It all balances out

Being a mom of 20+ years, I’ve made my own share of parenting mistakes. It’s been a back and forth journey to find balance between honoring my needs as an individual and the needs of my family as a parent. Throw in the complexity of exploring themes of gender roles, journeying through self-determination and serving my purpose has made my experience of being a parent a bit of a roller coaster ride.


Over the last year and a half I’ve had an internal rebellion against what I’ve been taught it takes to be a good “mom” and a nurturing woman. After spending years and years devoting time and energy to serving my family and making sure everybody’s needs were taken care of I chose to step back from cooking, doting, serving and trying to fix everybody else’s problems. I exercised using my voice to speak up and became more and more comfortable letting my needs and preferences be known.  I took a stance to take my time and energy back and set very firm boundaries.


My family wasn’t used to these changes and I felt guilty for reclaiming myself and my needs, but it was a practice I stuck to. My family craved what I used to give so freely and somehow they found what they were missing from me in themselves. Joey stepped up and has been cooking more and tending to Malaea’s needs. He gets his cuddle time from Malaea when I’m busy doing my thang. They’ve bonded so much and are seriously BFFs. I’m in awe of their relationship and can honestly say that I’m not one bit jealous when Malaea proclaims him as her favorite parent. 

Witnessing how they’ve individually grown because I’ve chosen to step back has helped to quiet my guilt. I love seeing how Joey has softened in his ways and how he expresses affection more freely now. I also love how Malaea has grown to be more independent, helpful and resourceful.


Coming from a place of lack, where I didn’t feel I had much time and attention to focus on myself, I held a tight grip to protect my time and sovereignty as I work on my passion projects. I’ve been recognizing how tight this grip has been and I’ve been allowing myself to slowly release it. This week has been an exercise in feeling out where that point of balance can exist, where I can still honor my needs as an individual and still be present and enjoy my family. 


It started out two weekends ago while the kids were away on a summer trip with their grandma…

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When the kids came back we wanted to continue this experience whenever we go camping or go on one of our trips. But since our 11 yr old daughter didn’t know how to ride a bike yet, she wouldn’t be able to join us. It was time for her to learn how to ride a bike.

I spent two hours with her, trying to hold her up while she tried to figure out how to balance herself. She fell- a lot. Expected. She cried. Understandable. We were both frustrated. Normal. So I let go. When I saw her struggling I’d try to hold her up again, but she’d ask me to let go. I did. She kept trying. Until she couldn’t. 

The next day she tried again with her dad while I was at work. She still fell, but she kept trying and eventually she got it. I was so happy that she was able to get it, even if I wasn’t there.

She did it! That’s all that mattered.

Now we could go places together! 

With one last free weekend before school started we decided to go back to the coast and share the experience with her.  Although she could balance and pedal, she wasn’t completely confident in stopping safely and steering precisely, so we decided to rent a tandem bike. I’d never been on one before, but I figured it’d be just like riding a bike. I’d worry about the steering and the stopping. All she had to do was pedal and balance. And all Joey had to worry about was run.


The guy at the rental counter warned us that it’s a little but harder to steer and to balance than riding a solo bike. I was a little worried since Malaea only had about a total of 5 hours of being on a bike (and only half of that where she could actually balance). But once we were in motion we were good.

All of us together. Separate but connected.

Once we took off, I could feel her smile beaming from behind me. It was a GORGEOUS day on the coast and she kept telling me how beautiful it was and how she wanted to go on forever riding and enjoying the view without doing the work. Haha! It might not have seemed like it to her, but we were both actively doing work during our ride.

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We had to work on being in sync and communicate. When one of us had to stop pedaling because we were tired or had to get comfortable and adjust our crotch on the seat we had to tell the other so we wouldn’t lose our footing on the pedals.

Our unique individual perspectives gave us a more complete view of our surroundings. She was able to notice how clear the water was, look at the murals and read some of the signs we passed by because she didn’t have to focus on steering. I gave her a heads up when we had to pedal harder when we had to go uphill and when we could chill and relax as we coasted downhill because I had a clear view of what was ahead. And since she was in the back and didn’t have to steer, I’d ask her to look back occasionally and do a daddy check to see where Joey was because I couldn’t safely look back.

She thanked me for steering so she didn’t have to worry about crashing and I thanked her for pedaling hard when I was tired. We were able to appreciate and enjoy the views and the experience of the ride a little bit more because of each other.

There were so many levels of learning and appreciation on this ride for both of us.

Finding balance in life- not just as a parent or when riding a bike- is so much easier when we can simply relax into the enjoyment of the moment instead of checking off a list of what we should or shouldn’t be doing. Despite how simple and easy as it sounds, this experience also taught me that as with all things, relaxing and surrendering into the enjoyment of the moment also takes practice.

Yesterday showed me that it’s a practice worth committing to.

Charmaine Illenberger