Another Question From The Field: Balance In Homemaking

This question came in awhile ago and I have been pondering it since in the back of my mind.  I was not certain I had anything valuable to add;   some things ”just are”
in life, but then I did think of something I wanted to say (uh, and it turned out to be way more than I expected, so you may need a cup of tea! LOL)   Here is the original comment/question:

Here is a very honest admission for you: I get no satisfaction of out homekeeping and I am quite certain that I never will :) I *can* do all the things: cook delicious meals every day, ferment, and mill my own flour, I can sew and knit and paint, I can keep the home clean and in reasonable order. But when that is all I do, I can feel my soul slowly dying! I go through seasons of pulling myself together and even enjoying my tasks, and then falling apart, throwing in a towel, because after all, what’s the point? Yes, this is a lovely way to live, to have a cozy home and good food, but I.am.miserable. I’ve been told all manner of things: I’m lazy, I need to change my attitude, I need to get therapy to deal with some deep-seated resentment and blah-blah-blah. I feel that the truth is simpler than that. I am someone who is extremely extroverted, requires massive amounts of regular intellectual stimulation, and a great deal of variety in life :) There must be a way to find some kind of balance. I realize that my children are young (2, 4.5, and one on the way), I am quite realistic about the care, time and effort they require at this stage of life. But I just can’t give up my sanity and my very essence to keeping the home.
Thoughts? thanks!

That is really hard and I think so many of us as mothers can identify with the feelings expressed in this comment.  It can be so hard to do all the things we might think need to be associated with homemaking and parenting, to make things “right”.  Maybe there is also a bit of perfectionism hidden within many of us – if we don’t do all these things, then our children will not do well.  This can make things seem burdensome or a chore instead of light and lovely.  And, it all can be such a big burden – why do I have to be The Queen of My Home? Can’t someone else do it?  I just want to take the day off!  There are days I feel that way as well.

I have written before about the trials and tribulations that we can go through as mothers adjusting to homemaking, especially my sweet readers coming in a bit late to motherhood after having exciting intellectual careers and being in control and charge over a lot of things in their life.

Homemaking and much of the parenting of small children  is an endless cycle of cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, diapering, getting children down for naps and bedtime, bathing..and doing it all over again.  Sometimes mothers tell me they feel as if it is monotonous!  And having small children close in age, unless you happen to have a lot of trusted family in the area, can be difficult in terms of separating in order to do something outside of the home.  So as a mother you may be spending a lot of time at home with  limited social opportunities as you may be the only one in your neighborhood who is home!

And as the original comment above indicates, we can be realistic about what is needed, we know what we are supposed to be doing, we are certainly willing to do it most of the time,  but not always happy about it!  Sometimes our inner self just rebels!

Yet, we persist in doing this because of love.  Because we know that  in  the care we show our homes, in the way we set the tone in our families for how we nurture each other and our home, shows our children love.  It sets down a foundation of a healthy adult life for our children as they need protection of the senses, real work, and space and time in order to grow and mature in health.  And it not only nurtures our children but nurtures our marriages and partnerships as well, because what I have noticed time and time again in real life is that in families where no one is holding down the fort, so to speak, the family is anchorless.

However, as mothers, don’t we also have needs? And if our needs are met, does it make the demands of homemaking and parenting small children better or easier?  That is an interesting question, and not as straight forward as one might think.  I have had some mothers tell me that the more time they spend away from home, the more irritated and challenged they felt being home.  And I have had some mothers tell me when they took time for themselves, they were better parents and people for it.  I think this has to do with all the variables we don’t know – did the mother leave her home or do something for herself but stayed within the home environment and how did this feel to her? How was the mother’s physical health?  Was the mother suffering from depression?  What did that particular mother need to feel supported?  Was she the kind of woman who could be happy talking on the phone and felt supported or the kind of woman who really needed to see a friend in person?  Was the spouse or partner a source of support and help?  So many things to wonder about when I speak to mothers!

