Jen

chris said...

Thank you for posting this, Lynne. As my children started school this week, I've been reflecting on our chaotic summer...and the additional stress we'll be inflicting on our family as we build a new house. I don't think there are easy answers. Balance is a myth, in my opinion. There are times when I carve out some space for myself, and others when I am filled with family. I think the key is to not let the pendulum swing too far in either direction. As moms, we need to fill our cups. We need quiet time to ponder and gather strength for the work we do. We need to keep our talents in working order. Our children need our guidance, but they also need to eventually take care of themselves. It is a difficult transition. I appreciate knowing I'm not the only mom who struggles with this.

lynne said...

So much to think about - so many great gems. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. It is such a relief to know that I am not alone in trying to work all of this out, and that I shouldn't feel guilty for feeling the desire for a bit more time.

* And it is so true - happy mom = happy family.

*Renae - loved the reminder that situations continue to evolve. So true. Already I am feeling the difference (in a great way) having 2 of my kids back in school...

*Johanna - exercising really helps release all of that pent up mom-rage, doesn't it? :) I definitely feel like when I get that done early in the day I feel better about life. I love that you've made that into such a regular part of your routine. I need to be more disciplined because I am sure that would also help with the whole happy mom thing.

*Erika - love your line about the power of modeling over nagging. That is SO TRUE. Totally something I need to think long and hard about!

*FrauB - you made me laugh with your bit about saving 20 cents on a $4000 purchase :) - totally agree that 2 hours right now feels like it would be worth $4000. I am going to try and let go a little bit of some of those meaningless details for the sake of the big picture.

*Bethany - YES! the fury of these years is terrifying and wondrous, that is really the most perfect way I have ever heard anyone ever express that. ...

lynne said...

Katherine H. - I worry a lot about spending too much time on the computer but perhaps your observation is totally spot on, that it (or whatever other non-kid thing one might be doing) represents a natural and healthy way of retaining a bit of sanity and mental space as a mother. I really think you are right about the value of unsupervised play. I remember wanting to play with my sisters growing up, not my mom. There must be something so good for kids and their imaginations to not feel restrained by a boring adult's presence, or needing to try and please said boring adult...?

Tracy - "I start to yearn for bits of myself that have been hiding..." So beautifully expressed. I loved all of your thoughts. Let's talk about this in person. And I also loved your molly advice. Will definitely do. Also, running a household IS an art. Well-put.

Ondrejka - so wise! That would be very helpful at times to stop, take a breath, and realize that this small window of years is a gift.

Jen - love your comment! And thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. That means so much. And you are right. Thinking about boundaries is healthy and good for everyone. I think about your kids and about how independent and insanely creative they are, and see that they developed those skills because you weren't constantly all over them, or structuring all of their time so they were "productively" engaged. Also, I really love your point about how one day the children will leave, but you and the woman that you have become will still be there. With hopefully a LOT of years still to fill. I think you are right that it is so important to never lose sight of who that woman is and can be - and to at times stand up for that woman. Now I just need to go have a talk with Aida about why she needs to actually stay in quiet time. :)

lynne said...

Chris - yes! Balance is TOTALLY a myth!! That is kind of a relief to hear someone else say that because I always feel like I am unsuccessfully searching for it and failing. Thanks for your thoughts. I loved how you expressed the need to keep the cups filled, and I think the pendulum is such a good way of explaining that because it is constantly in motion and changing its position. We just constantly need to be re-adjusting, don't we?

Ashten said...

