A Decade into Parenthood, Here’s What I’ve Learned.
When my oldest was born ten years ago, I had just transitioned to running my own business full-time. I wasn’t sure if it would be a permanent move, or if I’d go back to a 9 to 5 at some point. I just knew I wanted to be able to be with my wee one as much as possible. And that I did, for nine months straight.
I literally wouldn’t leave the baby. The first time I went anywhere by myself, he was almost three months old. I dashed out for an hour to get a haircut, trading my long locks for a pixie. My sweet baby had developed the adorable yet painful habit of pulling my long hair, and I barely had time to do anything with my hair anyway!
My schedule those days would give me chills today. I was working roughly 30 hours a week, spread over naps and evenings 7 days a week. I had this glossy idea of what a perfect mom should be like, and I tried so hard to get there. I’m talking cloth diapers (yikes), homemade baby food, baby & me music classes — you name it, I had every Brooklyn stereotype down before it was a thing.
Then about 9 months into motherhood, I hit a wall and changed gears. It suddenly became clear that my smartly crafted schedule was actually insanely chaotic, and the standards I was imposing on myself were pretty on paper but not really for me.
I realized that I would be a better parent if I regained a more sensible level of sanity, and enjoyed some actual free time — without *gasp* feeling guilty about it. Our nanny started working with us a couple of weeks later, and she stayed with our family until our youngest was in pre-K.
Every parent’s challenges are unique — whether you work full-time or part-time or are a stay at home parent, we’re always being pulled in many directions. I feel very fortunate to still be running my own business a decade later. My particular position allows for a lot of flexibility, which works great for me, but it also invites (almost merrily ushers in) chaos in spades. I can pick up the kids from school and occasionally chaperone trips, but I’ve also had an inordinate amount of client calls interrupted by a loud little monkey. Remember the BBC interview with the serious professor and his toddler stepping into action in the background? Been there — many, many times.
Anyway, ten years and two kids later, my two cents about this ‘balance’ thing we’re supposed to be chasing can be boiled down to five short powerful little words.
I wish I could whisper to my naive new-mom self…
Let go and move on.
Seriously, that’s half the battle. Let go. Then move on.
Easier said than done, right? Because there are so many things to let go of. Here’s a quick list of the top culprits:
Let go of the guilt. It holds you back, brings you down, and certainly doesn’t make you a better parent. When you miss a school function or you need to reschedule a meeting, it is a fact of life. Everyone will live. Juggle the schedule, make it work today, adjust things tomorrow if needed. Move on.
Let go of what works for other people. Especially those magical Instagram people. Your sister-in-law is a CFO who bakes her own piecrusts from scratch and home-schools her five children? Power to her. Hang out with people you enjoy being with and who get you; learn from people you admire. If someone is making you feel guilty, see the previous paragraph, let go and move on.
Let go of other people’s expectations. This particularly stings when you’re a new parent and everyone is eager to share their opinionated thoughts on anything from your child’s name, how to raise your kids, or what you’re doing wrong every minute of the day. Your mom thinks you really should be a stay at home parent the first couple of years, but you are ready to go back to work? Tell her. Move on. She will at some point as well.
Let go of the expectations from your former know-it-all, pre-children self. This one stays with you forever, apparently. I too was one of those twenty-somethings who was absolutely certain my children would *never* throw a tantrum at the store (too many to count), they would eat a balanced diet rich in local organic produce (my oldest survived a good toddler year on bananas, yogurt, strawberries and hot dogs), they calmly work out any disagreements and always be loving with each other(bahahahaha).
The things is, you don’t know your kids before they’re born. They’re all different. As a parent, you can guide them, you can point them in the right directions, but at the end of the day they are their own actual little people. My kids could not be more different, and they’ve had the same experiences and lived in the same environment. What works for one kid doesn’t work for the other one. So I would like to pat my sweet pre-children self in the back and tell her that I cannot wait for her to meet the boys. They are absolutely awesome, and truly great teachers.
Let go of perfection. If you’d rather, re-frame your own concept of perfection. At our house, perfection is messy. If the sink can’t hold another dish but the kids want to have a dance party, dance party it is. Perfection sometimes means working late because I took the kids to the playground after school. My perfection doesn’t look like other people’s Pinterest-worthy snapshots, but it works for me. Figure out what your perfection looks like, embrace it, and let go of the rest. Move on and dance away.
Parenting is an ongoing learning experience. What are some of the things you have learned to let go of?