I am soon to wrap up my first week as a blogger. It has been an exhilarating ride, finally sharing the posts that have been written on Post-It notes and hanging out in the diaper bag. Watching the number of views each day has been addictive. As I am finding myself drawn more and more to the computer this week, I am starting to question, “How much blogging is just too much?”
We moved to West Virginia when my daughter, V, was 8 weeks old. While her babyhood has been a wonderful journey, it has been challenging being alone, leaving my work, family and friends behind in Michigan, and having limited access to internet or phone. I have had my fair share of days where I felt lonely and disconnected, as many stay at home moms can surely relate. I feel very thankful that our life came together in such a way that I can stay home with my daughter. Given the choice, I would choose this life every time. Still, reconnecting with my writing and the world via the Internet this past week has invigorated me and that has meant time away from my little one. More than she is used to…
I guiltily admit that this week, my writing has taken precedence over parenting a few times. I have looked forward to the times when V is eating quietly in her high chair, entertaining herself in the playroom, or when she is snuggled up with my husband in the evening and I can grab an hour to write (even if it means I am a bit sleep deprived in the morning). After spending the majority of our time here alone with V, in the house, completely immersed in mommyhood, I am facing my own form of burnout. Writing has become an escape, one that I am returning to over and over this week, much like an alcoholic whose first sip leads to one more glass. I know the balance this week has been skewed when I find my daughter in front of the tv more than normal, or when she is upping the whine factor because she wants my attention. The darkest thing I am admitting to myself and to you all is that I feel disappointed when I am beckoned away from this new computer god and I am feeling utterly bored with playing cooking stuff, reading Biscuit books, and cleaning up painting projects. Blogging has given me a way to return to my writing, to feel like I have an adult voice and something to share, and to connect with others. The strength of my feelings about being online this week has shocked me into awareness: I miss myself.
It is clear life here is out of balance. I need a break, my daughter needs me, and the lure of technology is distracting me from getting my metaphorical house in order. Time to strategize with my husband, M, and set some limits to get everyone feeling a bit more at peace. I have rarely been good at setting boundaries at a 24-7 job. I worked in Residence Life for several years, and was on call emotionally well beyond the expectations of my position. I left that field for that reason. Parenting has the same permeable boundary; it is hard to know where I leave off as a parent and how much energy I minimally need to sustain my own physical and emotional well-being. Because there are no “right” answers to this issue, I know I will error in my attempts to find balance. I know that even in my “burnout phase, I am still a more than adequate parent. I have spent the grand majority of my time playing with my daughter outside, going to the library, park, and playdates, reading books, teaching through play, and tending to V’s physical needs. I still nurse, and co-sleep, and follow attachment parenting theories, which require a great level of commitment from the parents. But I have been less mentally and emotionally present this week than usual, and that is a wake-up call for me.
I remember having these sorts of conversations with my girlfriends before I had children, when they already had children. I would suggest all sorts of strategies and ways for them to take the time they need. The biggest obstacle they seemed to face was the permission to give themselves a break from the overwhelming standards they held themselves against. Knowing them to be good parents, I could encourage them to take some time to regain some energy without qualms. Now that I am a parent, I realize the challenge they were facing; it is different doing that for yourself. Being a stay at home mom, there is no one to rate your performance, to tell you when you’ve done a good day’s work. You have to hold your own standards alongside expectations from your partner, your child’s individual needs, and all of the books, people and theories that tell you “the best way” to parent. It is hard to feel confident in your abilities when you are constantly filtering all of these external expectations and weighing them against your own parenting methods. With so many different approaches to parenting, there is always an opinion that differs from what you intuitively feel is right for you and your child. After a while, you become more confident in your decisions (at least some of them) regarding parenting, but I think one of the most difficult things to do is to give yourself permission to tend to your own needs. It can leave you feeling selfish and guilty, and angry when your child needs something during a moment when you have little to give. When I start to have these feelings, I am starting to learn that it is past the time when I should have given myself a break. I cannot be an effective or present parent when my needs are tamped down like gunpowder inside a cannon. Eventually, the right fuse will be lit, and I will emotionally blow up. So I am going to try to forgive myself for being blog obsessed this week. I needed it.
I am however, going to take this weekend to connect and enjoy my fabulous family. I am so fortunate to have these beautiful people in my life, and now that I have stepped back for a bit, I have a clearer perspective. The people I can reach with my writing are important, but the people I can reach with my arms are my life. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week!