So many of us enter parenthood with all of these ideas and expectations of what it's going to be like. Being a bonafide, bossy, firstborn who struggles with perfectionism and is a bit of a control freak, motherhood has been a huge, eye opening experience for me. Wonderful beyond what I ever expected but eye-opening nonetheless.
From the moment I was in labor with my first baby, my freshly typed birth plan in hand. This "plan" included no family members present besides my husband, limited checks for dilation, no AROM (artificial rupture of membranes), and a water birth like the ones I'd seen in all the birth videos. Let's just say my first birth turned out very differently than I had planned!
I'm thankful that my mom is as stubborn as I am and insisted on being in the waiting room because it wasn't long before I was begging for her to be there! And after 17 hours of labor I was begging my midwives to check me and break my dad-gum waters! And water birth? Nope! Didn't happen! My first, very real motherhood lesson in loosening my grip on MY plan and letting go of my expectations and sense of control (which is a huge key factor in managing labor that I really didn't grasp until my second time around).
Here is a list of some other difficult areas where I've had to loosen my grip in my first few years since becoming a mother...
1. Cleanliness and the Model Home
I'm convinced that I grew up with a mom who never got tired. In addition to being a mom of 3 girls, she had a full time job running our family bookstore, helped my dad manage our farm on nights and weekends, taught the children's choir at church, always had time to chat, and kept our home immaculate and always smelling like roses and laundry detergent. It was the kind of home you loved coming home to. It felt peaceful and warm and inviting.
I've worked and worked to create a home atmosphere like that. I love having a clean house. Nothing brings order and sanity to my frazzled brain like a made bed, vacuum lines in the carpet, and the smell of purple Fabuloso. But in reality, I stay home with two precious, but very high-maintenance, full-of-energy, always hungry, frog-chasing, mud-puddle-splashing little boys. And the second I attempt to bring order to some corner of my house, another corner is simultaneously destroyed! And living with all boys, I've resolved myself to the fact that there will always be weird, mysterious smells lurking about.
So how have I coped? Cue the music, Elsa: "Let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door!"
My husband and I have come to the agreement that during the day, momma keeps the boys alive, fed, and engaged in some kind of learning if the day allows it. And if that means closing a door to hide the clutter, so be it! And then after their bedtime, I can regain just enough order that allows me to sleep at night which usually means toys are picked up, floors are swept and dishes are done.
2. Perfectly Behaved Children
I was an elementary teacher for seven years before I had children. It was mentioned on several of my evaluations that I had "good classroom management skills". So, of course, when we started planning for kids of our own, I had no doubt that managing my own children was going to be a piece of cake!
And then my Clay came along. He was one month old when we decided to venture out to Kohl's for our first solo shopping trip (and so I could show him off to the world) only to end up having a sweet elderly lady hugging my frazzled self in the middle of the aisle, telling me it would all get easier, while my baby screamed his head off unappeasably. First piece of humble parenting pie among so many to come!
My children are not perfectly behaved, not anywhere close. They throw fits, they tell me no, they fight with each other like crazy....It's been a whole lot of trial and error where training and discipline is concerned and every day has a new challenge to work through. And just when you think you've got something figured out another kid comes along who chunks that very thing to the curb.
But I do believe it's getting easier, like the sweet lady at Kohl's said it would, but not because my children are getting easier, but because I'm learning to let go, change my expectations, pick my battles, keep my cool, ask for forgiveness when I lose it, bribe if needed, and try not to care if others think I'm a horrible mom who can't control her kids (you know those judgy eyes in the grocery store when your kids are throwing produce out of the shopping cart or having meltdowns because you won't buy them candy).
3. Peace and Quiet
I'm letting go of my hopes for quiet morning coffee, quiet car rides, quiet conversations with my husband, quiet phone chats with friends, or quiet anything for that matter. I'm embracing the noise. The giggles, the little boy car sounds, the high-pitched singing, the noise making toys that my husband is always hiding....I know I'm going to miss all those sounds someday.
4. My Ideal Weight
This has probably been the most challenging area for me to let go. I always pictured myself as one of those #fitmommas, but turns out I'm more of a #tiredmomma. I do have a gym membership but have to admit that there have been multiple occasions where I may or may not have dropped my kids off in the kid care just so I could go take a shower in peace and watch Lifetime movies in the women's lounge. Being healthy is still a priority and I feel so much better when I'm eating well and exercising regularly but, again, #tiredmomma here, and those choices are so much harder to make when you're running on empty. And when you live with boys who love pizza and cheeseburgers. So in the meantime, I found a really good sunless spray tanner to hide all the cellulite.
