Separation is critical

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.
 Having great, alone grown-up time with my friend, Linda, on a pedi-cab in downtown Austin.

Carving out time for myself was something I didn't excel at until, quite frankly, I didn't worry about my marriage anymore.

For me, not only did I put all I had into raising my son, but I also put all I had into my relationship; leaving very little left over for me, despite knowing the pitfalls of such behavior.  I never thought of myself as a victim or a martyr, my interests just shifted from partying with my friends to parenting and wifing.  If mothering were a "career" you could say I was a workaholic.  But I was happy with that.  Truly.  It kept me safe from being let down by anyone (Hawk always needed me) and I had flexible hours.

Ok, so this was all fine and good for the first couple of years when mothering was most intense (breastfeeding, gentle night-time parenting, attachment parenting, early childhood nutrition, etc. -- oh my God there's so much to learn and do those first few months), but once Hawk started needing me less I was left with more emotional space for myself, but nothing to really focus on.

So, you're probably wondering how on earth this post has anything to do with the carnival topic, right?  Well, I'm here to tell you that if you don't fight for your own space, your own place to be YOU, things won't work right.  I'm not saying your marriage will end like mine did, but you won't feel good.  Plain and simple.  And isn't that reason enough to do something differently??

As one half of a whole partnership you must negotiate time off from things that aren't true expressions of yourself (cleaning the house, thinking about bills, birthday parties, obligations, relationships, etc.).  No one else is going to fight for this elbow room for you.  It's up to you.

It's been such a bittersweet realization for me to feel so open and free and so many times more myself now whenever Hawk is with Rooster.  I go to coffee shops, I meet friends for beers, I sit and watch the trashiest, stupidest TV known to man without remorse.  I didn't do any of this when Rooster and I were together because I felt like the time he was home was beyond precious and that I owed it to him and our marriage to be present both physically and emotionally.

I certainly don't point the finger at my lack of me-time as the culprit for the demise of our coupling, but I can say with assertion that it also didn't help. Not one bit.  (I think it's important to note that Rooster didn't take any me-time, either, when he was home.  I can't speak to how he felt alone on business trips, but it's likely he felt a little more autonomous than I did just via travel solitude.)

Running to get a pedicure during nap time does not quality me-time make.  You dig?

So, to all of you who are busting your humps to make marriage/baby/life hum along, I hope you are somehow able to tug on the reins and slow down and really and truly allow yourself the space to be you.  If I had it to do over again I would model what a friend of mine and her husband do.  Every weekend day they divide it in half: She takes the twins in the mornings and he leaves the house, and then he takes them in the afternoon and evening and she takes off.  The next day they flip flop.  Weeknights are family/couple time and they are thriving because they get all they need through thoughtful negotiation and lots of support.

Separation is critical for a sense of self and emotional health.  I never imagined that my separation was going to come from such a tear in my plans, but it doesn't really matter in the long run.  I'm rolling with the punches these days and I haven't been this happy in a long time.  Moral of the story?  Separation, no matter how it happens, is good for the soul.

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:
(This list will be updated October 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • 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)
  • TITLE — Danielle at born.in.japan 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 KellyNaturally.com 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)


  1. I really appreciate the thoughtful warning you're giving here. I think it's easy for especially women to give and give and realize they've got nothing left at the end of it. I'm glad you're finding new and renewed ways to be you in the midst of separation.

  2. I agree me time...real ones are important- still sorting that out however

  3. "If mothering were a "career" you could say I was a workaholic."
    Holy you-took-the-words-out-of-my-mouth. I feel like I am where you were - my every energy is put toward parenting. I know I'm getting burnt out, it's just a matter of figuring out how to stop it. I am a work in progress :)

  4. I had (and will have again) a hard time getting alone time with an exclusively breastfeeding baby. With our second child, we didn't do bottles or pacis. Now my kids are 3 and 14 months, and I've started taking a really fun tap dancing class. I'm pregnant and I'm excited and happy about this baby but, again, it will mean practically no time alone, ever. Sometimes I honestly wonder if I wouldn't be better off pumping every once in a while once the baby is several months old.

  5. I also really appreciate this gentle warning, as someone who is slowly trying to peek out from the blanket fort that is caring for an infant. Our family, too, tries to hang out together whenever papa's home, which means nobody is ever alone and it's clearly not healthy. Thanks so much for the nudge to change our habits!

  6. It's true that running for a quick haircut or pedicure doesn't really count as true "me time." Not when you're on the run and you've got a specific time to be back home to make sure the baby gets fed and your heart is racing because you've had to wait longer than you expected and you think your husband will be upset that you're 30 minutes late. (I've so been there!) Nothing like a stressful pedicure to make the day better! ha ha. I'm glad your separation is working to at least give you that me time back. To thine own self be true can get harder to follow after marriage and kids.

  7. Wonderful post! The part about not feeling good when you don't have that "me" time is so true. I experienced that and I will never let myself go there again because it just brings up resentments and lots of other negative emotions you don't want around. I love the idea of what your friends do. I must suggest that to hubby (although I think we have a pretty good system so far, but it might be good to try it out). Thanks!

  8. I enjoyed your food for thought. I have a lot of changes I need to put into practice in this area. Still working on finding that extra space to 'be me'.

  9. As so many others have said, thank you for writing this. I think it's easy to put "me-time" off when it's just about today, but when you look at the big picture, things can look very different. This really made me think.

  10. As a starting-over mommy, I can relate. When my now-12yo daughter was born, I was *obsessed* with being a mother. I lost who I was for a while and it caused a strain on my marriage at the time.

    I've since divorced, remarried, and am starting over with a now-1yo daughter. I like to think that I learned from (most of?) my mistakes. I try to make sure I get plenty of baby-time (as a FT working mom) as well as couple-time, and some time to myself (usually in the form of blogging & blog-hopping).

  11. I think its so important to remember to take time for ourselves! As women, I believe we're trained first to serve others, and by default, put ourselves last... so much so, that I'm not sure we even SEE it that way... it just is the way it IS. And maybe it takes a big bang to realize whoa, I haven't been doing anything *I* wanted to do. I've found over the years I've gotten better at recognizing when I need/want something... and then, even better - actually voicing that need/want & doing something about it. We have as much right to space as our partners (and children)... only sometimes, I think we're less able/willing to say so because of this "duty to serve" we've set ourselves up to believe has to be taken on only by us.

  12. I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say that your most valuable me-time now is the unstructured time - beers out, etc. White space to think, visit with friends and just veg out is really important to our well being. Thanks for sharing your story.

  13. Absolutely brilliant post. We must make time for ourselves! My husband learned the hard way that when I take some time for me, everyone is much happier ;-)

  14. It took until my youngest was 12 years old to realize that it was OK for me to do things I like to do. I have been so absorbed by everyone else's needs that I got totally lost in the process.

    It is kind of nice to have me back a bit...

  15. Hi Jessica, The insight to take care of me also came during the break up of my first marriage. I see things very differently in many ways now :o). It is interesting to read how we all have our unique ways of meeting our need to be individuals in relationship. Thank you for your post!