Balance, as in balance between family and personal time, is an elusive component in parenthood. I, as well as any mother I know, have been chasing the perfect balance since my first trimester of my first pregnancy. I have learned many lessons through the years on how to balance parenthood, career, marriage, and me time. But still, it seems that any formula for balance that I find only works for a few weeks before something – illness, car needs repair, a giant work project, and so on – forces me to throw all up in the air again and re-organize.
I am a stay-at-home mom, for the most part. I work from home, and when I do go elsewhere to work, I am fortunate to be able to bring my youngest child with me while the other two are in school. Another of the principles of Attachment Parenting asks parents to ensure that their child is receiving consistent and loving care with a single caregiver for the first two or three years of life. For some parents, this caregiver is a parent; for others, the caregiver is a childcare provider. I choose to piece together multiple jobs and freelance work that allows me to remain with my children, although be assured work-outside-the-home mothers that working from home is not that glamorous and has its own set of challenges: In some ways, it’s nice to be able to skip the commute and work in my pajamas, but then again, when work is also home, it takes a bit more effort to tuck me time in the day.
The grass is always greener on the other side… I think this saying is fitting in any part of life, including mothers’ stay-at-home versus work-outside-the-home decision. It’s human nature to never be quite satisfied with our circumstances. It’s both a curse and blessing; fulfillment can be fleeting, but it also pushes us to improve our situation. That constant push and pull between career and family life – because both are very fulfilling in themselves – can take its toll on women.
That’s what I read between the lines of this summary of ForbesWoman and TheBump.com’s “Parenthood and Economy 2012” Survey. Basically, the survey shows that whether mothers stay at home or work outside the home, they’re not content with their role: Stay-at-home moms feel as if they’re not fully contributing to their family’s financial position or resentment for giving up a career, and working mothers miss their kids and feel resentment that their partners don’t make enough money to allow them the choice to stay at home. Both groups say, the recession is to blame.
This restlessness among mothers isn’t going away, and not just because the nation’s economy is still recovering. Much of how mothers view their lives results from our unique hormones: We’re programmed to want to spend as much time with our children as possible, and yet we definitely need balance; we also get a lot of satisfaction from our careers. We’re complex creatures. Fathers, for the most part, won’t feel quite the pull that women do between children and career because they just don’t have the same chemical makeup. Certainly, the recession contributes but the core of the problem isn’t money – it’s that continual, constant, never-ending search for balance and peace.
The survey results came to one alarming conclusion: Mothers, no matter their stay-at-home or working status, are unhappy. They are not balanced. They feel guilty when working but they crave me time when with their children. What’s the solution here? I’m not sure, but it probably has something to do with learning how to be more content with your choices and making informed decisions. At least that’s what helps me.
Regardless, balance is vital when it comes to parenting. Attachment Parenting, especially, demands that parents give so much of their attention and energy and presence to their children. And this can only be done if a parent feels balanced. So, whether you’re a working mother or a stay-at-home mom, it’s important that you feel peace and fulfillment. This often means making a change – sometimes a major life change like a new job, or perhaps just carving out a little more me time, cutting out an activity in your life that seems more headache than not, playing with your children a little more, sitting down for a family meal, slowing down and reconnecting with yourself, your spouse, your children.