O sweet lady...you are NOT alone...I'm a first-time mom of a five-month old so I'm very very new at all this and give my humble opinion very HUMBLY!
I find the BEST way to assure I get time to myself is to rise up early...before my little one is up. I fit in a few moments of quiet time to read my Bible and then take a short walk around our property (not for exercise really...more for breathe-time). I do this outside so that I can't see any dishes or laundry or any other messes that distract my me-time.
I'm not sure how this might look for you because your children are older and at a different stage of life than my little one...
I've been encouraged by these women with ideas of how to manage time better and be the best woman I can be:
-Emilie Barnes
-Tsh Oxenreider
-Amanda Soule
There are others out there too. I think it's important to remember - like you said - that these days will not last forever. And when your kids are grown and out of the house...there will be lots more time to play that piano again. When we choose motherhood, I think we really are sacrificing ourselves in a very real way. Though at the same time it is very important to take moments to refill our own cups so we have SOMETHING to pour out on our loved ones.
Summer is such a busy season too...it's easy to feel like a squashed bug when summer's flurry is on our shoulders...just keep telling yourself:
"for every thing there is a season" because it's o so true...
Beautiful thought-provoking post Lynne...thank you :)

Allison said...

Thanks for this, it's like looking at a magazine cover without the airbrushing!
So much I could write, but I have a little (wild?) 2 yr old running amouk, while I try to catch some me time.
Never feel guilty (so hard, I know) for craving some time for yourself. We all need it, unfortunately, some of us get less than we should. I know that too...moved across country last year with a then 9 mos. old and it's pretty much been me and him ever since...luckily I have a great husband who takes over after he gets home from work and is just as good on weekends. But it's just us...I guess I need to try to find a babysitter or something?? I have some major trust issues with that...and preschool is another year off...and oh, I'm due with # 2 in 8 wks...:)
Everyone tells me this time goes so fast, enjoy every minute etc...that really only makes the days I feel like crying and hiding in the closet feel so much worse!
Anyway, I'm glad to read that I'm not alone with some "irritation"...so often I read blogs where everything is so stinkin' sunshiney all the day long, that it just plain makes me feel like what is wrong with me??

Allison

Becca said...

Hi Lynne,

I don't know you personally, but after reading this, I am wishing you were part of my circle of mom friends! From the small peek you give us of your life through the blog, I can see that your children will flourish and benefit from your good influence. I am always struggling with this, always wanting to give the most I can to help my children succeed, hoping that this trip to the art museum will instill in them a special love of the arts, that perhaps if I teach them to read early, they won't struggle at school, blah blah blah...I don't know. It remains a conflict with me, who, like you, has not practiced the piano in a long while. My greatest release right now is being with dear friends and their kids. I imagine that this kind of social time gets very tricky once your kids get older, but the other comments on this post really speak to how we need each other and how helpful it can be for us all to honestly talk about being mothers and individuals. Best wishes as you navigate these waters. Let those of us a couple years behind you (I have a 5 year-old, 2 year-old, and pregnant!) know how you figure it out!

Liz R. said...

i think first, you get rid of the mom guilt that we all feel when we do anything for ourselves, and then you simplify. our kids don't all NEED to be in multiple sports each along w/ music lesson. why does my 4 year old HAVE to play t-ball. would he like it? yes, of course. does he like do other things too/instead - totally. we simplify our activities, we simplify our expectations.

when i started taking piano lessons last year, i did feel a little guilty (and a little judged... although that could have been the guilt) that i was doing that for myself when everyone else was putting their KIDS in piano... but i also got a lot of excited words of encouragement about the example i was setting for my kids showing them that i am a person with interests.

i saw an episode of oprah a very long time ago about women who had totally immersed themselves in motherhood and wound up crazy and taking a year long sabbatical from motherhood to "find themselves" leaving their husband and kids to fend for themselves. that seems more damaging then taking a hour or two out of your week to do something for yourself. after seeing that, i swore i would never sacrifice so much of my self for motherhood that i lost...myself. nobody wins in that scenario, not even the people you are sacrificing for.

Liz R. said...

also - you could take a movie for the baby to watch during cello while you read a book. squeeze in the "me time" whenever there is a free minute. ;)

lynne said...

Becca, I wish I knew you, too (and I see that you live in New Haven! We moved to California from Branford six years ago. We had happy times in New Haven - I still miss Bar's salad and how good pizza is there. Was it crazy there last weekend with the hurricane??) I agree so much with what you said. Friends can sometimes make all the difference and so often you find just the nugget you are needing to hear in a big ocean of good conversation, you know?

lynne said...

