I watched the movie "Eat, Pray,Love" when it came on TV this week. I read the book eons ago and loved it. Watching the movie (and reading the book) stirs up all kinds of craziness inside my brain. It's like eating bad Chinese food- you can't sleep so you stay up at night talking to yourself in fortune cookie speak.
If you've never read the book or seen the movie it is about a woman who is a very successful woman but who just decides that the life she is living is not the one she wants to live anymore and so she just leaves everything behind, including her husband, and goes out in search of a new life. It is extreme and impractical, but it always gets me thinking- especially when I get bogged down in mommy world. Before we adopted Miles and we only had two kids, I lived in mommy world about 98.4% of the time. My life revolved around feeding schedules and nap times and I couldn't come visit you at 2 in the afternoon because someone might be tired and my life was suddenly not anything I could recognize and *poof* I was lost.
I totally didn't find that balance between being responsive to the needs of my children and being mindful that I was still a person in there who had needs and dreams and desires of her own that had nothing to do with nap time or teaching ABC's or finding preschools. I was a 20 something buried up in her kids who looked at herself in the mirror and couldn't remember what it is that I like to eat, or listen to on the radio or do when she had free time because I didn't let myself have free time.
In a lot of ways, this blog was my Eat, Pray, Love lifeline. It wasn't that radical, move to Italy and live in a hut in Bali kind of life makeover- but it was just what I needed. It was just the accountability I needed to find some balance. Granted, my scales still tip a little too much in the mommy direction most of the time, but I've discovered how to find more of myself outside of my role as a mom. And I've learned how to put more of myself into how I parent.
I think it finally happened when we brought Miles home and I realized that parenting him was going to be totally different that how we had ever parented before. Parenting a child with his issues typically fights every parenting instinct we have. I had to realize that only I could feel this thing out and that the parenting books and advice from well meaning people were not going to cut it. I had to make my own path. In making that path, I think I finally gave myself permission to also make a path for ME that sometimes didn't include the title "mommy" in front of my name. I suddenly had things that I wanted to do and conferences that I wanted to go to and things that I wanted to learn. I had to tell myself that I could feel one of two ways about it. a) I could feel guilty about having something in my life that didn't revolve around my children or b) I could embrace the possibilities and figure out that having a happy and whole mommy was the best gift I could ever give my kids- even if that meant that sometimes I wouldn't be home with them. I'm trying hard to pick B.
I still struggle with the mommy guilt and I'm a stay at home mom! I can't imagine how working mothers do it (I swear, working moms are freaking heroes in my book!) I had to stop listening to the criticism. And believe me- I've heard it. "Going to this conference is going to mess your kids routine up!" "Going away with your girlfriends? I never had time for that when I was a mom." "If you used the time you spent blogging (or insert whatever it is that you do here) to work with your kids, imagine how much better they'd be at xyz." I finally had to say, "ENOUGH!" I can be a mom and still be ME. I can still have passions and adventures and my kids are still okay and maybe even better off because their mom is finally not depressed and overwhelmed by the isolation that sometimes comes with never leaving mommy world.
Don't get me wrong- I love my mommy world. But to be honest- mommy land is a small world that can close in on you if you let it. And I let it get small on me every single time. I'm a much happier, well rounded person when I take a step out and look at the bigger picture. Some people call it selfish- I call it finding balance. Playing the martyr as a mother gets you no where. You won't win points. Those tiny people you do it for won't give you an award. But finding balance- ahhhhh. Reward central. Balancing responsibility, passion, parenting, finances, marriage, dreams... it's a delicate act- one that I find myself changing the recipe for all the time.
Sometimes the pieces are all balanced and sometimes one or two of those pieces gets so big that there isn't room for the others. When they get out of place, I notice that that is the time where I find myself feeling bitter, frazzled, unappreciative of my life and my husband, and overwhelmed all the time. Right now my pieces are a little out of whack. I'm trying to find my "relax and breathe" piece of the puzzle. It's probably under the couch cushion next to a lifetime supply of crumbs. I'm trying. But such is life. It's big and crazy and fun and scary and wonderful all wrapped up at the same time.
Balance, dear ones. Here's to hoping you find yours and that mine is under the couch.