Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finding that balance....is there a such thing?

Tuesday was a changing day for me. As usual, laundry had piled up to the point where it was so overwhelming that it made my stomach turn every time I approached it....the dirty dishes from breakfast and lunch were piled high in the kitchen sink....there were crumbs and bits of food still caked onto the kitchen table and all under the table....the floor was begging to be swept and mopped.

While Garrett napped, the other 3 kids wanted to do "arts and crafts". Trust me, it was the last thing I wanted to do.....you know, get out the huge box of craft stuff and let them make an even bigger mess than there already was. But I also saw it as an opportunity to get them involved in an activity so I could get some of my own things done. I got out the crafts box and got them each set up with a craft and then I walked away.....I washed the dishes in the sink and then sat down at the computer to check my e-mail and catch up on some blog reading.

The kids kept interrupting me and I started getting annoyed with them. I found myself saying, "Give me just a minute" and "Just one more minute, guys....". 20 minutes later, I was still saying "Give me just one more minute". They finally stopped bugging me and I felt relieved. Finally, I could have some peace and quiet. I looked up from the computer and saw Cole and Landon sitting on the floor playing with their cars and Bella was still at the table, attempting to glue some paper together. She had been asking for my help and I had said, "Just try doing it yourself and let me know if you need help".

What I failed to realize until that very moment is that she HAD been asking for my help. She was constantly interrupting me with, "Mommy, I need help opening the glue..." and "Mommy, how much glue do I use?". Cole and Landon had finally given up on me helping them with their crafts and so they had abandoned their project and went to play together with their cars.

I had missed out on a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time with my children. They had wanted my attention, they had wanted to spend that time with me creating something together that was new and fun. Ultimately, the message they were sending me was that I was the most important person in their lives and they wanted nothing more than to spend time with me. The message I had sent them was that the other things I was doing was more important than spending time with them.

It was then that I recalled when I used to cry myself to sleep at night because there was too much peace and quiet....there were no toys all over the floor, no crumbs on the table and on the floor, and laundry was an easy chore. Most importantly, there were no sounds of children's laughter....there were only the sounds of my own tears falling and my voice praying out loud, begging and pleading with God to answer my prayers of achieving my dream of motherhood.

While household chores and staying connected with the outside world is important, my children shouldn't have to compete with those things. They are my priority....they are my most precious possessions. There's nothing so important in an e-mail that it cannot wait....and dishes can always be washed after the kids are in bed.

I felt torn because while I want to spend quality time with my children focusing on them and nothing else, I still want to maintain some of my own identity. There HAS to be a way to do it. I do feel its important for them to see me involved in other things because I don't want to be one of those mothers who puts her entire sole and being into her kids to the point where I lose the ability to know who I am, apart from being a mother. Even though I desperately wanted to be a mother, I also don't want to lose myself in the process. My MIL was very much like that....it's sad to see her so lonely and staggering through life because she doesn't know what to do with herself now that her children are grown up with families of their own.

So I will find a way to juggle it all...I will find that balance at some point. But not at the cost of my children feeling like other things take priority before them. I don't want to miss out on anymore special moments or memories with them because the dishes had to get done or the floor needed to be swept. There's a time for those things to get done....perhaps it's after the kids are in bed or on the weekend when my husband is home to help out.

One of my favorite bloggers, Jennifer, from the Toy Box Years always writes such enlightening and powerful posts about motherhood. Last night, as I sat down to catch up on my blog reading, I came across her most recent post "Mommy's Time Out", which happened to be on this very topic. I was comforted to know that other mothers feel the same way. We all seem to be struggling with maintaining some kind of balance in our lives. We spend almost every day wondering what we could be doing differently, which would ultimately help us reach that balance. Neither Jennifer nor I seem to have that answer just yet but eventually we'll find it and we'll be glad we did.

How do you find balance in your life between all the things that are important to you, whether it's your children, your job, your husband, your extended family or your hobbies??

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52 comments:

Heather said...

I feel that same way...it's hard to find a balance. Dr. Phil had a show on infertility yesterday, and it got me to thinking to the years when all I wanted was a child to mess up the house. They sure are amazing, aren't they?!

Kelly said...

