Ever since Cinder arrived and completely changed our universe, I envisioned life post-children as… family life. Not adult-centred. Not child-centred.
I was lucky here, as I had had a pretty good model. My parents lived full lives, with us in them, part of them, along for the entire exhilarating ride. Among the legacies they’ve left me that I cherish is the belief that “parenting” isn’t a part of life, isn’t a job, isn’t a stage—it’s, simply, life.
Just life. Life with children, life as a family. We all struggle through this in the early days of the journey. We talk about the need for balance. Balance. I don’t really like that word in the context of family life. Because it’s not about balance, it’s not about give and take. It’s about… what? Harmony? Fulfillment?
It’s about every member of the family getting the nourishment he or she needs.
I want my children to be happy, fulfilled, loved, and respected—and me too, I want those things for myself as well. Both my children and I—and my partner, their father—deserve to be happy, fulfilled, loved, and respected. And we are happy, fulfilled, love, and respected… most of the time. (There are always bad days or, more precisely, bad moments. I think that’s another secret we learn on the journey: that bad moments can be just that, moments. Well, unless they become patterns. But that, again, is another story.)
In a family, when one member of the family isn’t feeling happy, fulfilled, loved, and respected—there are repercussions on everyone. It’s a situation that must be addressed.
Parents’ needs and children’s needs are often talked about in combative language, and words like compromise, sacrifice, trade-off etc. often make an appearance. It’s unfortunate—very Western—very unnecessary. Because it’s all just, well, life. Figuring out how to best get along, live, thrive—sometimes just barely survive!—as a family, in whatever the universe is throwing at you at the moment.
What does this mean for me as a mother of young children, for me as a person? Simply this: I did not stop being a person—with needs, wants, ideas, passions, biological rhythms and all that—when I had children. I added another layer of complexity—amazing complexity—loving complexity—complexity and experience I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world. I am pursuing my life path, my life journey still.
My children are part of my journey, and they have their own, and I’m part of theirs… but their journey is not mine, just as my journey is not theirs. I am not putting my life on hold while I give them a dream childhood. I am still living my life, time is still flowing, stuff is happening. I’m just living it with my children. Different pace, different priorities than before, of course.
Balance? Life with young children is inevitably unbalanced. So I don’t seek balance. I seek harmony.
Sometimes I even find it.
In the end, this is the biggest secret power of women, of mothers–and of fathers, of parents–in the middle of the utmost chaos, conflicting pressures, we find a solution, we create our harmony. And it’s our harmony, our unique blend, formula, solution, to address the unique needs and challenges of the quirky individuals that make up our individual quirky families. No one else can create it for us; no one else can copy ours.
What do you aim for? Balance? Harmony? Something else altogether?
From Life’s Archives, Feb 21, 2008, Harmony, not Balance. It’s not often I pull out something I wrote about the parenting journey in the first years that still fully resounds with me… but this is one of those pieces. If I were writing it today, it would still be essentially the same. Well, more polished and more cohesive. I’m getting much more sleep these days.