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12 Oct

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Centered, Finding Balance

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they stay centered and find balance. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


When I turned twenty nine, I was six months pregnant. Huge. I had just been through a heat wave that, while made better by the gift of an air conditioner, left me feeling fat and perpetually damp with bangs that corroborated that feeling. People at work had started asking if I was expecting twins and then, as if someone had dared them to prove they were in fact entirely socially inept, INSISTED I must be. For my birthday that year — last year, if you’re not keeping track — my mom gave me a real whiz-bang of a present. A gift certificate to a spa. Enough money that would allow me to choose a few ridiculously luxurious services. A FEW, you guys. I could hang out in the sauna, wear a fluffy robe and soak up the comments about my glow from people who are paid to dole out compliments. You might assume that I ran, envelope in hand, from my birthday dinner and sat outside the spa until they opened the next morning at which time I luxuriated like only a really giant, sore, exhausted pregnant lady could. Right? Are you nodding, like this is a foregone conclusion so please get on with the story?

Dear reader, I did not do those things. The running. The luxuriating. That gift certificate is sitting on my nightstand, mocking me.

I made a pact with myself to use it before my thirtieth birthday, which was a month ago. Clearly, that did not happen. What is the matter with you? You might be asking me. I ask me that all the time. Part of the problem is scheduling. Nathan has two jobs and appointments not made far in advance are difficult for us to work out. Part of the problem has been George’s needs and accommodating them. But part of the problem is me. The same guilt that makes me apologetically announce that I’m going to take a real quick shower, or pick up the Philip Roth book I’ve yet to crack only to put it down in favor of Baby Days has kept me from enjoying a trip to the spa. Because I might have to tip someone with my own money. And my baby might get hungry. Or miss me. And I should be dusting.

Since George’s birth, the time I’ve taken for myself has been limited to the occasional bath, nap or solo trip to the store. Getting past the notion that I don’t “work” so I have no need for a break is hard. You tell someone walking in from back-to-back shifts totaling 15 hours that he’s gonna have to hold the baby so you can recline in the tub because teething is a real bitch. The funny thing is: I would never begrudge another mother a spa day. Or a leisurely shower. Or some time with a misogynistic white guy. So why the self-loathing? It’s so cliché.

As George gets older, the tunnel vision that got me through these first months is easing up. In my periphery, I can see past the next feeding, the next sleep cycle, the next diaper change and song. The possibility of alone play is turning into a reality, slowly, surely, not daily — not yet — but frequent enough. My self care routine is less a routine than stolen minutes and sometimes seconds to have a bowl of oatmeal. Do my hair. Take a breath. Go for a walk and see the sights, allowing George to do the same without mama’s running commentary. And while my newest Paris Review wasn’t inhaled the day it arrived in my mailbox as it may have been in a perfect world, Frederick Seidel’s “Store Windows” was our pre-nap reading this afternoon. I finished and paused to digest it, not to re-read it with exaggerated expressions or ask what George thought. After what must’ve been a solid minute, I snapped out of the poem-trance and got on with business. Grateful for the break, however short. Added to my to do list: MAKE SPAPPOINTMENT.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Balance — Sheila at A Gift Universe has put her baby first — and has no regrets. (@agiftuniverse)
  • A Moment for Mama — Starr at Earth Mama has learned how to recharge on the run, so she doesn’t miss a moment with her children.
  • Take a 30-Minute or 5-Minute Me-Break — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now discusses the merits of taking small daily breaks to maintain balance. (@DebChitwood)
  • Achieving Balance — In a guest post at the new Natural Parents Network, Heather explains how yoga has helped her find balance in her personal and family life. (@NatParNet)
  • A Stitch in (Quiet) Time Saves Momma’s Mind — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma didn’t realize she needed “me” time — until she got it and had no idea what to do with herself. (@kitchenwitch)
  • Attachment Parenting and Balance — Michelle at The Parent Vortex believes that the last item on the “attachment parenting” list is both the most important and the most overlooked. (@TheParentVortex)
  • Little Breaks Bring a Little Balance — Jen at Grow with Graces finds balance – some days! (@growwithgraces)
  • Finding Balance — Are you a Type A mama? Dionna at Code Name: Mama is, and she needs your help to find balance. (@CodeNameMama)
  • (high)Centered — Stefanie at Very, Very Fine has had a spa gift certificate sitting on her nightstand since last year, a symbol of her inability to take time for herself.
  • Taking Time for Me — Marita at Stuff With Thing takes refuge in the world of books, with her daughters immersed in reading beside her. (@leechbabe)
  • Writing as a parent: October Carnival of Natural Parenting — Lauren at Hobo Mama didn’t let parenting put her passions on hold. (@Hobo_Mama)
  • The Dance of Balance — Balance isn’t static. It is dynamic, it is a dance, it is about keeping in touch with you. Read this wonderful bit of wisdom from Seonaid at the Practical Dilettante. (@seonaid_lee)
  • Rest Hour – a Primer — Do you get 15 minutes to yourself each day? How about an hour?! Mrs. H. at Fleeting Moments shares her tips on how to incorporate a “rest hour” for adults and kids.
  • Separation Is Critical — Only through enforced separation with the end of her marriage did Jessica at This is Worthwhile realize she should have taken time apart all along. (@tisworthwhile)
  • Bread, Roses, and a Side of Guilt. — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy isn’t ashamed to admit that she enjoys a pint once in awhile, or that her daughter recreates it during pretend play.
  • The World from Within My Arms — Rachael at The Variegated Life finds balance despite her work and her husband’s commitment to art through attachment parenting. (@RachaelNevins)
  • Balancing the Teeter-Totter — Rebecca is rediscovering balance by exploring her interests and passions in several different categories. She shares in this guest post at The Connected Mom. (@theconnectedmom)
  • Balancing this Life — Danielle at is slowly learning the little tricks that make her family life more balanced. (@borninjp)
  • Uninterrupted Parenting — Amy at Innate Wholeness has learned that she does not need to interrupt parenting in order to find balance.
  • Knitting for My Family — Knitting is more than just a hobby for Kellie at Our Mindful Life, it is her creative and mental outlet, it has blessed her with friendships she might not otherwise have had, and it provides her with much-needed balance.
  • Taking the Time — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker has all the time she needs, now her girls are just a bit older.
  • Please, Teach Me How — Amy at Anktangle needs your help: please share how you find time for yourself, because she is struggling. (@anktangle)
  • A Pendulum Swings Both Ways — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment found herself snapping with too little time for herself, and then veered toward too much.
  • Finding Balance Amidst Change — It took a season of big changes and added responsibility, but Melodie of Breastfeeding Moms Unite! now feels more balanced and organized as a mama than ever before. (@bfmom)
  • At Home with Three Young Children: The Search for Balance, Staying Sane — With three young kids, Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings knows parents sometimes have to adjust their expectations of how much downtime they can reasonably have. (@sunfrog)
  • Attachment Parenting? And finding some “Me Time” — As a mother who works full time, Momma Jorje wants “me” time that includes her daughter.
  • A Balancing Act — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes has concrete ways to help keep centered with a little one and a new baby on the way, from exercise to early bedtimes to asking for help. (@sheryljesin)
  • Aspiring Towards Libra — Are your soul-filling activities the first to be pushed aside when life gets hectic? Kelly of aspires to make time for those “non-necessities” this year. (@kellynaturally)
  • SARKisms for Sanity — Erica at ChildOrganics has found renewed inspiration to take baths and laugh often from a book she had on the shelf. (@childorganics)
  • fixing typos

