Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bread, Roses, and a side of Guilt

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.


Once upon a time I was fondly watching my wee daughter splashing around in the bath with a set of mommy and baby rubber ducks.

“Oh Mommy Ducky,” I overheard her baby duck say.

“Yes Baby Ducky?” she replied via the mommy duck.

“Oh Mommy Ducky, I just love you so so so so so much!”

Oh, how tender moments like these stir the wholesome soup that is a mama’s warm heart!

“I love you too, Baby Ducky,” she continued. “Now you stay here with Daddy. Mommy is going to the pub with her friends.”


My jaw dropped so far it hit me on the knees.

“No, Mommy Ducky! Don’t go! Don’t leave me!” cried the baby duck.

“I can’t hear you, I’m at the pub now!” replied the Mommy duck.

Lord love a duck! That’s how my baby sees me? Seriously?

I’m that Mommy?

But I only go to the pub, like, almost never! Like, seriously, a few times a year?

Clearly when I do go, though, it makes a big impression.

For weeks I replayed this incident in my head, dredging it through layers of mommy guilt. And then it occurred to me to just own it already.

Hell yeah, I’m that Mommy!

Mommy likes a pint now and again. Daddy is a perfectly wonderful caregiver and he deserves time alone with his dear daughter to prove it to himself, to me, and to her. And my friends miss me. And I miss me. And I enjoy conversations with people who can take care of their own toileting needs, so what?

Why would I want to raise a daughter who thinks it’s not okay for a Mommy to go out with her friends now and again? I wouldn’t.

But then again, I’m that Mommy. So I would think that.

Where the guilt comes from, I couldn’t tell you. I just try to look it in the eye and ask it to leave.

Usually, it replies with something along the lines of, “I can’t hear you, I’m at the pub with my friends now!”

You know that old slogan Bread and Roses?

“Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too!”

It’s from a poem by James Oppenheim that became a song that became a rallying cry for the worldwide labor movement in the early 1900s. The poem talks about how a life of toil and drudgery, without art and love and beauty, is a life of deprivation, insisting that, “Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!”

Well, dur, right?

But when you’re caring for little people, it’s easy to forget about your bread never mind your freaking roses.

This year I had a new baby. And I had to leave that baby, when she was just four months old, with her daddy and with my mom for 48 hours while I went into the hospital to have a potentially life-saving surgery. One of the worst parts of the whole ordeal was the guilt of leaving that baby. Seriously. I was worried about how my baby would cry for her mommy, and I wouldn’t be there, and she wouldn’t understand why, and she’d only have her daddy, and her grandma, and her grandpa, and her other grandma, and a freezer full of expressed breast milk to comfort her, instead of me. Did I mention it was a potentially life-saving surgery? It was. So I had to keep reminding myself that my baby, if she were able to reason things out, would surely be more concerned about having me around for you know, the rest of her life, than for the next 48 hours.

Like I said, where the guilt comes from, I haven’t the foggiest. But it rolls in, it does. It gets all over the bread, never mind what it does to the roses.

So how does a Mommy get herself to the pub, or to a pilates class, or for a walk in the woods, or out for some retail therapy, or for a run, or to play poker with her buddies, or to a curry buffet with an old friend, or into the bath once a week, or to the computer to blog her bloggy little heart out?

Like her life depends on it.

Because, surely, it does.

I have three small children and the comment passers-by often lob at me is, “You sure have your hands full, don’t you?” It’s utterly true. I do. I have very little time that could be described as self-directed. So when I have a sitter for a few hours or just 10 minutes while my three children are oddly self-contented and not in the throes of any crises whatsoever, or I’ve effectively scared off my husband and my children have all followed him into the backyard, I very quickly and directly ask my heart – are you starving? Do you need roses? What are your roses today?

Sometimes it’s just to get outside, kids in tow. Sometimes it’s just to stop whatever drudgery I’m all wound up in and to connect through play or affection with my kids. Occasionally I really need to ditch a couple of my bundles of joy for one-on-one time with just one of my children. Sometimes I need to ignore everybody else in the world and create some art, or organize a drawer, or browse a magazine full of immaculate rooms and cooked meals. Sometimes I need to be alone.

