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Carnival of Natural Parenting: Attachment Parenting and Balance

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.


balancing on bicyclesWhen I’m discussing attachment parenting with other moms I often say that the most important attachment parenting principle is the last on the list and the most often overlooked: Balance.

Balance is the principle that allows attachment parenting to be possible

An overworked and overwhelmed parent will not be able to continue to provide the level of emotional attachment and physical demands that the rest of the attachment parenting principles require.

Balance is often glossed over because it is so complex

The source of balance is so personal and varied that finding balance is much more difficult to tackle than deciding how to choose the best baby carrier or co-sleep safely.  Every parent brings their own history and personal idiosyncrasies to their experience as parents, and that means that what one parent needs to stay in balance might be totally and completely different from what another parent needs.

Balance is fluid

Nobody, no matter how zen or dedicated to the cause of parenting they are, stays in balance all the time.  We have bad days and good, we get sick and healthy again, we have times when our career demands more of our attention and sometimes we step back from outside work.  We are always moving in and out of balance, and that is part of the challenge.

Balance is about moving in the space between two polar opposites

Balanced parenting is about managing to be firm yet gentle, powerful yet loving.  It’s about paradoxical needs: I need to be fully present for my kids and I also need to have time and space for my own interests.  My children need to have a strong attachment with me and the space and time to be their own people.  Balance is finding it inside myself to be patient and present with my misbehaving child when I know she’s having a tantrum because I’m a bit distant and that scares her.  Balance is walking away from my scratching, nipple pinching, biting toddler when the thread of my patience snaps, and letting her dad take a turn putting her to bed.

Balance requires momentum

The ebb and flow can’t happen properly when you’re standing still.  Like riding a bicycle or swimming in the ocean, you can’t learn how to balance by reading a book or waiting until you are sure you can do it perfectly before you try.  Balancing takes self-awareness, lots of trial and error, and a willingness to do things differently next time.

There are some needs that must be met before balance can be achieved: sleep, nutrition, healthy relationships, time to recharge, interests or work outside of parenting and the home.  But balance goes deeper than that, to a spiritual level.

Finding my balance as a parent feels like being in the middle of a vortex that is spiraling around me.  It’s the sweet spot of peacefulness and meaning and connection and empathy and joy in the midst of the whirlwind of details that incessantly spirals around and around us: untrimmed fingernails, phonics lessons, finding lost library books underneath the couch.  For me, true balance comes from practicing peacefulness and humility, from recognizing when I’ve fallen off my bicycle, brushing myself off and getting right back on.


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.)

  • Balance — Sheila at A Gift Universe has put her baby first — and has no regrets. (@agiftuniverse)
  • A Moment for Mama — Starr at Earth Mama has learned how to recharge on the run, so she doesn’t miss a moment with her children.
  • Take a 30-Minute or 5-Minute Me-Break — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now discusses the merits of taking small daily breaks to maintain balance. (@DebChitwood)
  • Achieving Balance — In a guest post at the new Natural Parents Network, Heather explains how yoga has helped her find balance in her personal and family life. (@NatParNet)
  • A Stitch in (Quiet) Time Saves Momma’s Mind — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma didn’t realize she needed “me” time — until she got it and had no idea what to do with herself. (@kitchenwitch)
  • Attachment Parenting and Balance — Michelle at The Parent Vortex believes that the last item on the “attachment parenting” list is both the most important and the most overlooked. (@TheParentVortex)
  • Little Breaks Bring a Little Balance — Jen at Grow with Graces finds balance – some days! (@growwithgraces)
  • Finding Balance — Are you a Type A mama? Dionna at Code Name: Mama is, and she needs your help to find balance. (@CodeNameMama)
  • (high)Centered — Stefanie at Very, Very Fine has had a spa gift certificate sitting on her nightstand since last year, a symbol of her inability to take time for herself.
  • Taking Time for Me — Marita at Stuff With Thing takes refuge in the world of books, with her daughters immersed in reading beside her. (@leechbabe)
  • Writing as a parent: October Carnival of Natural Parenting — Lauren at Hobo Mama didn’t let parenting put her passions on hold. (@Hobo_Mama)
  • The Dance of Balance — Balance isn’t static. It is dynamic, it is a dance, it is about keeping in touch with you. Read this wonderful bit of wisdom from Seonaid at the Practical Dilettante. (@seonaid_lee)
  • Rest Hour – a Primer — Do you get 15 minutes to yourself each day? How about an hour?! Mrs. H. at Fleeting Moments shares her tips on how to incorporate a “rest hour” for adults and kids.
  • Separation Is Critical — Only through enforced separation with the end of her marriage did Jessica at This is Worthwhile realize she should have taken time apart all along. (@tisworthwhile)
  • Bread, Roses, and a Side of Guilt. — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy isn’t ashamed to admit that she enjoys a pint once in awhile, or that her daughter recreates it during pretend play.
  • 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)
  • Balancing this Life — 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)
  • Comments on this entry are closed.