The three concise things mentioned above, that this mother and  some mothers need, include being extroverted and  needing people (adult people!  people to have interesting conversation with!),  intellectual stimulation and variety.  I think this is great, because in knowing ourselves we can make plans to meet our own needs!

For those of you who are extroverts, it may be that you need to gather people and plan things.  Perhaps you are the one who starts a homeschool group, a parenting group or perhaps you are the one that holds a playgroup every week in your home.  Maybe you are the person in the neighborhood who helps plan things for the children in your neighborhood.  The possibilities are endless.    Start forming your community.  Community often shifts once you have children, and sometimes you have to make those possibilities of connections appear.    As an extrovert myself, I have  found  a place of worship to be an excellent place to get involved and be with many people of all different ages.

And, as far as intellectual stimulation, I think that is able to be addressed.  There are so many on-line courses now, courses on audio book to listen to and learn.(I like this company, not affiliated!  http://www.thegreatcourses.com )  It may not be the same as conversing with people at work every day, but it can be a good start until your children mature a little bit.  Reading helps me as well.  As a therapist and a lactation consultant I have to attend continuing education.  It is always such a trauma to go, to arrange what will happen with the children on those days, but it is interesting to go and really work my brain!  I do think intellectual stimulation on an adult level is important, just like physical exercise is.

As far as variety ….as I have said, being with tiny children can feel like an endless cycle of the same things to do.  It is a season, it won’t last forever.  One way I work with variety in the context of homemaking and in my own home is to focus on the liturgical calendar, the seasonal rhythms of life.  This brings in different skills to prepare for different festivals and holidays, and different feelings, and different rhythms.  I wrote a post on this a long time ago, now that there are 900 plus posts it is getting hard to find things, LOL:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/changing-your-rhythm-with-the-seasons/

In short, I really do understand the concerns mentioned.  So many women feel like this and feel badly saying it, but it is something many of us face when we are home.  It is good to talk about these things.

No one can do a better job raising your children than you.  It is a long race, it is hard to balance, but the payoffs are great.  You don’t have to completely lose yourself in it, as many mothers fear, but you may have to be open to changing who you thought  you were, what you thought your identity as a human being really was.   But yet, the human being is always able to develop and change, so hopefully we are doing this with or without raising children.

Many blessings,

Carrie

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12 thoughts on “Another Question From The Field: Balance In Homemaking

  1. Thank you Carrie, this is a very important post. I very much relate to what you have said here. As much as I love being at home with my children, I need something else too. A year and a half ago, I started attending yoga classes on a Saturday morning. My Saturday mornings have now turned into my special days just for me. I go for coffee with the friends I have made in class and I come home for lunch, which my family has prepared. It has been a great thing for me, I have grown personally and spiritually and I have also become part of a new community. It has also taught my family that mom also needs to be taken care of, that is teaching them how to take care of me and it is also modelling for them how to take care of themselves. I come home much happier and I have a lot more gratitude for my family. I will be starting my yoga teacher training next year and I will be going away from home for a few days at a time. This is very exciting for me and it is also going to be a great opportunity for the children to form a deeper relationship with their dad. Mothers really are the centre of a family and we do need to take whatever steps we can to make sure that we are ok. The whole family benefits then.

  2. Thank you for this post. I have been feeling exactly the same way recently. I love my family but I am feeling consumed and completely worn down. I need to find some sort of balance so that I can feel refreshed and be a happier mommy. My husband and I are discussing some possibilities. I find it hard at the moment because I can not seem to get a break, we can not afford a baby sitter often, and I have limited family support and my friends have moved farther away. I agree that sometimes we need to change the way we think. The past few years have certainly changed the way I think about parenting, it is a challenging but very rewarding journey. I am hopeful for myself and the other moms in need of a change.