I know how you feel! I don't really find a balance. I just put my kids first, and if that means my house isn't all that clean sometimes, oh well. I agree though, that mom's need time of their own to keep from going crazy. I just don't seem to get very much of it.

Lee the Hot Flash Queen said...

I understand where you are coming from. Sometimes there are other things I want to do while my kids are home. I have decided that this year, when they are home, I stay off the computer, no TV babysitter anymore and we are spending time playing and doing things. They are calmer and sweeter, and so am I.

newlyweds said...

Your so right, but don't beat yourself up to badly, mommies need time also.

But the way I try to balance is only checking my email/blogging, before they wake up, during nap, and after they go to bed. Now sometimes I will sneak in a check but mostly not when they are awake. I also try to plan one daily activity a day, whether it be coloring, playing a game, etc. That way we had for sure one on one time just playing.

I know yesterday morning I had major mommy quilt because I yelled at the boys for constantly getting into everything (like they normally do) but I was sore from working out, so my nerves were shot. Ugh! Oh and I am still sore, but I will be better today, ha!

Mrs Cooper said...

You know.......I don't know that we actually do find a balance. Just yesterday as the kids were coming in from school they each wanted to tell me abou their day and what was going on and and I was halfed dozed on the couch. I could almost hear their disappoint as I tried to keep my eyes open. I remember wanting more attention from my mom and that age. I think we do the best we can with our situations. Just keep doing what you are doing. Your me time will come when they go to school.

Sadia said...

I could try to summarize, but there's no short answer to your question. I wrote a long one a while ago.

One way to get chores done while spending time with the kids is to have them help - REALLY help. Yes, it takes longer, and the result might not be what you want, but you're teaching them how to do household tasks and really interacting with them. I've moved all the unbreakable dishes to where my girls can reach them so that they can put them away. Their clothes-folding might leave something to be desired, but wrinkly school clothes are worth the feeling of accomplishment. Even the little ones can sort clean spoons into sizes (after their hands are washed).

Amy said...

It is hard to do for sure. I just try and do stuff one at a time. Then things get into place. I do try and fit in some me time even if it is just for a second. I think if you do that then you can go at it again. You are a great Mom and your children know it. That is why they love to bother you.

Michele said...

I think if you are looking for daily/weekly balance such as 50/50 kids/you, or 25/25/25/25 kids/you/husband/work, then it never will happen. Some things need more attention at different times. I see balance as, for instance, giving 80% to my kids because they need it this week, but next week they may only get 50% while the house an my husband get some attention, and then one week I'll get together with friends or do a "me" activity.

The key is that we as women get some of what we need. I've found no one is going to just know that I need things an will just give them to me. My husband tries his best but even he cannot completely relate to my life. Instead I have to set my boundaries--and setting boundaries is very difficult for women. (Yeah, try telling people "No"--it's hard!) I have to remind myself that it doesn't matter if other people don't get what I need or get upset when I take time for me and let something else go. Life is short--you're never going to please everyone. Besides, you are setting an example for your own children--you want them to see a healthy, well-adjusted woman, not a frazzled burned-out mom.

Christie Burnett said...

There must be something in the air this week as I posted about this very same thing here http://childhood101.blogspot.com/2009/09/reflections-on-day-at-home.html and I have also read Planning Queens post this week on the very same theme.

We are all trying to find that magic balance between being truly present with our children and getting on with all of the other 'stuff' that needs doing.

Good luck on your quest,
Christie

Brooke said...

my MIL is the same. its really quite sad the ways she poured her life into my hubs, now he's grown up and moved out of state.

Amy W said...

I wish I had all the answers on this topic. The kids need to know that we have responsibilities to take care of our home. Get the older ones involved in sweeping the floor or running the dust buster. The younger ones can run around with a dust cloth. :) Now that both of my girls are in school, I have resolved not to be on the computer in the afternoons & evenings when I could be spending time with them.

S Club Mama said...

Oh honey, I do it, too. I'll be on the computer while my son is crying and I'm just thinking "just a minute" or while the other boy is watching tv and I could at least be watching with him so he learns more from it. I think that's what I'll go do now (after I change their poop lol).

MamaHen Em said...

