The Creative Mama » inspiring art, encouraging women

Working Toward the Middle Ground

“We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.” — Hermann Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund

In seeking a mate we are often encouraged to search out our opposite, our complement.  My husband is certainly quite different than me.  While we share certain traits, the fundamentals of our personalities are quite different.  This has led to quite a successful partnership and marriage.

However, it has lead to my downfall when it comes to motherhood.  You see, when you marry your opposite, your progeny may also be your opposite — and not always in a complementary way.

Nothing has thrown this into such stark relief as this year’s summer vacation.  Hours of free and unscheduled time is a dream for me (and my daughter) — but not for my boys.  They are five years apart, which presents its own set of challenges, and when not provided with specific tasks their play dissolves into disaster.  Either a fight breaks out, or they become so rowdy that someone gets hurt (minor so far, thank goodness).  It is exhausting, and the first week of vacation isn’t even over yet.

I was determined that since I was fortunate enough to be at-home with my children, that I would not fill their summers with camps and lessons.  I would NOT raise an anxious, over-scheduled child … and yet now I wonder if I’m doing it all wrong! Would we all be happier if I was packing them off to camp everyday?  Do I really have to schedule activities every hour of the day to keep the peace?

Yesterday, after 3 days of arguing and fighting and yelling (yes, I’m ashamed to say most of it was by me) — we bailed out and headed to a local farm to go strawberry picking.  Mind you, I had a quart of strawberries still in the fridge, but emergencies are emergencies.  It was a gorgeous day, sunny but not hot, and everyone’s mood lifted.  I wish I could say it lasted through bedtime, but exhausted little people inevitably break down.


Here’s what I learned though — I need to break things up more often, and in smaller chunks of time.  I’m a work first, play second kind of girl.  I want to get ALL my chores done first in the morning before taking the kids on an outing.  But that just isn’t working.  I think I’ve got to commit to breaking out by 10 am and getting them involved in something to keep them on track.  Then home for lunch and another activity mid-afternoon.

I have to be honest, this approach is killing me.  Despite my work-first mentality, I’m also a go-with-the-flow, take-advantage-of-the-moment worker.  If the kids wander off and are playing nicely, I’ll ditch every plan and try to get something of my own accomplished.  But more often than not this blows up in my face.  It is SO tempting for me to dive into a small task and try to push off an outing, then sometimes we miss the outing and I get burned.

But we do have weeks with camps planned for everyone.  I need to remember that those breaks are coming.  It’s time to buckle down and find a way to make our differences complement each other.

“Have the strength not to compare and contrast opposites but rather, balance and combine them.” –Xia Neifion~Clark

How are you handling the transition to summer freedoms?  Are you go-go-go or chillaxin?  Do you schedule the day, or take it as it comes?  Share your strategies!

About Amy

Amy Bader is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. A photography course in high school sent her to college with a journalism degree in mind, but some surprises along the way led to a career in veterinary medicine. Motherhood has brought things full circle, and now she is concentrating on her photography, finding her creative self and expressing the joys in life. When she isn’t chasing her boy/girl twins, helping her older son with homework, washing the dog, or cooking a meal -- she is probably watching some new tutorial or dreaming of art supplies. It’s a crazy life, but a good one.

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  • Julie P

    So good to hear I’m not alone…I think this describes my boys perfectly! They are 6 and 9 and very different, too.

  • Faith R

    The first week or two of summer vacations is always the hardest for us. They are used to having very scheduled days and used to being apart – plopping them down together at home with nothing in particular to go or do just takes sone getting used to.

    I like being at home so we only go out every other day or so. I also try to give them something to look forward to – we might not be going anywhere today but they can look forward to a play date at the park tomorrow and it helps mine. I think a balance between structured and unstructured time is ideal – hard to pull off, and easier said than done.

  • Ann M Skubitz

    I think a lot of moms would agree with your dilema. I am a get work done first type of gal too and although my kids go to daycare during the week while I work FT- on the weekends I have this same problem! Good for you for figuring it out!!

  • Jessica Sliman

    Great post. I love the picture of the kids with their strawberries.

    My kids are still at home with me (they are 2.5 and 1) so the shift to summer doesn’t change much for us. Except that there are a lot more big kids every where we go! We typically do one activity in the morning around 10 – be it a play date, a trip to the store, the library – and then we come home, eat lunch and regroup. In the afternoon, we go to the gym – where they play and I workout and shower. It’s a good schedule for us – myself included. I get crazy if we’re home all day.