Liz - yes, a year long mother-sabbatical might be more damaging than feeling less guilty about letting my kids watch more TV! Sometimes it helps to think about how bad it really could be, right? :)

I love that you are taking piano lessons, and I also think that yes, we all need to figure out how to throw out that mom-guilt when we are genuinely trying our best to be good mothers and good members of our community.

lynne said...

Allison, I totally know what you mean about wanting to hide in the closet and cry when people talk about time going so fast! It's kind of like how people talk a lot about being more in the moment with your kids. That also makes me want to run into the closet sometimes. :)

lynne said...

Ashten, thank you for your sweet comment. I think that is a great idea to get me time in an environment where you are not distracted by all of the other duties that need to get done. That is a really great idea. I also really like Amanda Soule - what an amazing woman - and will definitely go look up those other ladies you mentioned. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

This was a hard post for me to read because it hit home. I read blogs but don't have one of me own because of the time commitment. Time. I only have two children (9 & 7) and some days I can't keep it together, so much so that I so wanted more children but couldn't figure out how to do it, so I didn't.

I'm slowly making time for me (I actually started piano lessons) but I feel guilty if I'm practicing and the house isn't clean and the laundry is washed and put away. I feel that everything needs to be 'done' before I'm allowed time.

m

Anonymous said...

Motherhood to me is the definition of the most intense, committed spiritual path one can choose on this planet. Not a path for the faint of heart or for those who are fearful of breaking, change or surrender. For me staying sane is dependent on a deep discipline of daily gratitude. In those moments where there feels like there is nothing to be grateful for, I remember that I am grateful for remembering to be grateful in that moment. Sending you and all the mamas much mama grace and love in the midst of your searching.

melissa said...

Lynne: I love your post. It is such a poignant subject for young mothers. I agree that it is really a balance that each mother must find for herself. Not an easy feat...

Becca said...

ps. My husband's med school classmates threw us a baby shower for our first babe at Bar. Must have been my favorite baby shower I've ever been to, especially thanks to the mashed potato pizza.

lynne said...

becca, are you guys at yale? that's where my husband was doing his residency. how are you liking it?

lynne said...

m, hang in there! i hope some of the good things that people have said here in the comments will help you to feel better about practicing the piano. :) I loved the observation that your modeling will be more powerful than any nagging.

and anonymous - gratitude. that is a wonderful point. gratitude has the potential to stop any negative emotion if you take the time to find it. i forget this too often.

julie machen said...

Lynne-
Oh, the balance...it always seems when you achieve some, something changes! I think it is very important that our children see us taking time for ourselves I want my children to know we all cherish time for ourselves, to recharge. I don't schedule a lot for my children. I have them usually pick one activity during the school year and a few over the summer. Over the summer they don't overlap. I enlist the children's help with as many of the house chores as I possibly can. Doing something simple like reorganizing my cabinets so they can easily fetch their own dishes and cups has proven so helpful. They enjoy the work and they have the reinforcement that all of us need to do our share in a family or it falls down. When they don't pitch in willingly when it comes time for one of their activities I have a frank conversation [done with compassionate words] about whether I have the energy to take them to that activity because I had to do all the work that day.

It's amazing what imaginative things come to children when they are allowed to get bored! I never despair or fill the space when those words are uttered. Instead I say, "Oh, I'm sure something is just around the corner."

I have also set up times when mama needs 30 minutes to look through her cookbook to figure out our list. You have 30 minutes too [and I set out a clock] Please, give mama this time and in 30 minutes you can bring your favorite book and crawl into my lap for a story. They usually are so engaged in their play that they give mama more time!

Good luck, this is never an easy thing to achieve.

Warmly,
Julie
machen.net

lynne said...

thanks for those great tips, julie. i like your line about "around the corner." I will use it. Also, I really like the idea of using a timer, so little ones have a more concrete idea of what the expectation is for them. thank you!

Becca said...

