When we decided to become pregnant it was a very exciting prospect and I relished the idea of having a child with my true love and best friend. We had always talked about having children eventually….both of us the oldest of three children, both of us close to our siblings and parents. I started taking folic acid, prenatal vitamins and quit my birth control and lo and behold three months after we started trying, I was pregnant. I had a wonderful pregnancy. I left work two weeks before my due date because I was terrified that I would go into labor at work. I had never been off work for longer than two weeks at a time unless it was for a vacation. I organized the entire house in those two weeks and fielded phone calls from friends and family who were wondering if I was in labor yet? Feeling crampy? I went for a very uncomfortable ultrasound to measure the baby, I went for walks, I considered taking castor oil. And eventually my daughter was born and I became a mother for the first time. And I had a hard lesson to learn. How to slow down. I had sped through life up until then, working since I was 14, graduating high school, going to college and then commuting and working. Going to meetings, doing research, training large audiences and generally climbing the corporate ladder. All of a sudden, armed with “What to Expect the First Year” and a basic knowledge of babies, and I was a mother. I was elated and took it on as another challenge in life that could be measured, analyzed, researched and figured out. I was enthralled with my little girl and her little hands and toes, her wonderful little nose, her perfect little body. I loved doing her laundry and choosing her clothes everyday. But the part about being home, alone, with an adorable baby that I didn’t always know how to calm was sometimes challenging to say the least. And more challenging was all the spare time I had! A year of maternity leave stretched out before me and I realized I was bored. I didn’t start sewing, scrapbooking or crocheting, I joined a mommy group at the YWCA and I found a group of mommies online whom I corresponded with. There were so many questions I had outside of my “What to Expect” books and I wasn’t afraid to ask for advice. What I learned was you shouldn’t have any expectations. That you should just live day by day, get lots of sleep, eat well and take care of yourself and your baby first. I had always been successful in everything I tried and here was this little baby who was challenging me more and stretching my limits more than any job I had ever done. I would comment to friends years later that working for the President of a company was easy compared to raising a child! And in the next breath I would tell them how she has changed my life in so many wonderful and amazing ways. I remember every challenge I had raising her and how some days I would stand at the window willing my husband to come home so I could have a shower. Looking back on it now I realize what a humbling experience it was. And I would do it all over again for her and do it better if I had the chance. She and her sister taught me so many things about myself such as how not to sweat the small stuff, how to nap during the day, that babies never nap for as long as you would hope, and that putting a baby to sleep successfully and getting them to be good sleepers would be the most challenging thing you’ll ever learn. Being a mother is one of the hardest job’s I’ve ever done and the most selfless. Your wage is paid in kisses and snuggles and your recognition is a full heart when your three year old approaches you with arms outstretched with four single words “Mommy, I want you.”
In the course of everyday, I am immersed in a schedule. This schedule is necessary as it is a list in my mind of what has to happen to get from point A to point B. For example, when I wake up I’m thinking “get out of bed and get in the shower”, when I get out of the shower it’s “dry off, get dressed, get the kids up”, once the kids are up it’s “get the girls some breakfast, make Madelyn’s lunch, get the girls dressed by 8:30.” The lists go on and on throughout my day but mostly when I’m home and am faced with the duties of motherhood and a household. I am the primary caregiver to the girls and our dog and therefore certain things need to take place in a day….dishes, dinner, baths, laundry etc. I am sometimes so immersed in the schedule in my mind that I can overlook other needs in our household. I have been getting frustrated with orchestrating every step, every part of the schedule that needs to happen for us to get from point A to point B. Yes, I have a husband who can help but I’m often also telling him to “get dressed” “turn off the tv” and “we have 10 minutes before we have to leave.” And yes, some of this is my OCD with having to be places on time and remembering everything that needs to get done in a week. And this is exactly why I married this laid back, goofy, handsome man – because he can make me step back and look at things from another viewpoint. The side of myself that does actually know how to relax……the side that says, “big deal if Madelyn’s hair is messy, we are just going to the grocery store.” So as I was telling myself that exact thing the other day, I stepped back from my schedule and into the moment. I detached myself from analyzing and planning the next hour and just sat down and let myself be. These are the best moments of my day, when I remind myself to be in the moment. And I’ve realized that I need to do this more. That I’ve been living too much inside my own head and there are some things in life that aren’t automatic, such as having a relationship with my husband or kissing a boo boo better. I am making a commitment today to just live in the moment, it is so liberating every time I think about it. Of course there will be moments when I’m in my head, figuring out the schedule but I’m going to try not to let it take over my day or my time with my family.
I had an exceptionally difficult morning this morning. I went to bed early but lately I’ve been having trouble getting out of bed. I think I may have a bit of the winter blah’s. Combine that with a three year old who fights with me every morning (about socks, what she eats, how the blanket covers her as she lays on the couch, the clothing she has to wear) and I have a recipe for disaster every morning. This morning I also left a few extra chores for myself because I was tired last night and only wanted to sit on the couch after dinner. Imagine, I just wanted to SIT for an hour. My need for quiet and calm is often overlooked in my daily life as I strive to be a working parent. It seems the only quiet and calm I get is at work. I’m sitting here right now enjoying a cup of coffee and reflecting on my morning, on every morning since I had kids. I have always been someone who enjoys – no relishes peace and quiet. I can sit for hours with a book or staring out across a lake and daydreaming, wishing, fantasizing, visualizing, being calm. The best part of camping for me is the peace and quiet. I don’t like sleeping on the air mattress, cold mornings, having to walk over 50 feet to a washroom or showering in a room where my clothes get wet despite my every effort to keep them dry. But the benefits of the quiet and the beauty, the clean air and the calm of sleeping outside far outweigh those other things for me. So it’s not surprising to me that this morning I was thinking about how much easier my life was before I had kids. It was mostly because my three year old was moaning and crying for about 20 minutes while we got ready to go. She was tired, I was tired and no doubt she’d rather be home instead of going to daycare today but it’s a fantastic daycare and I know she’s having fun right now as I write this. Both of our children were planned and very much anticipated. They have made our lives so much more wonderful in many ways. But I couldn’t help but fantasize how much EASIER everything was before I had kids. How much MORE MONEY I had in my pocket. I had time to volunteer, money to have my hair done, I sat and watched the morning news before work, I went to movies, I had conversations with my husband, I had baths…….the list could go on and on. It’s just a fantasy, a daydream of what my life once was before I had two little girls to take care of. It’s amazing how resilient you eventually (out of necessity) become when you are a parent. Firstly you give up your body, then sleep and your body (if you are nursing), then all your free time, your ability to shower whenever you want, your brain cells, your social life….. And all of this has made me a stronger person, a more patient person, a more reliable person. Would I trade my kids for money or free time – not a chance. But I need a break from this tiresome routine of getting up with the kids Monday-Friday, feeding, dressing, brushing hair and teeth between 7-8am. Remembering lunches, snow pants, mittens, hats, extra clothing, permission slips for school, gas for the van…it’s an exhausting routine. Next week I’m off for four days and I’m so looking forward to just living. But this morning I wondered, would being a SAHM give me more free time? More money? Probably not - but the idea of just getting up, throwing on some yoga pants, feeding the kids, taking the older one to school for 8am then coming home, cleaning the kitchen, playing with my three year old while I decided what to get accomplished that day, sounds really appealing right now. So I asked my husband this morning if he would consider working full-time and part time (and I would also work part time). He was reluctant but I know I could change his mind if I really tried. When I am feeling this disconnected, I feel the need to take action and make some changes. Because that’s what I am right now, disconnected from what really matters in life. Peace, family and my own happiness.