It is such a tricky balancing act and I think that we just do the best we can. I don't want kids who think the world revolves around them, but I do want them to know that they are loved and respected. Some days I feel like I do a great job and some days, not so much. Like others have said, I try to limit the computer stuff for when they are resting or at school, but, I'm not always perfect at that, either.

Twincerely,Olga said...

Hi.Love your blog.It is hard for me too. Somedays it seems like i got it and other days I don't know

Jennifer said...

Oh, I love this post! I feel the same way! What breaks me every time is when I turn on my computer, my son starts to cry. He knows when he hears the chime and the apple light up, that mommy will be distracted. :-(
I'm trying to keep my computer usage down to nap time and when he goes down for night, but it's hard. *sigh* When someone figures out the balance thing, let me know. I'll be on board! ;-)

Heather Kephart said...

Balance? Never! Sometimes things balance themselves out over a period of years rather than on a daily basis. With two small kiddos, I have to believe that's true. :)

Kathy B! said...

I really don't. Some days I feel balanced and others? I'm all out of whack. I just try to be the best all-around mom I can be every day and try not to think about it. How's that for a scary response?!

The Lane Family said...

Oh Helene, I am so there with you and what your said in the post. I to wonder how to balance everything and at the same time find a little time for me. I try to remember that they will only care be this little for a very short time and then they will be to busy for me. But until then I too will struggle to find some kind of balance.

I also know what you are saying because I remember many years crying and just begging to have the joy and challenges of having kids. SO we will keep looking for that balance!!

Kimberly said...

Awww - this made me sad, mostly because I know exactly what you feel. I am guilty as well. But what I think is this - I think you will have more balance later. I feel I have pretty much given up my life for the last five years, and I'm okay with that, for now. But I wish I had more friends, or had the energy to haul everyone out to more playgroups, or more time out with my husband, etc. But with the first set in kindergarten I feel like there is at least a light at the end of the tunnel now. And I always tell myself one day it will be back to going to dinner and a movie every Fri and Sat night because our kids will be gone and we will be bored again. Try not to beat yourself up - next time will be better! I would have completely thought the same thing. And with so man young children, you DO need an outlet - my computer is mine as well. But I agree we must be careful we don't let it take over. (Funny we even had a lesson on that in church on Sunday!)

Booklover1212 said...

Helene -

First - big hugs! Like you said, it's so nice to know that I'm not alone. And YOU'RE not alone either.

And second, thank you for mentioning me & my little blog in your post!

GREAT writing & great post!

~ Jennifer
http://thetoyboxyears.blogspot.com

Deb said...

Helene, you just wrote beautifully and elegantly about how I feel all of the time. My kids are older, and I feel the time I have with them slipping away. Yet somehow, I can't stop the landslide of activity that surrounds and invades our lives.

I have to keep forcing myself into the moment. Otherwise (I'm ADD) I'm constantly being pulled in all different directions.

I think you are a better mom if you are always looking for ways to be an even better mom. Just remember you can always wear underwear inside out and that you can drink out of the milk carton if all of the dishes are dirty :) Friends that don't see it my way don't get invited into my house very often...I've learned to surround myself with people that either understand me or don't mind chaos and a little banana smooshed into the carpet.

If you can't find balance, find peace in the beauty of the chaos.

MamaOtwins+1 said...

At least you get it. Yes you got lost in a moment, but you got the point and know what you need to do to change your focus and find your balance.

My husband and I each have one activity that is seperate from "family time" I coach a girls team (a relief after living with boys) and he tinkers with cars. Our children see that we have our own hobbies, but that when we are home, they are our priority. I guess having an out of house hobby makes it easier to draw the line.

Karen said...

I'm not nearly as busy during the summer as I am during the rest of the year. Which was why I spent the summer setting and reaching some personal goals. Some of them were to get things done that I had put off for too long. But most of them were about me spending time with me. It worked out so well that I've carried it into the fall.

While my list of 16 goals for 16 weeks is probably WAY too much for a busy mom with 4 kids, I think setting some personal goals for yourself would be a good thing. Maybe you did miss a great moment with your kids the other day. But this story to me also shows that you need a little bit more time for yourself. Maybe I'm making grand assumptions here, but it doesn't sound like Tim gives you that much of an opportunity for a break. And maybe you just have to find a way to give yourself a break.

Maybe.