Lynne, hi, I'm back. woah. Who knew we had so much in common! Yes, my husband finished med school at Yale in 2009 and is a resident here now in radiation oncology. No wonder you (and I!) have so much time with our kids, with these busy husbands! Although rad onc is pretty kind to our family. Anyway, ah! I'm so wishing that our timing matched up! That would have been fun.

Becca said...

....but I bet you're pretty glad that residency is over!

allydru said...

ahh, lynne, you hit the nerves sometimes. well said, all around. balance is such a shifting goal -- the instant I feel like I'm there the earth moves and the kids start pounding and off we go again. sometimes in the school year, when most of them are off for hours, I find a little more consistent time and quiet. I can put together an entire sentence on a good day. but the summer? not so much. usually that's ok with me. there is something about being out of balance that opens up the bones -- painful but cathartic, you know? a good reminder that I'm not as in control of this life I lead as I'd like to think after all. a good reminder to put my roots where they matter (which is not in the pile of laundry or the perpetually dirty floor under the table or even shuttling to lessons; I'll give them attention but not my soul).

Kelly and Kelly said...

For me it boils down to this:

1 - lowering my standards. my house will not be as clean as I like. my kids not as presentable as I'd like. my dishes aren't always done, my laundry not always caught up. but we are happy and that is worth not having everything perfectly done.

2 - getting up before them. exercising. drinking coffee & eating one meal of the day in peace.

3 - hiring outside help when I can find it and when we can afford it. I had a great sitter this summer every other week or so and she was fantastic for my sanity.

Rosa Maria said...

Honesty, finally! Thank you so much for that! When I was a first time Mom in a foreign country without any family or friends around, I was really haunted by those "perfect blog mums" who had 4-5 kids, all homeschooled, and they still baked, cooked organic meals, sewed and knitted their kids clothes and yet managed to write down everything on their blogs!!! How they could possibly do all those things? Was I just a useless whimp? Nope! I'm a real woman who is doing her best bringing up her 2 kids (4 and 2 1/2 years-old), sometimes her best is not enough, but, hey, who wants to be a wonder woman? Not me! I bake our bread, I make them some clothes and I cook them healthy meal as much as I can. Some days I'm so grumpy that I can't bear myself; some days I'm so exhausted that I lose my will to live; but some days, ah, those days, they are so sweet, so wholesome...
I still don't have much time for myself or for my dear husband, but we grab eagerly every little oportunity to have some time together, and it is always so delightful! I think it is called life, isn't it?

Tanesa said...

It is important to have something that is yours alone, whether you have kids or not. I go running a few early mornings a week, and I try to squeeze in some time to crochet. I agree with the comment about boundaries and would like to add that it is also important to establish a routine and help your children to understand that quiet, unstructured time at home is necessary. I hate to take a tone of negativity, but I would like to give you an example: My two stepkids are 14 and 16. They are not with us all the time because their mother has full custody, but they live nearby so we usually have them every weekend. Their mother is all the time carting them around somewhere, and of course this can be common with teenagers because they get so busy at that age. But our problem is that she will never say no to them, not even to the unnecessary trips. This has affected us quite a bit because on the weekends they expect us to take them places constantly too. We got up on Saturday morning and had a nice leisurely day at home in mind, but the first thing my stepdaughter says when she gets up is, "I think we should all go somewhere and do something." We told her no, that we can spend time together at home, that we don't need to go somewhere. And she proceeds to spend the rest of the weekend in her room. This is such a difficult situation for several reasons: The kids have developed unreasonable expectations of their parents, and they do not understand what no means. And they don't value the time we spend at home together. Also, constantly being on the go is a strain on your family's time and on your finances. I think enjoying the sweet and simple things is what is most important. My husband and I just found out that we are going to have our first baby. I look forward to teaching this child what the really good things in life are.

twirlingbetty said...

