It’s madness, this business of raising children. The moments are wild and unpredictable and sometimes magical or heart breaking. It takes patience, compassion, humility and the willingness to simultaneously trust and question yourself. Over and over again. Like the movie, Groundhog Day, until you learn.
Well, I’m learning as I go, and mostly faking it ‘til I make it. Which is how I’ve rocked this life even before children. But, now, my little girl has shown me some cold hard truths.
Whether you have kids or not, these are simple rules to live (more peacefully) by.
I give zero F*CKS. I thought I didn’t care what people thought of me before… wow, this is a whole new level. I give zero f*ucks what anyone thinks of me. And I mean that in the kindest way possible. I recognize in myself and in others a universal truth: we’re all doing the best we can. Period. The good news is, when you have a kid, you have less time to worry about what people think of the job you’re doing (or how you look, etc.). Any time I doubt my abilities, all I have to do is remember the actual birth of my child. That insane, painful, miraculous day on November 23rd. Having my daughter was the toughest thing I’ve ever done. It is also the best thing I’ve ever done. But it took a super hero’s powers (and an epidural!) to come out on the other side. When I remember that, it suddenly doesn’t matter one iota what anyone else thinks of me. I know what I’ve been through. I know how I struggled on that day. I had back (breaking) labor and a baby who wouldn’t come out without the help of a vacuum. The overwhelming weeks immediately following may have been harder than the actual birth. I look back and recognize how I powered through lonely, sleepless nights, crippled by fear (of doing anything and everything wrong). I see how I beat back anxiety and depression and uncertainty and discomfort. This knowledge allows me to also notice other moms out there; they are super heroes wearing that same cape.
The ratio of happy to unhappy is the same whether you have kids or not. But the swing is exponentially larger when you have kids. When the child cries for an hour at 3am for no apparent reason, or donkey kicks you as you struggle mightily to put her in warm clothes on a cold day. Well, life can feel pretty grim. And sometimes it can be boring and monotonous. Then there are the miraculous moments. The wondrous moments. Like when you show your child a stuffed animal puppy dog. A grin spreads across her face. Then you bark at her and chase her with said stuffed animal, and she falls over laughing. Literal peels of laughter are coming out of her, and her body is writhing in pure delight. Or when she hugs you tightly, draping her arms around your neck, and your heart grows yet another 3 sizes. You almost can’t bear the love; it’s so big and powerful and all consuming. You think your heart may actually explode out of your chest in these moments. I’ve never felt anything more intoxicating than this kind of joy. But it will be years before I experience the bliss of sleeping in on a weekend, or simply leaving the house without telling someone. That sounds heavenly right now. So to those of you without kids, good for you. And to those of you with kids – good for you, too!
With all that love & happiness comes great responsibility. What’s a super hero to do? There is a hard-wired primal side of us that comes out after you have a baby. Call it the ‘mama bear’ in us (although I think dads have it too.) You will do anything, absolutely anything, to ensure your baby is safe. Again, you give zero f*cks. Embarrassment, shame, fear of causing a scene. Yeah, that ALL goes away! It’s pretty great. So why do we doubt that other hard wired primal part of us called Instinct. Why do we ignore instinct and trust the Internet instead? I’ve never been rewarded by the Internet. All I find is more horror and more calamity. SIDS…Choking Hazards…Second Hand Drowning? Do you worry your child is unhappy? What!!!????
I wasn’t worried before reading your article, thank you very much, Internet! Enough. Trust your Instincts. Here we are muddling along, trying to keep a baby alive, and we’ve been given our own best tool – instinct. Get real quiet, and listen. You already know what to do. What works for someone else, may not be right for you. What someone else is so certain of…well, that just might not be true. Find out what feels true for you and go towards it. That’s probably sound advice for everything in life.
There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. Research over the years has shown that people can be physically and psychologically damaged from not getting enough sleep, said David Dinges, a professor of psychology and the director of the Unit for Experimental Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.
Once you have a child, this learning was probably my most painful and most important. Sleep is happiness. Sleep is sanity. It trumps all things. A music festival, a good meal, a fine wine, great shoes, a hike in nature, a trip to the Spa, a whirlwind romantic trip to Paris for the weekend, winning the lottery. Sleep trumps it all. Ok, maybe not winning the lottery. B/c if I won the lottery, I would hire round the clock night nurses to take care of my baby while I slept 8 hours. I mean it. Getting up at 5am will never feel good, but it can feel normal. That’s right – 5am. So, you just go to bed at 9pm. As one of my mom friends said, “9 is the new 10.” Cool? Not cool at all…but re-read #1 to see if I give a f*ck. That said, kids or no kids — get your ZZZZ’s where you can. With enough sleep, you will be the best version of yourself. And everyone can get behind that!
And finally the lesson I seem determined to have to painfully learn over and over again.
I am not the boss. I’m not in control of anything. Not whether the books stay on my bookshelf, or food stays off the wallpaper, or whether I get a shower or when I can talk to a friend on the phone. I am in charge of nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. A child takes this fact personally. Like it’s their mission to show us. But I keep trying my darndest to fashion some semblance of sanity and control over my daily life. As I pull a crushed cracker out of my jeans pocket, leaving a trail of crumbs all over the floor, and sigh loudly, the song from Frozen suddenly starts playing… “Let it go! Let it go!”
Oh, I’m trying, Elsa, I’m trying.