Nezzy said...

Sweetie, gather your little blessings around you because they do grow up....quickly. You have your hand full and DO need your me time also. The balance is tricky but sometimes it means your time comes when the kids are asleep. Good luck and God bless your family richly.

Debbie said...

I think it is a constant struggle. Because we do all need our own time plus our time with them. It's hard. I think the best we can aim for is getting it right most of the time:)

blueviolet said...

My struggle with balance has always been with the house and organization. Some weeks I'm ok, some weeks are terrible.

Christina said...

I'm right there with ya..I swear you crawled in and picked my brain. This made me cry. I'm going to link this up on my blog. Talk to you soon, love and hugs!!!

Jen said...

Balance? What balance?

I have no idea how to achieve this and to be honest, I am probably too selfish when it comes to my kids. I spend more time cleaning up or on the computer then I do actually playing with them. They are always around me but I rarely get on the floor and play with them. Like you I missed an opportunity the other day too. Hayden asked, "mom can you push us on the swings?" And instead of running down there to play with them, I spent 10 minutes finishing something dumb.
The only thing that I can do is try and make tomorrow better. Each new day is a fresh start, thank God for that.

Cheryl Lage said...

Bless your heart, Helene. Think you've struck a chord with us all. An epiphany I had after beating myself up ad nauseum one day was the realization that when I DO sacrifice those things that I need (and even WANT) to do in order to spend significant time catering to each and every whim of my kids, I'm perpetuating two potentially harmful threads: 1.) That it's okay to interrupt people who are amid another potentially necessary, important or perhaps even simply enjoyable for them activity and 2.) they'll have an expectation for constant attention and entertainment...with minimal ability to self-entertain or accomplish.

Hang in there....I truly don't believe there's a balance to be found. Simply priorities to gauge effectively at a given time. (DO think twins help with that...all the struggles attempting to be 'fair?' Things AREN'T always fair! But they do shake into place in a just way. :) )

Xenia said...

This is a great post, I feel like this pretty much every day. I always feel so torn between wanting to spend more time with my kids and just wanting some time to myself... When you find out the secret to balancing things just right, I'm looking forward to hearing it!

Following you from MBC...
http://thanksmailcarrier.blogspot.com

Lani said...

This is something I struggle with each and every day. I think you just spoke the minds of every mom.. there has to be a balance, somewhere, but I have no idea where it is!

Buckeroomama said...

Great post.

Finding/achieving balance... that seems to be the biggest challenge of parenthood for me, I think. And it's not just one thing either. How to teach our children to be competitive, but not get them to become too overly aggressive; how to be there for them whenever they need us, yet finding time for ourselves; how to teach them to be self-reliant, but also know when to come to us for help... the list goes on and on. And it just scares me (truly it does!) that I might not be able to do right by my kids...

Alicia said...

I've been so guilty of that before. One too many times I was so caught up in my blog, facebook, dishes, etc. The list goes on an on. I think I took advantage of the fact that I have so many kids, they can play with each other. But, my kids LOVE it when I take extra time to read them a book or play a game with them. I don't want them to remember me as the mom who always blogged!!

DysFUNctional Mom said...

I'm currently writing a post about this subject. It breaks my heart to see bloggers lamenting that they are bad mothers, because they're holding themselves to some ridiculous Supermom standard that nobody can ever TRULY measure up to. I wish we weren't so hard on ourselves. We're only human, we're still women, wives, daughters, etc. Something's gotta give! We need our own time and we shouldn't feel guilty about that. The kids will not care if they get an extra hour of the Wiggles!

Jenny said...

This is so true. I have trouble finding a balance as well. I have no idea how to find it!

The High Family said...

WOW! and I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Look at all these mommies confessing that they have the same problem! Thank you for posting this...it was very brave of you.

My MIL is the same way about her boys. I swear she just recently stopped doing my BIL's laundry. He is going to be 32 and has been out of the house for 8 years now! Yes, that boy needs a girlfriend ASAP.

SO I feel your pain...or guilt shall we say. I feel like I am always telling Ryan that I need just "one more minute" while catching up on FB or blogs during the day and I know I need to get off when Kara comes over and starts banging on the keyboard. Hey, we are not perfect BUT I know we good moms! I remind myself that one day, the kids will read all the hard work we put into our blogs and appreciate the time we took to save those memories for them. Speaking of blogging...I need to get caught up with mine!!! ciao!

