By Carol Kaufmann
Let me guess. You’ve given birth for the first time in your thirties, maybe forties, during a successful, all-consuming career. You used to consider yourself fairly together: a well-used PDA, food in the fridge, and regular plans, like dinner and yoga. Then, Precious Baby came along and that life vanished.
The initial heady period of motherhood sustained me for a good three weeks. During my two rounds in the maternity ward I spent virtually every hour holding my Precious Babies (PB), smiling down at chubby folds in skin and every exquisite gesture. The prescription drugs kept me from feeling the c-section’s incision and the realization I wouldn’t be sleeping for more than three hours straight for a very, very long time. But eventually, the well-wishers and food-bearers trickled to nothing and my husband and I were left with unwashed piles of laundry and the guilt of unordered baby announcements. Maternity clothes looked stupid and, after nine months of wear, bored me, though none of my other pants would rise past mid-thigh. I was grumpy and eating way too much dark chocolate. Worse loomed the nagging question: Would the rest of my years be a blur of washing bottles and stolen catnaps?
Can you relate? Maybe right now you’re wondering, with a sinking feeling, if you, too, will ever get back to normal.
Yes. And no.
I’m learning, slowly and painfully, how Motherhood requires a major mind shift. Obviously, prioritizing your children is paramount, but equally so is adjusting your own world view. I call this the Mama Trick.
Your home, personal calendar, car, yard, Blackberry, office files, gym locker, refrigerator, whatever space used to feel like your own is never going to be up to the par that once worked for you. Par is history. But it’s ok. It’s OOOOOOO KAAAAAYAYYYYY. Each day, if you and your children’s basic needs are met, you win. The rest is gravy – even that daily shower where you use soap, shampoo, AND conditioner. You’ve taken on the most important responsibility in the world: the care and nurturing of another human. If you succeed at that, what else is there?
I know, I know. You still don’t feel like it’s enough, do you, Superwoman? Me either.
So if the race to the end-of-day finish line is simply not satisfying in that deep, soul-fulfilling way, try this. Give yourself one task. ONE. You could choose to file your nails. Reorganize your panty (still a size or two above your norm, right?) drawer. Rush over to the Banana Republic sale (with or without the coupon you intended to use). But times have changed. And Mommyhood has changed your time. What you choose to fill your day (hour, half-hour, five minutes) with is now, by process of elimination, more precious. So make your daily do-for-me thing count. Download your photos of your child’s first three months. Journal a few sentences. Call the friend who makes you laugh harder than anyone else rather than watching TiVoed Grey’s Anatomy episodes. Haven’t you seen them all, anyway?
When my Life With Kids gets truly hectic, I slip into what I call “Organization Fantasy Mode.” Just last week I found myself daydreaming about eliminating all the clutter in my house. My brain went wild. If my mind couldn’t ooze tranquility, my four walls could. So in my overactive head, I reorganized the family room, eliminated some major (heavy) pieces of furniture that contained family heirlooms, turned our dining room into a playroom (would we ever be using the family silver now?), and converted our bedroom into a bastion of peace. The problem with all this is that while streamlining looks good in my mind’s eye, the reality requires lots of hefty lifting, moving furniture that may or may not fit past absurdly small doorways, a complete purging of the attic, painting a few tables and walls that will no longer be covered by previously mentioned furniture, and relocating most of our electronic equipment – which I don’t know how to reconnect.
Even without small kids (and a job and cats), such a project would take the better part of a week. With small kids? A six month minimum. But since tranquility in some part of life is now crucial to me, I settled on initial task: Discarding old shoe boxes. It doesn’t sound like a lot, true. But this tiny job, accomplished in about fifteen minutes, made room in our attic hell for the aforementioned family heirlooms. I’m on my way. And given everything else that life hands you in the early days of motherhood, that fifteen minutes made me proud – and even a little more balanced.
Think about it. In your former childless, perhaps even self-obsessed, life, did discarding shoeboxes ever take on such meaning? Did it ever positively exhilarate you? Try it now: One Mama Trick. And notice how you feel like Wonder Woman wrestling baddies to the ground with her lasso.
And while you’re catapulting your own proverbial shoe boxes from your cramped attic, consider your new identity. You, this new gal with the disorganized abode, never-ending laundry piles, and little people who constantly need need need, you’ve YOU’VE become something better, someone more important, than you’ve ever been.
You’re someone’s mother.
Carol Kaufmann will regularly share her Mama Tricks with The Well Mom. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, The Washington Post, and in the anthology A Woman’s Europe. She lives in Alexandria,
Virginia, with her husband, toddler, newborn, and two obese rescue cats.