Thursday, July 14, 2011

Finding Balance with Toddlers

It's taken me a while but I've been learning that part of being a good mom is taking time out for myself. I've been getting up early lately. My main motivation is to have time to be alone. We have very loud wood stairs, so I step on the "quiet" spots and tip-toe down to the living room where I cuddle up on the couch and read my scriptures. I love this time. In the beginning this was difficult because I very much dislike going to bed early. I used to believe an early bedtime is for people age 60+. But now that I'm getting up early, I'm yawning like a seasoned 60 year old around 9 pm. And it's not so bad, climbing into bed around 10pm (instead of 11:30 or midnight) because I know that around 5:30 or 6, I get to work on something entirely by myself.

My husband has said, "In order to be a good mom, you have to be a good you." I recently pulled out my collection of old vintage picture frames I've been collecting to sell at our local farmer's market. I've had a blast packing up the girls and bribing them with SUGAR as I dig through the piles of frames at local consignment shops and thrift stores. I search for the ornate frames that have character and try to never spend more than $5 per frame. At home, I stretched out a huge drop cloth and went to work. I painted some of them and others I covered with fabric. I found a local glass shop and cut glass to fit those that were missing their panes. I poly-urethaned, I sanded, I cut fingers, and lost way too much sleep. But I finished them in time for the market.


And the result? I sold ONE frame. My total profit was negative nine dollars (booth fee).

But after feeling offended and frustrated, I realized that it was still worth it. I'd already earned far more than negative nine dollars. I'd earned another piece of ME. I learned a lot about refurbishing frames--where to find the good ones, what paint colors look good, how to get an even finish. I even started covering picture frame mats with cute fabrics to brighten a room. I am in love with these creations that are now sitting in a local consignment shop with my name on them.


And now that my fingernails are permanently destroyed and all my paints are lining the walls of my dining room, I'm motivated to discover more of what I can do. Today I finally painted the first coat of dark brown onto the tops of those loud wooden stairs I creep down every morning. They've been primed forever and now they're on their way to completion. I want them to end up something close to this:

(Aren't those Moroccan stencils beautiful?)

This week has helped me see that part of being a balanced mother is allowing my own needs to be a part of that balance. I've found that if I plan a daily activity time with my kids, I can make it through the day (mostly) guilt-free. I can give my kids the time and attention they need and still make time for those important ME projects.

Our routine is constantly changing to fit all of our needs. And that's okay. April Perry wrote a great essay on balance where she says: "I don't know why I feel like a failure when my life gets out of balance. It's usually not because I did something 'wrong,' but because the balance point has shifted." I usually stress when those "shifts" come along and worry that I'm not doing things right and that my kids won't be as nurtured and intelligent as other kids because those moms obviously have it figured out and I don't. But somehow we always manage to get back on track with what works for us. And never underestimate the power of chucking that routine out the window and doing what you need to to stay sane and nice. I've left my husband and two toddlers at home to eat dinner by myself at the Village Inn. I've driven past the library to go look at a new thrift store or have lunch at Great Harvest Bread because it made me feel better in that moment to know that I could take the reigns and do that for myself. I didn't plant a garden this year. I cancelled activity time the other day because everyone was driving me crazy. So what? If I allow myself a little serendipity, my routine feels more balanced. (A happier mom is better than one who checks off everything on her list).

I'd hoped to finish the stairs today and clean up my mess and bake a beautiful lasagna (what was I thinking?) but sometime around 5pm, of course, everyone became a little stir-crazy and destructive. The backs of my legs were covered in paint because I'd accidentally SAT on my gallon of dark brown and doused my backside. The girls wouldn't stop tormenting one another and baby was AWAKE and needy, so we packed some snacks and went to a nearby splash pad. It was out of order, so we just sat and did nothing and played and then did nothing and ate plums and relaxed. Not planned, but critical to our sanity.

And those stairs will be waiting for me early tomorrow morning if I can get my keister into bed...

"The biggest challenge is finding the right balance. The amount of time we have to 'spare' changes with the different stages of our lives. There is no perfect day where we squeeze everything in. Something usually has to fall to the background while we focus on something else. It would be tragic to tip the scale so much that we forget to enjoy the stage we are in now. Find joy and learning in the simple things everyday."
-Suzanne Christensen (quote found here.)
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  1. Wonderful post girl! I have always appreciated your take on toddlers. it's tough but, it only last a little while..... right?! haha.
    can't believe you've been painting those stairs while 8 months prego! go girl!
    and getting up to read your scriptures! you are my hero.
    thanks for always inspiring!

  2. Kate-thank you for your comment. Just to clarify, in the first draft of this rage, I referred to my outrageous zest to get projects done which usually comes along when I'm 8 months prego. But luckily I'm NOT pregnant right now. Just trying to have that same zest without the baby in my belly! (Sometimes I write these rages, then go to bed and wake up and realize I need to re-write them!)

  3. You are such an amazing writer. And mom. And friend. Love you, girl.

  4. HOw completely and totally awesome are you! I can't believe how many awesome projects you do. Your writing, your house decorating, your crafts with your kids...
    I miss you so much Janelle!
    Sorry I've been so aweful about keeping in touch.
    I'll call soon!! promise. Trey is done his finals tomorrow night at 10pm! I'm so excited