  3. This is a very real challenge for me right now, as I am all of the things this reader described–extroverted, needing intellectual challenge and variety! I’m on a year’s leave of absence from my work to be home with my three young children, and very grateful for the chance–especially in this Advent season. It’s helped very much for me to keep studying child development, from an anthroposophical point of view and according to other perspectives. My children _don’t_ have my same needs, and I need to adapt to theirs right now, since they can’t adapt (easily, healthfully) to mine. Meanwhile, I try to find time to run a few times a week, read a lot in the evenings, and do a Waldorf parenting book group.

    That said, I will be returning to work next year and I will continue to find ways to meet the children’s needs for warmth and rhythm. I think the idea “no one can do a better job raising your children than you” doesn’t quite capture that it has always taken many people to rise a child, and that we can find new ways to create that “village.” We live in a Waldorf community, which makes it easier. We’ve had people live with us, sharing house and responsibilities, had grandmothers who looked after our children, had mother’s helpers after school who were like older siblings–and these friends help us raise our children. We create the template for our home and rhythm, and others help us fill it.

    My other thought related to this is that dads, at least in this generation, may be able to hold more of the heart of the home than ones in the past–and that when we leave room for that possibility, beautiful things can happen. Certainly that was the case for me when I let go of some of the reins and shared the job of shaping our home life.

    This is such a question for mothers in our time. Thank you for writing this valuable post!

  4. Wow. The comment that prompted this post is just fantastic!

    I’m absolutely astonished that anyone would tell someone to improve their attitude because they don’t find housework (even the creative kinds of housework) deeply fulfilling, and I’d be even more astonished if anyone would think this would be an appropriate thing to say to a *man* who wrote the same comment.

    Yep, this is a basic Feminism 101 issue: domestic life shouldn’t be what women’s lives are reduced to. And it’s not about not loving their children or not loving their husbands and it’s certainly not about being lazy.

    I had an epiphany when my son was exactly 3 years old: ‘working’ is so much easier than being a stay-at-home mum. I shared these thoughts with some older mothers I knew and they laughed heartily and told me “Of course it is!!”, and this was actually quite encouraging.

    Acknowledging that it is an extreme hardship (emotionally, intellectually, socially) for many women to find themselves removed from the day-to-day activities of the working world is an excellent first step, and the original comment seems predicated on having no one acknowledge the hardships and deprivations that motherhood entails.

  5. I am a self confessed homebody, and even we can feel this way sometimes. I read an article recently that listed off 10 things the author didn`t like about having kids(diapers,etc etc) and then at the end she wrote one that she did, and it was her kids, and that is why we do it all. I often try to remeber that, like you said, this is a season.

  6. I relate to this mother in that I can do all the homemaking stuff, and quite happily, but that it isn’t always enough for me. I am also a very active thinker, social, and while I’ve made the adjustment to spending most of our time at home, it helps me to have a “secret life” of the mind–something else going on that I can pour my creativity into and be inspired by.

    I have embraced Waldorf so wholeheartedly in part because it provides me with so much interesting material to study, meditate on, and best of all directly apply to my daily life. What could be more relevant? It makes things so much more interesting to have a passion to pursue in the background–And there is always so much more to learn. I also love to use writing, and even blogging as an outlet for my creativity, though there are as many ways to express oneself as there are people!

    I’ve also been inspired by the whole “radical homemaker” movement that re-contextualizes homemaking (and Homemaking as a Social Art is amazing, too). I have learned many new skills, and continue to expand my knowledge and ability. I feel sometimes like I’ve learned more in the last few years than I ever did in University. So that takes care of the intellectual and practical side of the question. Let’s just say, even on the hardest days I feel so grateful to have such freedom to pursue my interests, care for my home and family, and be creative. What job can offer that?

    I think your suggestions to use one’s drive and charisma to create community is spot on. Start a playgroup, study group, knitting circle, hiking club, whatever. Have a regular date at the park with a friend.

    I love this quote from Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison:

    “More and more I felt that motherhood itself was becoming my real vocation. It seemed that the more consciousness I was willing to bring to it, the more meaningful this role became…”

    That has been true for me, despite all my rounds of disequilibrium and growing pains as I grow into this role more fully.

