Balance…it’s hard to find

Lately, I’ve been feeling it. And by “it”, I mean fried. I started noticing little signs after I took my daughter out of the Mother’s Day Out program she was in last week. At first it was little things like feeling way more tired than I normally do. Then it was noticing how much I was on my phone. A few days later I noticed how I was trying to find things to do around the house (i.e., laundry, dishes, making calls, changing appointments, organizing drawers, etc.).

Now let me say here that my daughter has been home with me since her birth. We tried a mothers day out (which is a part-time preschool program, usually run in churches 2-3 days a week) when she was 16 months for a few months and took her out because one of the sweet old grandmas was yelling at her for crying when I dropped her off. She must have been yelling at her throughout the day because she hated going to school and started crying when I put her in the car even on days we didn’t have school. It was awful. We put her in another program at a different church last year and they only had 1 day a week, she loved it! She stayed the whole year. We decided to keep her there and try 3 days a week this year and it didn’t go as well. A couple things factored into our decision-

  1. She’s an August baby and she misses school age cut offs by like 10 days or something. Preschools also follow this rule and therefore she’s in the class with children a year younger than her. It didn’t seem as much an issue one day a week because she enjoyed playing with new toys and being outside with other children. It was way more of an issue this year when she’s 4 and her classmates are 3 years old and she was going more days.
  2. The school also started enforcing mandatory naps, which they didn’t do last year. My child hasn’t napped most days since 20 months old. This was a big problem for her. They have the children all lay on their cots for a full hour. They will give quiet activities but an hour is still a long time to miss mama.
  3. They also changed assistants in the first month of school and there’s a new director so things are run a little differently this year. Not bad or good and staff turnover is what it is but it’s always hard on young kiddos. It’s even been hard on the mamas!
  4. She also had one teacher on Mondays and a different teacher on T/TH. I knew this going in and was a tad worried about it but I think on top of all the rest of the changes- it was too much!

So with all those reasons- we decided to take her out. We stuck with it for a good few months. She started crying on nights before school and being super clingy at drop off. Then she started getting upset on non-school days, worried she was going to school. That’s when we dropped Mondays because I thought 2 different teachers was just too much for her to handle. A few weeks later we decided I would pick her up before nap time because she was just really resisting going to school every day and I worried it was the hour rest time. Things seemed better for a while but she was still arguing quite often about school days and there were still tears and morning hesitation. It just seemed like so much work for me…and her…and frankly, it just didn’t seem worth forcing it on her. It’s an inexpensive program than we payed for because we thought she’d enjoy playing with children and being outdoors and yes, I’d get a break to run errands and take care of the home sans kiddo. That wasn’t really happening. The final nail was a classmate’s birthday party where all her classmates attended. My mom took her and she shared that it was pretty obvious that she was older than the rest of the kids. She just didn’t have much in common and playing was challenging because they just weren’t interested in playing the same things or the same way. That was all I needed to decide to pull her out.

So long story- but the end result was being home each day with my little one again. Which has been the norm for most of her life.

But this time felt different.

And I had no idea what had changed. Why did I suddenly feel like I made a horrible mistake? Why am I feeling trapped and super touched out all the sudden? Why am I feeling differently about full-time stay at home momming now than a few years ago?

I spoke with everyone I trusted…my husband. My mama. My therapist.

I read and searched for information online.

Was it stress? Was I getting sick? Was I wanting to go back to work full-time? Part-time? Was I done with extended breastfeeding? Co-sleeping? Did I need a month off in the South of France?

The conclusion I came to last night….it’s little bit of all that and a big fat side of LACK OF BALANCE!

So yes, my parenting style leans heavily towards attachment parenting. I’ve written about it here on my blog. It wasn’t a choice as much as a natural inclination when my daughter was born, before her birth really. I wanted to be close to her and meet her needs when she had them. This all made perfect sense to me when she was a baby. The changes and transitions were more subtle when she was an older baby. She was becoming more independent. I set appropriate boundaries for safety and behavior but I still largely spent all my time with her and there wasn’t much space. I was still ok with it (I thought). But something probably started happening and shifting for me when she was around 8-9 months old. I can now see some real early signs of wariness. These were the initial signs of burn out but I couldn’t really tell.

I wasn’t really balanced then. I needed more space but I wasn’t giving it to myself. I wasn’t noticing my needs, I couldn’t quite identify them even. I thought my agitation and frustration (mostly all inner at the point and directed towards my poor husband) was due to social needs not being met. Or needing a new food plan. Maybe I needed to lose more weight. Or start working out. Or I was depressed. Or maybe I needed to find a hobby or part-time work. This is where my brain goes every time I start feeling unbalanced but I didn’t know it at the time. I start way overanalyzing and I swing the pendulum in the opposite direction and I did all those things mentioned. I started working out and walking. I started a new food plan. I lost more weight. I started looking for ways to make money from home. I joined baby and me classes to make friends. I felt worse than ever!!

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Then as she got even older I was feeling even less balanced. Still unaware of my imbalance or where it’s coming from. My marriage was struggling even more, since life was so imbalanced…so was my marriage. No dates, hardly moments for us to share in alone time together. No marital bed. Hardly any sex. Yeah…it was a laundry list of responsibilities and tons of family time…and you can really start to see the picture more clearly now. Even more imbalanced. I started to feel some clues that I needed more physical space and I started day weaning the little one. That helped. We also moved and I made new mama friends with a great group of friends. That helped. Still not quite balanced but things got much better.

Still with the imbalance quietly raging in the background…my brain was burning a mile a minute trying to find the solution to a problem I wasn’t quite sure about…

Maybe we need more money. Maybe we need more vacations. Maybe we need more alone time. Maybe we need more couple time. Maybe we need more counseling. Maybe I need to find a job. Exhausting, right?? YES!

This all shot out of me like Pompeii the past few weeks. It was like a pressure cooker that couldn’t hold it’s lid one more second. When I brought my daughter home those few measly days and hours of alone time vanished. With it went my sanity, my rest, my peace, my no one is talking to me moments, and no one is touching me moments…and I had a mini-panic attack. I didn’t realize how much I valued this new found freedom and space. I didn’t realize until it was gone. And then…it became glaringly obvious as I spoke it out and processed my panic with my people. Yes, I could see clearly now how out of balance we had all gotten.

To be continued…

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