Motherhood is a Balancing Act

August 21, 2017
I truly believe that I was predestined to be a mother. I've had a longing in my heart since I was a young girl. My mother often called me the child-whisperer because I frequently caught eyes with babies in restaurants and grocery stores. My role as teacher gave me the opportunity to be part-time mom to dozens of kids who I like to believe I helped grow into better people, but nothing prepared me for the transition into actual motherhood. Over the past month I've realized that motherhood is a balancing act that years of child development training and personal research could never truly prepare me for.

The Balance between Research and Instinct
I had spent 9 months researching breastfeeding tips, sleep schedules, and parenting techniques. After compiling article after article, I even put together a daily schedule for my newborn who hadn't even entered the world yet. It is a trademark of my personality. I thrive off of routine.

Everyone laughed when I told them I already had a schedule for J.W., but I brushed off their remarks and dove headfirst into the overwhelming evidence that baby schedules could and did work. While this is still true, I've realized in the past month that while schedules may work babies are bound to determine routines for themselves.

I had planned out a diligently prepared schedule of eating, playing, then sleeping with 3 hour marks between feedings. After 3 weeks of sleepless nights, I realized that this simply wasn't working for my child. J.W. was almost always hungry before the 3 hour mark and was beginning to wake up HOURLY at night to snack for just 5 minutes before returning to sleep. I was frustrated and exhausted.

After examining his typical eating patterns, I moved to a "schedule" of eating every 2 hours without the mandatory activity and sleep patterns in between. Despite what everyone told me about newborns, my little one refused to nap at regular intervals, instead enjoying a long stretch of activity in the morning and evening with 2 longer naps during the day.

With some regret, I threw my research out the window and let my little one take the lead. His instincts (and mine) have proven to be much more effective. J.W. now only gets up twice in the night to eat, and occasionally sleeps for the elusive 4-hour stretch.

The Balance in Roles
Even more than the exhaustion, I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the imbalance in my identity. I had become Mother with a capital M. All other aspects of my identity had ceased to exist. I forgot what it was like to choose clothes for fashion instead of utility or put makeup on without frequent interruption. I was no longer fueling friendships or mentorships, something I had previously excelled at. Instead, I was allowing others to be my anchor, frequently relying on friends and family to be a sounding board for my questions and ideas.

More importantly, my identity as wife completely perplexed me. I felt I was no longer able to serve my husband in the ways I had before, but also found it difficult simply to relate. Unlike my female friends, he didn't understand the difficulties of learning to breastfeed or the innate responsibility I felt to comfort a child that seemed to cry uncontrollably at times. Our only opportunities for conversation were at my peaks of exhaustion and therefore effective communication had come to a halt.

There was no simple trick for learning to balance motherhood with my other roles. I found that returning to some of my pre-baby activities helped. I met with friends and returned to church, but my saving grace was honestly prayer. One can dig as deep as they want into their inner monologue, but I needed wisdom beyond myself.

Slowly, I've become more comfortable with allowing myself to be a little selfish during this season. I let friends take the lead in checking in and reply with actual needs instead of "nothing" when my husband asks if there is anything he can do to help. It seems simple, but for me it's been difficult; however, its allowed me to be mother while still being a good wife, friend, and mentor.

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