by Amanda Bornfree
On a Sunday evening, my one-month-old baby girl starts making hunger cues with her soft little heart-shaped lips. She pushes them out as she sits in a bouncer at the door of our bathroom. I’m in the bathroom with a blob of hair conditioner in my wet hands, telling my six-year-old daughter for the fourth time to “look up at the ceiling” so I can rub the conditioner into her hair. She has enough hair on her head for three other children. As you can imagine, washing her hair is a project – and she can’t stand having her hair washed. She nearly turns into a baby herself, panting, whining and crying.
And that’s exactly what she does– well, both my daughters, together. You’d think they were harmonizing, a strong sister duo, singing a song titled, “Let’s stress mama until she’s a mess.”
They must’ve missed the memo, because I’m already a stressed mess. I’m sleep-deprived, lactating, hungry and I have to use the bathroom. I can solve only one of these four issues at a time. I decide to let the conditioner soak into my daughter’s hair while I wipe my hands dry on the first towel I can find. I then unfasten my baby girl from the bouncer, lift up my shirt and get her latched on.
All I can hear is my mother’s voice: You don’t know what it’s like to be a parent until you have more than one. She was right.
So much of motherhood calls for the art of balancing. Are some of us naturally good at it – or, wait, maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to assume? I believe that, like most things we aspire to do or become, it takes practice. So, how do I practice the art of balancing work, motherhood, my spouse and my own dreams?
Take a breath, Amanda, it’s going to be okay, I tell myself. So you should’ve used the bathroom when you first felt the urge, oh, and you could’ve eaten the clementine that your big girl rejected before you ran the bath water, and you should’ve, could’ve . . . any number of things.
Really, Amanda, take a breath.
Going over the shoulds and coulds may not be the best thing for my peace of mind. Actually, no matter whether my child’s hair is perfectly done, my boss gives me a thumbs up or my husband is content, what I must make sure of is that my mind is at peace. This reminds me of the little joke, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out, but does it take a genius to effectively find peace of mind?
No. It doesn’t take genius. It takes spirit.
Balance takes spirit
With my household routine constantly evolving, thanks to our new sweet baby and the prospect of moving into our first house, my daily schedule is unpredictable – or non-existent. I really can’t pencil in a scheduled time to pray, take deep breaths or simply call upon the Holy Spirit. However, I have identified a few daily activities that if I were to seek the Spirit while doing them, my life would be a little sweeter, ultimately bringing me some peace.
Perhaps it’s logical to call upon the Spirit when doing something I enjoy, like making my morning coffee or nursing my baby, and, yes, sometimes I do. However, I have also chosen the activities that aren’t so delightful to call on the Spirit to surround me, lead me and bless me – for example, when I’m scrubbing a dirty plate or while I’m stuck in traffic.
Taking hold of various moments throughout the day to seek the Spirit has eased my anxiety and frustration when things inevitably go a little crazy. I notice that I do not get as worked up as I have before, because the Spirit reaches out to me, covers me and calms me. This, I know, will continue to strengthen with my daily practice. Not all of us are able to set the daily ideal time to strengthen our spirits through prayer or meditation. So if it happens in the shower on Monday and then during a toilet bowl cleaning on Tuesday — be blessed. Balance takes practice and time, and as long as you have peace of mind, the goals you set for yourself and your family are a lot more manageable. Motherhood is unpredictable and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves with schedules and routines. If we are too hard on ourselves, we can actually limit the Spirit’s presence in our lives.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
1. As a mother, identify the daily or weekly activities that are the most challenging or stressful. Before these activities, have you sought the Spirit, prayed or meditated?
2. What does balance look like to you as a mother?
3. What advice would you give a new mother about maintaining peace of mind during the most stressful times with children?
Holy Spirit, as I go forth in caring for others, remind me to care for myself. Help me create time to refocus, breathe and simply be. May I feel your loving kindness throughout my activities today and be grateful for all that you have given. Amen.
Amanda Bornfree is a writer and a childcare worker in Oak Park, Ill. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two young daughters. She is also starting a promising business venture.
Both photos of Amanda’s daughters are courtesy of the writer. Used with permission.
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Thanks for this great reflection. A glimpse into an individual’s life is always a reminder that calling on the Spirit is necessary during times of calm or calamity-might be a word or two or longer, but think the presence brings comfort, peace, strength to carry on. A helpful suggestion from my experience is to have one’s spouse/partner be an active participant in all aspects of children’s lives and household “activity”(cooking, cleaning, shopping for example). My spouse travelled extensively for his career, but was a constant presence in our daughters’ lives-birth through adulthood. It does take a village to raise children, I think, so fun to hear “there’s our church babies” and welcomed and encouraged by others in community, work or our social groups/organizations. Sense of humor, sleep or away time comes and a bonus! Thank you again for sharing your story.
Yes, you ARE a writer, child of God, and all those other descriptors! What a true picture! (I recall one instance of my retreating to the bathroom, then a squalling toddler at the door-> fast forward to me sitting on the throne with a loving toddler standing on my thighs in hard soled shoes encapsulating my whole head with sweet arms)
Ah, life! Your examples of Spirit-finding were excellent! Thank you! Blessings to you all!!