WhisperingWriter said...

I usually spend most of my computer time when the kids are sleeping. It's easier that way. Then I don't feel as guilty.

Creative Junkie said...

After being a wife two times for a total of 17 years and being a mom for the last fifteen, I have no idea how to achieve balance. None. And every time I try to attain it, I fail miserably.

I just wish there was a magic pill I could swallow.

Are You There Mom? said...

I'm SO SO glad you found time to post on this. I struggle with this every day. And I like you, struggled with infertility for 3.5 years. I would wish wish wish I had some little sticky faced toddler to interrupt me. I feel so guilty now when I get frustrated with her! I love her so much!!! Thank you so much for admitting this!!!!

Kristen said...

I don't have children but this was an awesome post and I commend you for recognizing something and wanting to work on it. That is so much of the battle!

The Daily Dean Chronicals said...

Balance....Hahahah! I find that funny! I sometimes neglect my children, and even hubby for "me time!" I do feel guilty when I realize what I did! I saw take life in stride, if we can not learn from our mistakes, what can we learn from?

Mom2my9 @ 11th Heaven said...

Helene, thank you so much for visiting my blog! I CANNOT believe that you have two sets of twins, thus, I guess, the title of your blog. LOVE IT! How old are they? I couldn't find their ages in the profile info. So, I guess to you, this is normal!

Carly said...

Helene, I have been reading your blog for about a year now. One thing I know is that you are a great mom. You do so many wonderful things for your children. I think you are too critical of yourself. I can only imagine having 2 sets of twins!! You have to give yourself a pat on the back and realize that all the good you do for your children way out weigh the me-time moments. Your children are very lucky to have you as there mom.

Carly said...

their**** Duhh

MommyAmy said...

I think all moms struggle with this issue to some degree. Perhaps especially mom's of multiples. Because (at least for me) by the time we're done taking care of their basic needs (diapering, feeding, bathing, kissing boo boos, etc.) we're WIPED OUT and often need a break... but then on top of all that we need to spend "quality time" with them... and often that's what takes the back seat.

No great answers here, obviously I'm not achieving my balance either... beginning to wonder if there is such a thing! lol

The Mother said...

Bad Mommy.

Wait--I do that all the time.

Okay, not so bad mommy. Busy mommy who NEEDS a few minutes to herself, even if it isn't convenient for the kids at the time.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Hit 40 said...

I was just feeling guilty from wishing my family away. My poor divorced friend is sitting home alone this weekend while her child is at his father's house. She is left with no one this weekend. All alone :-(

I will keep my family.

Michele S said...

Helene, I read this post and I feel totally different. The kids do not have to be entertained by you every minute. What I read is that Bella is capable of figuring stuff out herself and the boys are capable of playing well together.

My children play alone without intervention for 2 to 3 hours per day. That's because I have always required they do things on their own.

Let go of the guilt. It's part of letting them get some independence.

Semi-Slacker Mom said...

I feel so guilty when I'm on the computer & not paying attention to the children. I really try to do all my stuff while they're asleep. I'd rather give up my much needed rest for some me time.

Mrsbear said...

I struggle quite a bit, trying to find that balance. Lately blogging has suffered more than anything, along with housekeeping which I can't manage to stay on top of. I don't know what the answer is, or how to strike that balance yet. Sometimes everyone needs a reminder of where priorities should be, but we shouldn't sacrifice ourselves so much that we fade away. All mommies need me time, if we don't get it everyone else suffers. It's impossible to sacrifice yourself 110% of the time without exhausting your reserves. Balance? Let me know, if you find an answer. ;)

Nichay said...

I am also working on finding that balance. It is harder than it looks. I do want to thank you for sharing. Most women don't share enough, which makes other women feel like "why can't I get it together." It's just great to hear that there are other women that feel the same way.

HarryJack's Mom said...

Thank you for putting so many of the words in my head into writing - it's a struggle, and I don't want to regret these days. I will say that getting them into school helps me find some time to do my other 'jobs' then focus more on the precious memory-making. GL - can't wait to read about your discoveries!

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr



 
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