    7 Oct

    I will never be a novelist. I don’t write novels, and even if I did, they wouldn’t be any good. Or aren’t any good. Unless you’re a super sleuth, you’ll never know. And I’ve only encountered one such specimen, whose skills were unsurpassed even by ME: the sleuthiest sleuth that ever did sleuth (formerly). This point is one of contention between my fantasy and real selves. The pretend self — the long haired adult in plaid, knee-length skirts, expensive wool tights and turtlenecks, the one that keeps a secret writing studio equipped with a mini-fridge full of bottled Mexican Coke and cold straws (one of life’s greatest joys; try it) — and the actual self — legging-ed, hair frizzy in the damp weather, eater of burritos, always tired. The latter is a hanger-on, if we’re being honest. An editor and finisher of others’ abandoned work, when I can even be bothered to do that. To be a writer, you’ve gotta write. And I do so with such inconsistency that, for the first time in my life, I really can’t get away with using the title.

    When I imagined myself at thirty, even as recently as five years ago, I thought I’d have finished more of my own work. Not to great acclaim or anything. But finished, published, period. This has sort of come about in ways I don’t necessarily mind, but not in the ways I had hoped. I like self-publishing, control enthusiast that I am, but it’s a fucking pain, you guys. My letterpressed covers are amazing, true, but a finished book just arriving in my mailbox would be really, really awesome right about now, when I’m still figuring out how to fit a shower into my schedule.

    It was with a sense of entitlement and snobbery that I registered for the Stumptown comics fest this year. Tim and I haven’t participated in a few years, occupied instead by APE and (me) having babies and (Tim) being in college, and I’ve become unaccustomed to “trying out” for this sort of deal. We usually just send in our registration at the last minute and hope our check clears, then kind of run in to the convention center/whatever at the last minute with spilling coffees to take our places among tables of friends. Small press and comics expos are like my own version of summer camp. The same cast of characters. At the end, everyone trades (books instead of addresses) and hugs and you see each other again next year. But a lot of those friends have moved on to (much) bigger things. Crazy art careers and design jobs that mean I stumble upon their work on the cover of, say, Michael Chabon’s books. And I am still eating the same (albeit amazing) fake salami sandwich from the same lunch counter down the street from the San Francisco Concourse and answering with the same feeble, “no, there’re no illustrations” and waiting for the inevitable Matt Groening encounter. Even when I’m making money, it feels a little pathetic.

    This book I’m working on, to be ready for Stumptown, will be good, I think. And I hereby swear that I will not shrink a little and act nonplussed when the guy from Powell’s wants to buy a bunch like he always does. I’ll be confident in my product. I’ll maybe even wear some expensive tights and drink bottled Coke. Twenty nine was my threshold for total control, for being poor and keeping my “integrity” intact by not shilling. No more fixing others’ typos.