Balance can seem like a four letter word sometimes. It makes us want to roll our eyes and cry our eyes out at the same time. We roll our eyes because it's elusive and seems only those moms who aren't us enjoy it. We cry our eyes out because deep down inside we want it, we need it. One day, you're sure that parenting is your jam, and the next day you want to jam your finger in a door just for the alone trip to Urgent Care.
Finding balance in parenting is a journey. It starts the minute that baby is born when your feelings and emotions start becoming more powerful than ever. The feelings can be crippling because it is the largest responsibility you have ever had - and you haven't ever done this before (even if you have had other kids, each kid is different!) It can feel like you are knee deep in the most important job there ever was and you are winging it.
If we are always on our own case for how much sugar our kids ate that day or the fact we didn't leave the house, then we can spark a fury of mom guilt that will keep us up all night. Stuff happens every day that you could blow out of proportion and let drag you down into the depths of the ice cream carton. The key to combatting these feelings while you watch your angel children sleeping, is having a framework that you work within as a parent. This begins with knowing when to reign it in, and when to let it slide. Letting your kids go buck wild with s'mores at the family campout is okay if they don't do that EVERY DAY. Not leaving the house with your kids is okay if other days you do take them on outings that they will enjoy. Being on Facebook or Instagram is okay if you can also put the phone down and make eye contact with those cuties and really listen when they are talking about their latest Lego creation or what happened during recess.
It's like the concept of making a mess that I teach my kids: it's okay if you make a mess, but you need to clean it up. Balance! The mess is okay. It's not a problem. The problem starts when it doesn't get cleaned up. The sugar high and the splurges, and also the downtime and screen time are all okay. But it's okay because there is something sitting on the other side of that balancing scale that keeps it from rocking up and down and making everyone in the family motion sick. If you ever find yourself on the low end of that ride, imagine what you could place on the other side to balance it out and act on it. Too many sno cones one day? Maybe a few more veggies and a lot of water need to be on the menu the next.
Like I said in the beginning, balance is a journey. The most wonderful gift as a parent, is knowing that as you mess up, you can start with a clean slate the next day! Or even the next minute! Kids are amazingly resilient and forgiving.
As we strive for balance together, I try and remember a couple things:
1. I am a good mom.
I know this because I genuinely care about the welfare of my children. I try and do everything I can to give my kids tools they will need to be successful in life and also to enjoy their childhood. I love them with all my heart.
2. I am still learning.
There is always something to learn as a parent. Each child, each different stage, each day can bring new joys, satisfaction, and challenges. Balance can be a slow process, gaining balance in one area of your life will enable you to keep working on it in the other areas of your life. Taking baby steps is acceptable. I am comfortable with the learning process and I am okay with my kids knowing I'm not perfect; it's okay if they see me struggle. I can apologize, and by doing this they can see that apologies are not a sign of weakness and are important to maintaining healthy relationships. I hope that as they see me meet challenges, they won't shy away from their own challenges in life. The struggle is real... and it's okay!
3. I can be flexible within my framework.
I strive to make decisions based on principle instead of preference. That means that if my kid has cake for dinner at the family birthday party, it's okay because we are all enjoying each other's company and I'd rather not spoil the fun over that. In this case, the principle of enjoying each other's company as a family is more of a priority for me than the preference that they eat a healthy dinner before dessert. If he asks for cake for dinner on a weeknight when I've made dinner, it is not okay because there is an important principle of eating healthy meals and there is not a competing priority. One of the hardest parts of parenting is the loss of control you have over your kids' actions and their will. Somedays, Barnum and Bailey's would pay ME for a front row seat in my house, but as I take the time to realize my frustrations are stemming from loss of control, I can manage my crazy better and go back to my motto: "It's Okay." Because honestly, having control over another human being is not the way this life was set up, so that is a dance I am learning - how to be foster cooperation without being controlling.
Now what about that other mom you see letting her kids watch TV seemingly too much? Or that mom who won't let her kid have dessert at the family get together because they didn't eat their dinner? I just have to say one thing: We don't know. We don't know how they are balancing those things out in their own way. We have to come together and trust that we are ALL trying the best we can, and the way I find balance that works with my kids and my life may look A LOT different than the mom next to me, who is trying just as hard and loves her kids just as much as I do.
I hope that you can find some take aways that you can maybe apply to your day to day. Again, we are with you! Do you feel you have balance or have mastered it in a certain area? How do you achieve it? Are you struggling to find it in a key area? Let's talk about it!