  7. Hi Carrie! I find such inspiration in your blog and really value your insight and opinion. I have a question that I’ve been wrestling with and would be honored if you could shed some light on this for me!! My son (only child) is four and just started preschool. We have been going with him and either participating or sitting on a seat while he plays (depending on how confident he feels that day). He has never done daycare. He has only been watched by myself, my husband and my mother (who lives with us). We have found that attachment parenting has been a very positive force in our family and thus, we are hoping he will let us know when he is “ready” to venture off and be at school without us. My concern is that he doesn’t seem to be getting closer to this goal. If he isn’t ready to do this by next September, he won’t be able to attend Kindergarten with all of his friends. I’ve thought about homeschooling him, but I’m concerned that it may isolate him as he is a shy, cautious, only child. He also has very little extended family within his age range as I myself am an only as well. I’m sure you are sooooo busy. But any insight would be much appreciated! Thanks again!

    • Hi there, Mama2one
      Thank you for writing to me..I don’t know as you are going to love my answer, but here is food for thought and take what resonates with you from it…and it may be that not a bit of it resonates, LOL.

      If he is a young four, he may do better at separating at four and a half. Four and a half was the traditional age that Waldorf Kindergartens used to start.

      But, if you have decided that this is the right place for him, and that school is the right decision, and you feel excited about this for him and have confidence in his teacher, then I think it is important that you leave and that he and the teacher work out their relationship without you being a buffer. In order to do that, you have to be confident that this relationship will indeed happen, that he and the teacher can do this. He may not skip off happily, he may in fact cry, but another adult can comfort him if you accept that adult as part of your attached community. If the school is your community, then you must be confident that they love your child and will help him rise up, even if it takes a bit. I would talk to the teacher about this. I think by prolonging this relationship with the teacher from forming with you being there, he may not do this. (yes, I know you are ready to send your foot through the screen at me). Sorry! Again, take what works for you out of this because you know your son in real life and I absolutely don’t. I don’t know also if he has any sensory challenges, any social anxiety beyond the norm, or how long or how often this program is… and you say he just started, so don’t know how long you have been trying this. How is he in his body? I find many of the truly shy and cautious children are also physically underdeveloped and do not know where they are in space and therefore feel clingy, ie I don’ know where I am in space but I know where I am in space if I hang on to you, but this may not be the case of your son at all! The Internet is so limited when trying to figure out these things, so these are questions for you to ponder

      However, all of this above is to say that is what I would do if you are absolutley certain that school at this age is the right choice for him. What is the mandatory age that children have to be in school in your province, and would starting him later help or make this situation different? Some shy children go through a profound change around the age of six. I think four is really, really small, but on the other hand, many children at four in this country and others do have the social experience of school and have a good time, so I think if you think this is a goal and will be wonderful for him then you must go into it with confidence that the teacher can meet your child’s needs and not overtalk this to death with your small child.

      “Your classrooma and teacher is so wonderful! You are going to have a wonderful day playing with the other children. I will see you at the end of school and you can tell me all about it!” And I think if you cannot say that and really believe it, and think that he will do okay, and leave (even if you are nervous and crying yourself!) then maybe he needs a year to wait and try again next year, from the beginning, with the expectation that this is his work and his time with his community but it is his own with his teacher and the other children..that is school and he also has a rich home life, how wonderful!…

      And, if he really is shy and cautious and such, you may decide he needs more time until he opens up himself. The classroom may not be right for him right now. It does not mean it will not be right in the future. This, again, can be at older ages and no one will know when this unfolding will happen although we do know there are big leaps around six and a half and more interest in peers and also another big leap around nine, so in some ways homeschooling the shy only children as long as they have a community to grow into themselves in, can be a gift whilst they unfold with opportunities through homeschool groups, a spiritual community, etc.

      Lots of different thoughts here, and I am sorry if it seems muddled. These situations are challenging, I have worked with a number of them in the past in real life, and there is no one easy answer that fits all children. You are giving him a solid foundation with a strong family unit and strong attachment!