I had to laugh when I read your post because I thought of you numerous times over your summer (our winter) and reflected a lot about how wonderful it was that you were taking time with your kids just to be and enjoy and all that stuff and wishing I was better at delineating those things...and then you go and put my mind at rest with this wonderfully honest, refreshing post.
I've just read all these fabulously articulate responses and agree with nearly every single thing said here; and I'm not sure what I can add.
I suppose the one thing that is hardest for me in terms of taking me time is doing so under the (sometimes) scrutiny of my mum - wonderful and supportive as she is, as another commentor pointed out, we seem to be the first generation to do this (selfish - ha!) thing.
I would simply wither and die without "me" time and I will probably never get the balance right...but I keep trying and I know my kids will be ultimately happier for having had a mum who respected herself enough to be honest about what she needed...well, that's what I tell myself when I hear myself saying things like "Not now darling, mummy is trying to write". I love my kids passionately and want the very best for them as we all do, but I just know that I won't be able to help them get that unless I'm given the opportunity to pursue my own little bits of individual happiness. As for practical tips: none I'm prepared to admit to in any detail ie, far too many hours of "educational" tv (no, it's not an oxymoron).

Julie said...

I'm a little late to this party but it made me think of my own mother, who had 5 children under 5. She worked part time outside the home once I started kindergarten but was always home when we got home. I can recall her losing her temper one time in my entire childhood - something I contemplate often now that I have 4 of my own and sadly cannot say that I have only lost my temper once! She was not a baking/sewing/crafty mother at all, but she allowed us all to do almost anything, within reason, unsupervised, including cooking, sewing on the machine from about 7 etc. We didn't have lots of supplies, but made do and it stood us in such good stead. I don't remember playing with her - always with my siblings, but she was always there. A calm, guiding presence. One thing she did which I have never managed to replicate is that each afternoon she would have a 30 minute nap. We knew to be quiet and stay out of her room, though the door was never closed. I do remember that sometimes that 30 minutes seemed eternal, but I now often think that it gave her the recharge necessary to get through dinner, baths, bedtimes with calm and patience. I think the ideas of recharging in the afternoon, when patience is wearing thin, by taking time for yourself (whether that is sleep or doing something you enjoy) and not feeling the need to play with the children, but be willing to give them freedom (within reason) are good ones which I often fail to replicate.

christine mills said...

Thank you for your honesty. I actually have struggled with carving out time for myself, because oftentimes the last person on the list is me. I do find when I dedicate even a half an hour to myself I feel refreshed. It reminds me of who I am as a person and another side I would like to share with my children.

Christine

Anonymous said...

I have a theory that you need three things to be a great parent: love, patience and a sense of humour.

Most people can muster up love for their children, even when they are tired or the children at their most odious.

To be patient and find the funny side of things requires you to have some emotional slack in your system. Running at 100% of your emotional capacity, balancing on a tightrope of nervous energy, fatigued either physically or mentally means finding lost sun hats, explaining how engines work or tiding up AGAIN, are feats beyond endurance.

Caring for people constantly is hugely straining. This is recognised in people caring for the elderly. Less so mums.

I know I need an occasional massage, a solitary walk, a glass of wine with my girlfriends, some time to sew, an uninterrupted conversation with my husband, to be a patient, fun mum.

I love my children so I make time for myself.

Laura

Anonymous said...

I love your posts - this one was particularly touching because it's so pertinent and personal.
My children are 9, 3 and one is on the way. This summer I've tried my best to be okay with not really going many places. I see my friends carting around their kids and right now I simply cannot do it all the time and have no desire to ware my self out. We make special trips - and I hope my kids think of them that way, as something SPECIAL - not a requirement.
The things that we need to do in a day include things like eating, sleeping, exercising, resting - and this summer I've tried my darndest to make those things special for all of us. All these things can be made special.
My mother has told me that it's not my job to entertain them. I see that, but I still feel like a boring putz not offering more. But that's all I can do - keep showing that the mundane is awesome and that the small things count.
They have driven me to tears just the same - but I'm happy that they can be content without fireworks everyday.
Good luck getting some time to yourself - for yourself. It's something we mummies talk about a LOT.

holly

Chair said...

I read through some of the comments and they are all so awesome & supportive, I figured I'll just put in my own take on things.