    • Lauren @ Hobo Mama October 12, 2010, 1:26 am

      What a moving post. I really love what you say about balance being the principle that allows for the other aspects of attachment parenting. I like how honest and practical you are about the failures to be in the sweet center — those times of having enough and walking away or of failing to be present. I need the reminder that the response is to move on and find balance across the moments if not in every single one.

      P.S. Thanks for the link to my cosleeping post! :)

      • michelle October 12, 2010, 9:17 am

        Thanks! Yeah, it’s easy to want all our parenting moments to fall in that sweet spot, but sometimes they don’t! Letting ourselves off the hook and saying it’s ok to ask for help or try again next time gives us the space to be human.

    • Dionna @ Code Name: Mama October 12, 2010, 5:45 am

      You’ve really nailed it for so many parents – how DO we remain fully present and still take time for ourselves? It’s something I’ve struggled with over my first 2.5 years as a parent, but I want that to change. Not only for my own mental well-being, but also to set an example for my son that it’s healthy and necessary to take time for yourself.

      • michelle October 12, 2010, 8:57 pm

        It’s tricky, for sure. I try to minimize the amount of computer work I do while the kids are around – I do surf & read things, but I rarely write during the day. Partly because I can’t concentrate while my 18mo is getting into stuff, but also because I don’t want all their memories to be of me hidden behind the laptop. I do enough of that as it is. My “me time” each week is Saturday mornings. Beatrice knows now that I write articles that day and is totally fine with it. It’s nice for the girls to have that time with Tom, and it’s crucial to my health & happiness, especially as an introvert who needs time alone to recharge.

    • Momma Jorje October 12, 2010, 7:47 am

      Well said! I definitely think that allowing ourselves to fall down (without beating ourselves up) and being willing to get back up again, and to support each other in that effort, is important to the balance. I know that isn’t exactly what you said, but it kind of lead me to that thought… if that makes sense.

      • michelle October 12, 2010, 9:00 pm

        Thanks! Yeah, that is what I meant. Striving for balance doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, and being compassionate with ourselves and other parents helps us find that balance. It’s also good practice for being compassionate with our kids, who aren’t perfect either!

    • Elyse October 12, 2010, 8:41 am

      What a great post!!! This really hit home to me today, I am struggling with balance and actually figuring out how to be “firm yet gentle, powerful yet loving” with my 3yo daughter. I am either giving in way too much or not at all. Thanks for this :)

      • michelle October 12, 2010, 9:02 pm

        I hear ya on the 3yo discipline – it is so hard to find the right balance with kids at that age. I found it hard with my daughter, anyway. Good luck!