      Take what resonates with you,
      Many blessings,
      Carrie :)

  8. What a Fantastic post!! And some fascinating comments too!

    Before I decided to homeschool, I had a friend who was always needing breaks and seeking time away–far away!–from her kids, as well as turning on the TV for them each day because she needed the down time, etc. I found that the more breaks I had, the more I felt I needed. And I was getting completely depleted every couple of months or so. I knew this wasn’t developing me personally, but when I found the concept of rhythm, I KNEW that was what I needed–a balance of in-breath and out-breath, and practice being with my kids in these, instead of more time away from them. I knew that once I found that rhythm, that I would be able to homeschool my kids. It’s amazing how many parents say that they cannot, because they have not found this rhythm.

    So now, while things are far from perfect here, I have found what I need to keep myself from being exhausted and tapped out. I’ve cut down on our “adventures” so our days are more relaxed. Like another commenter I immerse myself in homeschooling, Waldorf and mindfulness works. I started going to church (after a lifetime of agnosticism!). I also have a solo trip to the library once a week, two hours every Saturday morning to tidy and be by myself at home (I’m a homebody too!), and an occasional chance to swim at the Y with the kids in play care for an hour.

    To echo another commenter, I’m so grateful each day (most days! LOL) for this opportunity to be with my kids, to develop my mind, to work on my will, to find simple happiness, to be capable of homeschooling! Waldorf is true therapy for the whole family.

    • C – what a great story you have shared! The comment thread to this post has been so fascinating to me as well!
      I have the most interesting readers on the planet!

      Blessings,
      Carrie

  9. Carrie!
    I found this post almost a year after asking the original comment. I am so deeply grateful that you took time to reply with an entire post!! And I am also happy to see so many of your readers can relate. So much had changed in this last year.
    It all started with the birth of my thrid child. This birth, it was my Mt. Everest. I was scared out of my mind, and tired, and a little angry, but mostly just terrified, and I desperately wanted for someone to rescue me. To make it stop. To birth this baby for me! As you can imagine, that didn’t happen ;-) I did it. *I* did it. I *did* it!!! And from that day on the Lord spoke into my life, as only He can. Showing me my true strength and valor. Showing me the areas of my life that needed healing. Showing me where caution was allowed to become cowardice! And giving me an open and humble heart to hear it all and to seek change.
    Today I am back to work as a registered nurse. 2-3 days per week, 8-hour shifts, never two in a row, never a Sabbath. My husband was able to quit his awful job, and start free-lancing, as he had always wanted. We both feel satified with our work. We work opposite days of each other, taking care of the children and the home on days off. (Yes, this makes our rhythm quite complicated, and we are still figuring it out).
    I enjoy better health than I had in many years. It took serious dietary and lifestyle changes to make it happen, but here I am, more energetic and healthy than I was 8 years ago.
    We make more money, which allowed me to get better treatment. And Carrie, I am realizing that at least half my problems were in my head, literally! Mental health has everything to do with our ability to be effective, balanced, happy in our homes.
    I have developed relationships that matter. This meant stepping away from the faith-based community I was in, and instead looking aroud to see who was there when I was in need, who was living out our values, who was truly a friend, rather than aquaintance through formal religous affiliation. (this was hard). And today my girlfriends are a huge part of my life, and I don’t know how I ever made it without them.
    And finally, we decided that as soon as my husband’s mother retires, she should come live with us. <3 We are also seeing to deepen our relationships with cousins, aunts, and uncles. Family is more important than we previously realized!
    It's not all sunshine and roses (for one, I'm in bed with mastitis right now) but I love this journey we're on, and THANK YOU for being a part of it, Carrie. <3 <3

    • Oh Irene,
      Your letter brought tears to my eyes!! I love your spirit!! Thank you so much for sharing with me, and letting me into your life.
      I am SO glad you found this post; I guess I should have emailed you privately so you knew it was there and didn’t have to wait a year to find it. I am so sorry for that!
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

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