Finding Balance: How To Find Peace Parenting Young Children

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    Sam Rahberg, is a 29-year old dad who drops off his 21-month old daughter, Zoe,at the babysitter’s every day before work. The picture he paints is not pretty.

    “”I am late for work,”” he says, describing a typical morning, “”and she is still inher pajamas. She doesn’t want to get dressed, but wants to dress her doll instead.So I’m dressing both of them on the way out the door. I’m carrying my briefcase,a backpack, her snow suit and boots. Then I remember her lunch and have to go back.We’re wearing heavy coats, so as I lock the door, the backpack and other items slipdown my arms.

    “”Good luck if I want to bring along a cup of coffee.””

    Rahberg and his wife, Beth, are like most working parents who struggle to createa home that nurtures their child, their family and their relationship with each other.But they also yearn for more time alone.

    Striking that balance is critical, he says, but it’s not easy. Rahberg and his wifeare expecting their second child in June, so finding that balance will be even moreimportant. Statistics show, for example, that having two toddlers will quadrupletheir workload.

    Rahberg is a church minister and trained director of Christian education, who specializesin family ministry. On June 10, he is offering a three-hour workshop called “”FindingBalance: A Retreat for Young Families”” at the Benedictine Center in Maplewood, Minn.His workshop is geared to parents (including their children) and, among other things,will address the issue of “”finding balance.””

    He is also a student of the Rule of Benedict, which was written for monastics 1,500years ago, but still offers practical tips to anyone coping with the demands of the21st century. It does this by tackling problems we all face, such as maintaininghealthy relationships, building balanced lives, finding satisfying work, living simply,praying deeply and becoming healthy people, both on a spiritual and psychologicallevel.

    Rahberg admits that being a parent to a small child is “”exhilarating and exhaustingat the same time.””
    “”It can dull your senses, sap your energy and decrease your ability to function crisplyin the adult world,”” he says. “”Parenthood tests your patience. It affects the wayyou relate to yourself and to others.””

    While caught up in the rhythm of exhilaration and exhaustion, however, parentscan still find the balance they need to rear happy children and build healthy homes,where each member finds the support they need to grow.

    To do that, however, he suggests that parents re-think their concept of balance andbreak down each opportunity into smaller bites.

    “”I was someone who got up at 5 a.m., did centering prayer every day and worked outat the YMCA regularly,”” Rahberg says. “”When I ran errands, I planned the route andscheduled my time so I could complete them quickly and efficiently. Being a parent,however, has changed all that. Now I’m lucky if I can sit down for a few minutesto read a good book. My walks are shorter. I don’t have as much time to pray.

    “”But playing with Zoe for 20 minutes has become a form of prayer. God’s not disappointedwith me for following this new format. Maybe paying attention to this child is showingme who God created her to be, and maybe I can savor that time as a prayerful experience.

    “”Now when I run those five errands, I take Zoe with me and then see how she’s doingafter the second stop. Usually we’re lucky to finish three of them. But now I gowith the flow and adapt to the situation.””

    Paying attention to the relationship with your partner is also important, he says.””We still need time to speak to an adult as an adult. As I work with my wife to buildstructure for our daughter, our relationship is strengthened. Our family time canbe spent by simply driving somewhere in the car. Sometimes I am worn thin and can’thandle a crabby child. That’s when I ask for help and give her to someone who willkeep her safe, while I take time out.””

    Benedict, he says, stressed a balanced life that consists of work, study, prayer,leisure and time alone.
    “”My work,”” Rahberg says, “”is changing diapers or picking up toys for the third timethat day. My leisure is playing with Zoe in the park. A 30-minute walk gives me timefor myself.””

    He notes that as children we yearn to grow up and become independent. But when webecome parents, children challenge that cherished sense of independence and autonomy.We find ourselves submitting to the responsibilities of parenthood, and when we do,our lives will change forever.

    While parenthood may mean loss, however, it also brings blessings.
    “”Children teach us things,”” Rahberg says. “”They make us laugh. Many times they don’tknow how to play games, because they’re so authentic. So it’s a precious time. Zoehas become my guru. She is teaching me mindfulness so I can be present to what isright before us. I don’t need to read a ton of books on spirituality, or attend fourretreats every month. I don’t need to be alone in the dark to experience the divine.

    “”What I need is to be present to whatever is happening inside and around me. Thechaos and disruption caused by a young child are natural and healthy. These momentsforce me to face my assumptions, my intensities and my drivenness. I am called tobe mindful of the moment and to be present to my child, which has become my truevocation.””

    Benedict valued stability and practicality, Rahberg says. His way of life can helpus surrender to the everyday rhythm of being alive and move us forward, filled withfaith and grace. It can also help parents build the foundation their children needto feel anchored in place, yet free to explore the world around them.

    Rahberg says parents who take his workshop will be able to “”take a deep breath, appreciatethis life-giving time in their lives and learn to be present to their children.””

    To accommodate a young family’s schedule, this three-hour workshop will be heldon a Saturday, from 8:30รณ11:30 a.m. Families will experience the rhythm of alone,adult and family time together, and bring this sense of balance back to their homelife. The $25 fee will cover two adults and their children, ages one to four. Toregister online, go to www.stpaulsmonastery.organd follow the Benedictine Center Link. For information, call (651) 777-7251 or [email protected]. The BenedictineCenter is located at 2675 Larpenteur Avenue East in Maplewood.

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