I pretty much always could use a nap. I pretty much always could use an aggressive work out where I can move at my own pace, unencumbered by anyone else’s physical weight or non-linear fitness agendas. And sometimes I need to be as far away as possible from my children or from anything to do with children. And then of course, when I get there, I miss them. And when I come home, they come off smelling like roses again.


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)


    1. Definitely my favorite post of the month :) Your retelling of the duck dialogue had me in stitches! Now that was a moment of finding balance for me - I need more laughter in my life. I do agree with you - regardless of how we find our balance (assuming it's legal, of course) - our kids *should* know about it. We are teaching them life skills! Finding balance is a skill, and you are a wonderful role model!

    2. You rock, Betsy.

      I recently hired Wonder Nanny. I get to do some work by myself, at the library or the coffee shop, and it is lovely. For now, at this point in my life, work is my roses. Particularly if it's work that doesn't involve trying to ignore the mess and tune out fighting children.

    3. This is fabulous. I particularly like you holding the Guilt up by the neck, looking it in the eye and telling it you're busy right now. I don't think we even need to tell it to come back some other time.

      Maybe I need to get to the pub. With some friends. And no guilt. Duck play aside.

    4. Geez, be glad. Eve's dialogues usually revolve around the Barbie daughter asking the Barbie Mom to stop driving around with no pants on in a car that's on fire.

      You are SO right about the stupid guilt. And the need for curry buffets and adult conversation and beer -- er, I mean, connecting with your friends. I'm at a point where I do have more me-time, without neglecting them at all, and I STILL feel guilty and occasionally self-sabotage.

      I give this post five pints.

    5. Ah, love this post! Love the ducky story and the whole message. I have conversations with the guilt, too, though I absolutely and totally believe Mommy should have her time at the pub. I am that mommy too!

    6. Freakin fabulous, besty. I love it and i love you for it. Way to own that mama time! I'm going to think of you when I drink my next beer and smile and breathe off the mama guilt as much as possible.

    7. Betsy, you have the best way with words. Always, always a most enjoyable read. Now where's my beer?

    8. This is amazing, funny, eloquent. Thank you.

    9. Of course these comments are like dozens and dozens and dozens of roses.

      Oh me oh my! I just lurve you all so much!

    10. I needed this reminder so badly. I spend so much of my time being bewildered about mothering that I can't seem to find time for myself. Because I can't find time for the stuff that *has* to get done, I don't let myself make time for me.

      Must rectify immediately!

    11. (that's not spam, FYI. but sometimes an animated gif says it better than i could.)

    12. Love the ducky dialogue.

      Mother guilt is so hard to work through, I really like the Bread and Roses analogy and will have to remind myself of that when things start to get overwhelming at our place.

    13. perfect. I just love your analogy, it's so true. And this is so true too: "And then of course, when I get there, I miss them. And when I come home, they come off smelling like roses again."
      For this reason I think it's essential to get alone time once in a while, because it makes you love and appreciate your children just that much more!

    14. I took a class on the history of the US Labor movement in college, and I loved that quote about bread and roses, and your post is lovely too.

    15. >>Like her life depends on it. Because, surely, it does.

      It does. And its so easy to push our own needs aside when our kids needs are so... LOUD. I find myself making my own needs pretty silent in that ruckus. But too much of that, and we lose ourselves. Which isn't a good thing, for anyone. Great post, Betsy.

    16. What a perfect post! I have been getting better and better at letting go of the guilt. Because, seriously, they're going to be OK. And I will be better, too, for the time off.

    17. Excellent post! I got out of the house tonight (by myself!), and upon returning home I murmured to my nursing twins, "You smell of roses now." Hubby overheard and said, "No, they don't. I just gave them a bath. They smell like baby wash." Hahahahaha!

    18. Sigh...I've done a post on that brand of genetically engineered Mommy guilt...& I literally did not leave my house, or my kids, for 12 years. Never spent a single night away from them, never once hired a sitter, & if I left them with Dad, it was max 2 hrs. Not very balanced at all, but attachment parenting at it's finest...to compensate, we just rotated Sat nights at each other's houses with young kids, the kids all played, & we all had a few "pints" & played cards or whatever, no one had to pay sitters, & everyone would have a grand old time! Somehow though, it's far too easy for Moms to fall in to that role of martyr....& we need to remember that giving ourselves to our kids requires we be happy & healthy when we do it, which means taking time for ourselves!


    Tell Betsy...