API Principle #8: Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

Attachment Parenting International provides 8 principles they belief optimally support the development of healthy parent-child attachment. Over the last several Fridays I have reviewed each of the principles and given suggestions for practical application. They are as follows:

1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

2. Feed with Love and Respect

3. Respond with Sensitivity

4. Use Nurturing Touch

5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care

7. Practice Positive Discipline

The 8th and final principle is “Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life“. I actually believe this one to be the most challenging of them all! The demands of raising a family often seem all-encompassing and striking a balance where everyone’s needs are met is a struggle. There are the individual needs of each family member as well as the needs of the relationships that exist between each family member to consider. Young children’s needs are often simple (ie- hungry, tired, need attention, etc) yet are riddled with immediacy and occur at a rather high frequency. As adults we are more capable of putting our own complex needs aside to care for our children. However it’s important to find or create the opportunity to revisit them at a later time. Otherwise they build and grow so heavy throwing off the balance within the family.

Shortly after the birth of my second son we went through a difficult phase in our family where things felt completely imbalanced. It took a great deal of consciousness about the situation, open communication with my husband, and creative brainstorming to find resolve. Of course we are not perfectly balanced and I doubt we ever will be, but we are in a good place that feels manageable.

Previously I was on a fast track to feeling ‘burnt out’ as a mother. API defines ‘burn-out’ as a physical, emotional, and mental response to high levels of stress where parents may feel relentlessly fatigued, strained, and physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. They may also feel overworked, under-appreciated, angry, resentful, powerless, hopeless, drained, frustrated, detached, anti-social, unsatisfied, resentful, like a failure, indifferent, and lacking motivation (API, 2008). As I felt any or all of these emotions day after day, I knew something had to change.  I waived a white flag and cried uncle to my husband letting him know I needed more balance in our family. As a mother it is easy to nurture everyone else but yourself…but rule #1 is the nurturer must be nurtured so she can continue to nurture! If she is continually depleted of her resources she will have nothing left to give. I did not want to become empty and hallow with nothing to give. Rather I desired a more sustainable rhythm of reciprocal giving and receiving.

We made two relatively small changes that ultimately had a big impact on our family. First I started to exercise more, namely running and practicing yoga. Running was something I missed incredibly and yoga was something I was curious in exploring deeper. Finding the time, space, and energy for these activities was relatively easy once we determined it was a priority. Secondly, I actively worked to develop a social network and support system. Late into my second son’s pregnancy we had moved to a new state where I didn’t know anyone. After he was born, the adjustment to two children was difficult and lonely. Realizing my need and desire to connect with other women, I started attending local La Leche League meetings and Birth Circle meetings on a regular basis. From there I developed friendships and a much needed support system. My heart and soul began to feel full again and the burnt-out feelings subsided.

If you are heading down the path of being burnt-out from parenting, take action! Perhaps a few small changes can make a big difference. Try to prioritize your needs into your daily activities; even something as simple as waking up 10 minutes earlier to start the day with deep breathing/meditation can help infuse more balance into your family. Once you become closer to feeling balanced (as opposed to experiencing the extreme imbalance that goes along with burn-out), you will be more attune to acute changes in balance and respond accordingly. Thus you can ideally minimize the shifts that occur on either side of the fulcrum by being proactive. API gives some great practical tips for maintaining balance on their website. Be sure to check them out if you haven’t already.  🙂

Have you experienced extreme imbalance in your family? What helped you achieve more balance? Would love to hear from you!

-Sarah

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