In the summer, I am the opposite of the tiger- or the helicopter-mom. Mostly because when I was a kid, I very nearly literally ran wild. We lived adjacent to my grandfather's farm with forests and fields and 2 doors down from a house-full of cousins and we just... did whatever we wanted. I don't ever remember being bored. I also don't remember adults much.

In retrospect, it was perfect. I had a few chores to do around the house and I always had to be home before dark and I always KNEW that Mom was around if I needed her but if I fell off my bike and scraped my entire knee raw... I knew that I could wash it and find my own damn bandaids!

My children are 3 and 6 so, no, they can't quite run wild yet (and I do only have TWO of them), but I DO think it's important for kids to have time to do whatever they want, without Mom (or Dad) to direct them, or to even be involved. I am always within listening distance and no further than the far side of the yard (for now, till they're older). But.. that bit of space is priceless. |

I can work on (and complete!) a project without repeated interruptions (a few kisses maybe, but those only take a moment) and I feel like I have had time to myself, that I've accomplished something, but that I'm still with the kids, too.

Yes, I do still hang out with them, and we hit the pools and playgrounds. But it's not ALWAYS 'Game On' for me. It's pretty freakishly awesome to do some minor carpentry projects, listening while they're sitting under a tree inventing their own little games and finding their own ways to solve their problems.

From what I have read on the matter, it builds self-sufficiency when kids are left to their own (safe) devices and I assure you, there isn't anything around the house that my husband can do that I can't do -and, frankly, a lot of it I do do better.

So.. I guess my point is that yes, you need time to yourself -and that sometimes it's possible to find it even when the kids are in the next room.

(Things are different once school starts, though. We have schedules tacked on walls, but I still make sure the kids get time to play -on their own at least an hour per day.)

lynne said...

you ladies are brilliant. these comments are very inspiring, and helping me to better find my path...

thanks for all the thoughtful consideration here!

Anonymous said...

lots of good advice here we all learn from one another. its over sooooo quickly mine are at uni or last few years of school miss them so much,remember the days are long but the years are short my words of wisdom your training character and making (Good)memories if it doesn't fit into those two catergories then don't do it. EVERYBODY rests for I hour if poss (after lunch) you have to teach them this quite reading whatever just quite. everybody helps a family is a team let's be a winning one (winning=being kind helping one another sharing respecting others-things and space) you do need something for your self but if you can get into play space you'll have so much fun with the children you won't need your own space as much doing your thing (writing art craft music etc) around the children helps them do theirs. my mother got up at 5:30am every day and practiced piano we always woke to beautiful music (and some mistakes) it was lovely most of all enjoy your child have great times together we also had a cleaner once a fortnight we would all tidy everything then go out for a couple of hours and she would scrub everything we would come home and it would be perfect we would have a mess free meal and enjoy the beauty for as long as possible this is a great investment into you, scrubing is hard work it is worth farming it out rather than buying take-away etc it is looking after you. I might add this was the only time it was tidy we were a family and we LIVED in our home so pencils stuff books etc major lego constructions papermache whatever, it was a happening place but once a fortnight it was perfect and spotless. have fun you'll get to do other things later but this time with your children will never come again.

Anonymous said...

its a myth that we can do it all
give all to our kids
all the time
there is no such thing as super mom
we need to stop striving for this unattainable unrealistic expectation for ourselves and all moms
after all
if we had wanted to give all day all day long all day long without a second thought we would have become nuns not moms

Anonymous said...

It saddens me to think that you anticipate criticism from other moms. As moms, we need to be encouraging each other in the hardest job there is -bar none! We are shaping eternal beings here not herding cattle. Thanks for your transparency. If you feel run down, then give yourself permission to sneak in some craft time, or a novel, or piano practice. Your kids will actually be motivated too. My kids cheer me on when I learn something new and it inspires an atmosphere of discovery in our home. BTW I homeschool 5 of my 7 children; ages 13,10,7,5,3,20mo&4mo. :)

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charmingdate said...

You are beautiful !