I need to warn you in advance. This post is partially about being a mom but if you can get over that I promise there is something relevant for you even if you’re a single guy.
It’s hard not to reflect on my struggle with motherhood with Mother’s Day having just come and gone. My experience with this new-ish role was nicely summed up by a typical triumph followed by a painful trial that, at the end of a long day, could only be viewed with humour.
We had been trying to get our son to sit on his potty without a diaper on since it kind of defeats the purpose, otherwise it’s just an ugly chair. Until Mother’s Day he had refused but as I was sitting in our bedroom doing whatever motherly thing I was doing my husband achieved the goal. Our son happily sat down for quite a long time and we danced around, gave him a sticker and patted ourselves on the back, even though nothing really happened. After he got up my husband went to get his bedtime paraphernalia ready and my diaperless son crawled up on the bed near me. A few moments later he peed, on my side of the bed!
I was not impressed but I’ve come to expect things like having to sop up urine right before I go to bed. And as I got out the roll of paper towels I chuckled and started to think of all the gifts being a parent has delivered in addition to the headaches. So here they are:
I’ve stopped wasting time. Looking back at life before children I can see now that I had an absurd amount of time in which to be unproductive and it didn’t matter. There was so much free and flexible time available I’m surprised I was motivated to get anything done. Although I was productive enough to cover my living expenses I could have accomplished so much more. Now I often don’t have even a moment to think before I act. I have to take action immediately when the opportunity presents itself or I’ll loose that window if I stop to think about what the next best action would be. Any kind of action is better than an endless loop of analysis – something I don’t have the luxury of any more.
I ponder little things. When you’re eyes are not more than two feet from the ground you see different things. When you haven’t been around very long, gravel becomes a fascinating toy. Being tall, I’m so far from the ground I have to squint to see it. Since I do a lot more squatting now I’m starting to look at the world from the vantage point of a toddler. When you’re on a walk and your companion has to stop and look at every leaf and every grain of sand for five minutes you can either get annoyed to get interested in them too. Of course, I still get annoyed plenty but I do a lot more careful looking.
I’m too busy and tired to care what others think. I’m still sensitive to the opinions of outsiders and I probably still read far too many parenting books but there has definitely been a shift in the level of importance I place on what other people think. Over time I’ll likely care even less – and I’m looking forward to it.
I let stupid little things go. When dealing with children it’s nearly impossible to have complete control. In order to maintain my sanity I’ve had to let go of things that would have upset me in the past. At one point, when my son was about a year old, he got hold of a box of tissues, pulled them all out, and ripped them into a million pieces like a human shredder. A normal person would probably stop that kind of destruction early on and that was my initial reaction too. “Oh no! He’s destroying a 59¢ box of tissue!” Wait a minute… That’s not worth very much and he’s totally engrossed in the activity so I have a chance to sip tea and read my e-mail on the sofa. It’s a win/win!
If no one dies it’s a good day. Basically, I’ve dramatically lowered my standards. Some might think that’s a terrible thing but man does it make life easier. The lower your standards the less you get upset about.
I can get out of stuff by playing the kid card. Sometimes you want to say no to an invitation or you want to get out of an event at the last minute. Or maybe you’re at a lame party and you want to sneak out but don’t want to be rude. Using kids as an excuse is great. Often the reason you need to leave early or don’t feel like going out IS because of your kids but either way I find people rarely question the kid excuse.
I really appreciate sleep. Going to bed when you wanted to and being able to sleep through the night without an interruption at 3 am is an enviable luxury to a parent. At this point in my life, sleep is better than chocolate. What? Did you think I was going to say something else?
My point is that no matter what you’re struggling with it is likely your struggle has changed you for the better in some way. Of course, the opposite might also be true, I definitely yell and curse under my breath a lot more than I used to but I’m still pretty new to this role and I have a lot to learn.
If you’re up against a challenge right now, do you think it has altered you? For better, or for worse?