How to Find Balance as a Mother
Since becoming a mother I have been chasing the seemingly impossible dream of a balanced lifestyle. I’ve been a full-time working mom, a part-time working mom, a bring-your-child-to-part-time-work mom, a stay-at-home mom, a self-employed work-at-home mom, a telecommuting work-at-home mom and for the most part some combination of two or more of those.
There have been times that I’ve had no balance and mothering consumed my life. There have been times that I desperately wanted to focus more on mothering and work got in the way. And, fortunately, there have been stretches of blissful balance where I felt like I was spending almost exactly the right amount of time on both mothering and fulfilling my passion/earning additional income for my family.
I’ve looked back over the now 14 years of parenting I have under my belt and examined those balanced and unbalanced times. I’ve noticed some patterns. If you’re struggling to find balance as a mother, there are probably a few reasons why.
Guilt Makes it Impossible to Find Balance as a Mother
I’ve been practicing attachment parenting for 14 years now and have noticed a lot of anxiety and guilt within the community that worries me. I once parented with anxiety, too, so I understand it well. If my first child had been my only child and I wasn’t forced to drop it, I’d probably still carry that mindset today.
It seems that some AP moms are terrified to hand off the care of their children to anyone else for any amount of time. And it’s not always that they simply love being in the presence of their children all the time. It’s more anxiety- and guilt-induced. There is a fear that leaving a 3 month old in daycare will scar her or sending a 3 year old to preschool will damage his soul.
I understand the good intentions from which this mindset arises. Mothers were made to mother their own children. Children were made to stay close to their mothers. I am a proponent of child-led weaning, co-sleeping, homeschooling, baby wearing, etc and practiced it all myself. But at some point after my third child was born merely four years into my parenting journey and my husband was working 80 hours a week, I began to realize just how quixotic this constant mothering ideal had become. And, I was a better mother for letting it go a bit. (Let’s be honest, in a perfect world we’d all wait several years between children so that our idealism would be more achievable without our needing to become martyrs to make it happen.)
Guilt drives us to either do more than we’re realistically capable of doing and then burning out or it leads us to self-loathing and depression. Neither are healthy and neither will allow us to find balance as a mother!
Decide what the minimums are for your situation. For example, if you feel guilty about leaving your child in daycare but also feel guilty about not working to bring in more income, work part-time or work from home.
What if your situation requires you to work full time? Be grateful that you have a job and food on the table. Be the best mother you can be when you’re with your children and don’t lament over what they might be missing out on (but probably aren’t) while you’re at work. The best way to combat guilt is to focus on what you’re doing right and how those actions are making life better for your child.
Comparing Yourself to Other Moms Makes it Impossible to Find Balance as a Mother
The truth is that balance looks different for every mother and her family. For me, feeling balanced means that at least twice per week I need a solid block of time (usually a couple of hours) that I can be alone, without having to parent. I have used work to fulfill this need (without guilt!). I have also used other means such as hot baths with a good book and going to the movies by myself when my husband was available to care for the children.
Sometimes mothers become stay-at-home moms because they think that’s what they are supposed to do if they are being a good mom. Sometimes mothers become stay-at-home moms because that’s what all of their mom friends are doing. Not all mothers enjoy being stay-at-home moms full time. When we compare ourselves to other moms and force ourselves and our families to fit in a mold that wasn’t built for us, we fail to find balance.
Do yourself and your family a favor and stop comparing your mothering (how you mother, how much time you spend mothering, etc) to other moms! Break free from what you feel you should do and start doing what actually works for you and your family. This may mean you spend less time (or more time) with your children than other moms spend with theirs.
Lack of Support Makes it Impossible to Find Balance as a Mother
Maybe you’re a single mom. Maybe you’re a mom who has no choice but to work full-time in order for your family to survive financially. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom who lives far from family and whose husband works long hours. Whatever your situation is if you have a lack of support you will have to work harder than a mom with lots of support to be able to find balance as a mother.
Lack of support is the most difficult obstacle to overcome when trying to find balance as a mother. It requires you to reach out to others and to be open about your situation. If you feel embarrassment or guilt over your situation, your pride may have already prevented you from asking for help.
Creating a way to receive help while giving help to others is the way through this situation. Create a co-op with other moms to trade childcare. Use electronics to keep your children entertained while you engage in an activity nearby that feeds your soul and helps prepare you to take on the rest of the day. If you’re a working mom, use your lunch and break times to meditate, read or do some other activity that makes you happy.
Most importantly of all, realize the power you have to change your circumstances. Join a local mom group for support as a stay-at-home mom. Join a network marketing company and build your own business if you’re a working mom who wants to be home with her children more. Check out FlexJobs.com for work at home opportunities.
Of course, I’m no expert on what balance looks like for any other mother or any other family than my own, but I know what it feels like to have it and that it was worth doing the work to attain it. What does balance look like for you? How do you find balance as a mom?
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