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Dear Little Bobby,
I’m a writer, and a parent, and I’m having a hard time balancing the two. I’m moderately successful with a decent amount of published work but no best-sellers (yet). The crux of my problem is I keep finding myself feeling both inner and outer conflict in finding the right balance of mental time away from my family and children. I really love my kids and my husband. But I need long stretches of focused time for my work, and lately I feel I can’t get that without guilt, and often crabbiness. Do you have tips or tricks on how I can be more present with my family, while also not abandoning my creative work?
—Loving but Crabby Mom
Dear Loving Mom,
Your key to resolving this feeling within yourself is to be patient. Be mindful with yourself and with your family. Mindfulness is something that I recommend for most people, with most issues, and I will keep beating this dead horse to death because I fully believe in its power.
BEFORE your alone time gets interrupted, have a backup plan.
Despite wholly believing in the power of mindfulness, even I struggle with it. When I sat down to respond to your question, I noticed the same feelings in myself that you describe. I see that I am trying to balance time with my girlfriend and our family of puppies with the time that I spend writing this column or writing/playing/practicing music. On top of those things, I also like to spend a little time on myself. This is clearly different than many Mothers I know who do not spend much (or any) time on themselves.
Parents that are able to be so devoted to their families are truly to be commended. Some are able to devote all of themselves to their families but when others attempt this, it is detrimental to their families, and to themselves. If we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot help others. You want to help your family take care of their bodies and minds. Once those basics are covered, communication is key. Explain to them that you need long stretches of time to be focused. But you better be flexible about it. As a Mother, you already know this.
BEFORE your alone time gets interrupted, have a backup plan. If you are REALLY serious about getting this creative work done, have several backup plans. When your quiet afternoon gets interrupted, which will happen, you can remain calm and peaceful with your family because you have already told yourself “I will get back to my work after they go bed” or “I have another free day tomorrow so this interruption is okay.” If you are communicating with your family, and if you are all trying your best to be present with each other during shared time, then there is no reason to feel guilty about also spending time with yourself later. Find ways to make it happen.
I am technically on vacation this week, but I am sitting down to write this column a few minutes a day, because I WANT to balance my downtime against my productive time. To remain realistic, I am only scheduling 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there and so on. If I try to do more I know that I will not be consistent, I will get frustrated and not enjoy doing something that is supposed to be enjoyable…not very mindful.
When I make my productive time “bite-sized” like this, it is much easier to get things done. But this is not to say that you should multi-task. I do not write while I am doing anything else. I know that if I was trying to pay attention to children right now, I would be so distracted that my writing would suffer, or the quality time with my kids would suffer. Whichever you are doing…be in THAT moment. Be present.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“Mother should I build the wall?” —Pink Floyd, “Mother” 1979