    • BluebirdMama October 12, 2010, 9:24 am

      I really love this post. I am often saying the same thing about the last principle of attachment parenting. I think too often people mistake AP as a philosophy for martyrs who always put their kids first. This last principle reminds me that I need to take care of myself.
      I do find it difficult when taking care of myself feels like a direct opposite to other parenting ideals. For example, the struggle to night-wean or my current contemplation of not co-sleeping with my next child because it disrupts my sleep too much.
      I’m going to have to re-read your post again later today to really let it sink in. Thank you.

      • michelle October 12, 2010, 9:10 pm

        You’re so right that making the choice to put your own needs first can be really hard sometimes. We are thinking about night-weaning right now too. I love co-sleeping, and I want to continue nursing, but there are 4-5 nights each month when I cannot STAND the feeling of little feet kicking me and little fingernails pinching me. The other night I went and slept in the other bedroom for a few hours while Tom stayed with Claire. She was really angry, and she cried for a good long while. But having an angry toddler for an hour is one thing, having an angry mama the whole next day is quite another.

    • Sybil October 12, 2010, 11:07 am

      This is a great reminder of how to maintain the balance on our often totally out of whack parenting lives. It’s definitely something we don’t learn enough about when our children are so young– it takes quite a bit ot trial and error to find it.

      I’m so glad I was able to find your blog through the carnival. I look forward to reading more posts from you!

      • michelle October 12, 2010, 9:13 pm

        Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed my blog. :) I feel like I’ve learned a lot through trial and error – thankfully kids are resilient and parents are too.

    • Jessica - This is Worthwhile October 12, 2010, 11:45 am

      This post has really struck me. I’m recently separated and I’ve gained more balance by the forced solitude than I was ever able to get when I was married; yet, I fully connect with what you’re saying on the personal levels of parenting: the emotional aspects of myself in the mothering role. I did a pretty crappy job of balancing things in the self role, however. I think that’s where I dropped the ball, because the balancing act of attachment parenting as a skill I am fully engaged in. I’m just not very good at the job of me, yet, I guess.

      • michelle October 12, 2010, 9:20 pm

        Thanks for your perspective – I hadn’t thought of there being a balance within each role as well as between the different roles we play in our families. Before I had kids I found that I could be totally balanced all day at work and come home and fall apart in an emotional wreck. That compartmentalization of my self was so strange. I wish you well on your journey of self-discovery.

    • Rachael October 12, 2010, 7:23 pm

      Balance is complex: wow, so true. In my gut, I’ve known so all along, but it’s never occurred to me to put it that way to myself. I tend to think, “Balance is hard,” which might also be true, but not so helpful as thinking of it as complex. Also helpful, the idea that movement is necessary. I tend to find balance through routines, to-do lists, and etc. (to keep me from biting off more than I can chew), but the trick is not to follow those slavishly, to remain open to the spontaneity and play that our little ones are always offering us — or their demands that are showing us that they need more from us. Thanks for this post!

    • Acacia @ Be Present October 12, 2010, 7:59 pm

      Well written, and so very true. Balance and self is often overlooked and such an important part of the process of parenting. What do our children learn from us if we’re stressed and distracted all the time but to be the same? Or if we are constantly putting others in front of our self no matter what? They learn to do the same.

    • Amy October 12, 2010, 8:52 pm

      I love this, so beautifully written! Thanks for reminding us of the importance of finding that calm amidst the storm.

    • michelle October 12, 2010, 9:30 pm

      ack! Sorry for the confusing comment replies – I thought my theme threaded replies but it seems it does not. I hope you all can figure out which reply goes with which comment!

    • Betsy October 13, 2010, 3:07 pm

      This is definately lovely and definately true.

    • Cynthia March 30, 2011, 2:47 pm

      “Every parent brings their own history and personal idiosyncrasies to their experience as parents, and that means that what one parent needs to stay in balance might be totally and completely different from what another parent needs.”

      So true. It’s a difficult subject to talk about in concrete terms. What works for some people isn’t what I need, and what I needed three years ago isn’t what I need today. Great post!