There weren’t many things that I was absolutely sure of upon entering my adult life. My childhood was rife with heartbreak, loss, sadness, and betrayal. This taught me that life is precarious, fragile. Things break, fall apart, and change when you least expect it. I learned not to rely on much other than life’s unpredictability, but I also learned to find the beauty in the everyday, the ordinary moments, because the simplest routines and experiences are sacred.
Consequently, there wasn’t a lot that I felt compelled to plan or predict in my life. I let myself wander a bit, explore… I embraced the journey, the process, and let things unfurl as I went along. I had adventures, threw myself into each new thing with zeal, but had a harder time with big plans that required me to trust in things working out long term. I couldn’t commit to one career. Nothing sounded like the right thing to do forever, and I didn’t yet realize that I was living in the day and age when almost noone chooses a career and sticks with it until retirement. So, I just learned things that I found interesting, worked (always the perfectionist, to much praise wherever I happened to be), and pursued my passions. Even when I got married, I’ll admit I was pretty surprised to be doing that. Marriage was an institution that I wasn’t even sure I believed could work, or at least could work for me. I loved my spouse, and knew what he meant to me, and all the points of connection that we shared, and decided to go with it– to venture into that journey, and see where it would take us. I got lucky on that one, because that one choice has led me to a life of indescribable love.
The one thing I never questioned, however, was my desire to be a parent, and I was thrilled when Manoli and I made the choice to pursue parenthood.
We had so much love, and we wanted to share it with someone else. We wanted to create a family full of spirit, respect, curiosity, creativity, expression, empowerment. We would take our child on adventures, share our creative pursuits, make magical discoveries together…
So, all the stars aligned just right and our daughter Maia was born… Following:
- A much longer conception process than I would have guessed, given how much we enjoyed the procedural requirements.
- A birth nothing like I thought it would be: fetal distress, vacuum, full episiotomy.
- Our beautiful daughter did not sleep more than 20 minutes at a time. For months.
- She breastfed almost constantly, never attached herself to any kind of comfort other than my breast (her papa? she could take him or leave him. a lovey? rubbish! pacifier? who the hell did we think we were?!! revolting imposter!! breastmilk in a bottle? were we out of our minds? … you get the idea). I was so tired that… I forgot how to finish sentences. How to talk to people. Trust myself. Do anything.
- In fact, my husband and I did not get a full night’s sleep for about three years.
- Because I hadn’t ever committed to a specific, lucrative career, I decided to stay home with our daughter for a while. My husband was a teacher at that time, in a private school… You do the math. It won’t take long, because there isn’t much there.
- We only had one car at that time, and I was so exhausted that I frequently opted not to drive my husband to work at 7:00 am, which meant I was then stuck in the house for much of the day while he was away working. I took my daughter to the park in our neighborhood at least twice every day, but that was about it.
- I was also so fatigued that I found housework not just boring but overwhelming, so while I tidied up toys all day long, and kept up with the basics, the deeper cleaning almost never happened, which just added to my dismay, as everywhere I looked, something needed doing, and I felt like an utter failure.
- My baby was healthy, happy, and I found her a joy to experience, but nothing else seemed remotely like what I thought my life would look like at that point. I spent my days singing “The Grand ol’ Duke of York,” bouncing her around on my knees and playing plastic instruments, and was afraid of nighttime because it brought only suffering instead of rest.
- Since the only things I seemed to be able to get done in my day-to-day was the stuff required for my daughter, I had lost all of my former creative outlets (writing, music, cooking, drawing/painting, sewing, traveling… I couldn’t even speak Spanish anymore, because all of my memory seemed to have been usurped by information from The Baby Book). I barely recognized myself.
You may have gathered by now by my ordinate list detailing the day-to-day experience I was having after becoming a parent that Motherhood was NOTHING like I had envisioned.
I was truly terrified that it would always be like that, and that I would never find myself ever again.
I will admit the one comfort (aside from our very happy, healthy, lovely daughter) I gathered was that my husband felt very similarly, and we banded together even closer in our shared misery, fear, and exhaustion.
It took me some years, and a lot of change and improvement, to recognize that perhaps I may have been depressed. It may have been situational, exacerbated by sleep deprivation. As I was trying so desperately to be the perfect mother, I never went to see a professional to discuss it. I have no formal diagnosis. But I suspect this was some form of postpartum depression. A few years later, when I looked around and was fully functioning again, I realized the difference between then [postpartum] and the now at that time. It was astounding.
Now that I have ten years of parenting under my belt, here is my second ordinate list of this blog post.
The things that I know helped save me:
- Getting my daughter to sleep (eventually), on her own, in her own bed. Nothing compares to those sweet, little-girl snuggles… except actually feeling rested, which leads to feeling patient, competent, and happy.
- Going back to work. I know, it’s not for everyone, but it really helped me to have something else to focus on outside of myself, my kid, and my home. Plus, money is useful.
- Time. Things did get better with time. I gained more perspective, learned (after learning how to sleep again) how to lighten up, and with that came more balance.
- Fly Lady. If you don’t know about her, and your situation is anything like what I described mine was above, look her up. The currently trendy equivalent is the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I have read and enjoyed, but I do not think that woman had any children, or any perspective on sharing a home with children, at least when she wrote it. Fly Lady gets it, and doesn’t judge. Plus, her philosophy applies to a lot more than just housecleaning.
- Ironically, having a second kid [thanks, Niko!]. Although, we waited five years, because our PPPTSD [Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] after our first child, though self-diagnosed, was pretty intense. So it took Manoli and me – especially me – a long time to feel brave enough to do that to ourselves again. But it paid off. Having more than one kid helps with the lightening-up/ keeping it in perspective aspect of parenting. For one thing, I am certain that I will never be the perfect mother. And I’m 97% okay with that!
So. Parenthood is nothing like I thought it would be. But, then again, if I come back around to the things I thought we’d be doing and the values I thought our children would learn from us… it’s also exactly what I had always hoped it would be. Maybe I don’t get as much time to write/ draw/ paint/ travel as I once did… but the love my husband and I had for each other when we started our family has only multiplied, and is shared with our two children.
We have created a family full of spirit, respect, curiosity, creativity, expression, & empowerment. We take our children on adventures, share our creative pursuits, make magical discoveries together… and even practice our Spanish at the dinner table. The stars aligned just right, and I am beyond grateful.
If you are a pleaser who is enthusiastic about everything but has trouble embracing and respecting your limits, Jenifer’s “Say No and Let it Go” webinar is made for you!
- Discover WHY saying no will help you level up in your career.
- Learn WHEN to say no.
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- Q&A Session included following the webinar presentation.
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