5. My Expectations for Sleep
I was always the type that needed (or thought I needed) my 8 hours of sleep. I honestly didn't know how I was going to function with a newborn who had his days and nights mixed up and wanted to nurse all the time. So at first, I tried to control it by reading all of the sleep training books that I could. They all made it sound like such a piece of cake, promising my newborn would be sleeping 12 hours through the night by two weeks old (insert eye roll). All that did was make me feel like a failure if it didn't work right. That, along with people constantly asking, "Are they sleeping through the night yet?" And even when my babies did finally start sleeping better at night, momma didn't because my sleep cycles were all messed up, my boobs were engorged, and I was constantly checking to make sure they were still breathing.
But it honestly gets easier and somehow you really do just get used to living on less sleep. Moms are resilient that way. And for some, coffee and a good concealer become life essentials! I mean, even Elsa said to "conceal, don't feel, don't let them know..." that you only had 3 hours of sleep last night.
6. My Desire to be a "Better Christian"
Before I had kids I was able to be very involved in my church, contributing in any way that I could. And I loved being a part! I know that so much of the church is run on volunteer service and is so necessary. There is so much reward in serving others and living outwardly but, thankfully, I've learned that this doesn't define a person by how good of a Christian they are. And I know there will be seasons where I'm able to play a part again, and there are many moms who are able to make it work even with small children but, in this stage of life, for me, it's a miracle if I even make it to church on time (especially with a husband who works many weekends). And the few times I have tried to help out, I spent more time chasing my toddlers around or breastfeeding in a corner than actually being a help. So right now, my goal is to make Sunday mornings a priority because it's something I value (even if I'm 30 minutes late most Sundays), be involved where I can, but give myself grace where I can't. And to remind myself daily that God is "gently leading those who have young" (Isaiah 40:11). He sees me, He knows my heart and motives, and He's GENTLY leading me in this wonderful but very challenging season of life.
7. Close Friendships
I might have considered myself a good friend at one point in life. That was until I got married and had all the babies. I always get a chuckle talking to other mommy friends on the phone or during playgroup..."Oh, did I tell you about...CLAYTON! GET OFF OF YOUR BROTHER!...What was I saying? Oh yeah! The other day I....CONNOR! GET OUT OF THE FIREPLACE!..."
So, I have all of these great intentions to connect with friends at nap-time or after bedtime buuuuuut, I'm desperately just wanting some "me time" which usually consists of me pretending to fold clothes while watching Netflix. And then being intentional about time with my husband on the days that he is home.
I'm so thankful for the grace that friends extend and for those who get it but I do miss those sweet friendships and "girl time". I'm hoping that one day, when the kids are in college, we'll actually get to have that long chat over coffee without having to blow noses and break up wrestling matches.
8. A Stylish Wardrobe
I've had to let go of this for multiple reasons: 1. I stay home with my boys so we live on one income which doesn't leave tons of room for new clothes all the time, 2. Yoga pants just make life easier so that's pretty much all I wear and 3. Shopping with toddlers? No thanks! Now my clothes shopping pretty much consists of me throwing a $5 tank top in my Walmart shopping cart on my way to check out!
9. Me Time
I wish I would've gone into motherhood with less of an expectation for "me time". It just doesn't look like it did when I was single and childless (obvi). It would've saved me a lot of frustration and tons of pity parties if I would've learned sooner how to hold loosely my desire and need for alone time (see my previous post on being a mommy and an introvert) but learn to savor the rare moments that I do get to myself.
I believe very strongly in mommy needing time for self-care in order to be healthy and a blessing to her family. And it does take some planning and creativity in order to factor that in, especially with babies still on the breast and when your family doesn't live close by. But realizing that the moment you hire a babysitter and plan your first outing sans kids, someone could inevitably get a sudden stomach bug that puts a kink in your plans.
I'm getting better at shrugging my shoulders and saying "Oh well, maybe next time" (with the occasional good cry in the bathroom).
Tips for Letting Go:
What about you? What things have you struggled the most to let go of and what are ways that you have adjusted?
Cristi Wean, Author
I could chat about babies, birth and breastfeeding all day long, especially over a hot cup of coffee. Come chat with me!