My perspective and attitude has changed a lot over the past four months and I have found myself being a more relaxed and chilled out mother. I'm still a stickler for schedules (mostly for Elina) but I hold onto to that little bit of order like a lifeline because my days are made up of a series of chaotic moments. It was quite a mental leap to go from where I was at one month to where I am now at four months and here's what I have learned along the way:
Look for the Positive. On one especially bad day in mommyhood I sent my friend an email listing out all the bad things that happened to upset me. The list included things like napless children, Cati having three ground-hitting tantrums in 20 minutes, me losing my temper with both children, and the dogs pooping inside. I saw the list and, not wanting to bring my friend down, I also listed the things that happened during the day that made me happy. That list was shorter but the things I listed where things that I was amazed I even did considering the day I had with both girls. Seeing both lists helped me escape the negative fog I had enshrouded myself in and I realized that I need to do a better job at looking for those things that made me happy. It's so easy to pinpoint the negative but pointing out the positive is so much more rewarding. And even when I have bad days, I remind myself of this most beautiful and unshakeable positive: the day will end and the girls will go to sleep.
Lower Your Standards and Give Yourself Credit. One of the biggest adjustments you have to make when you have kids is adjusting to not being able to do as much as you did when you were child-free. I made the adjustment with Cati but then that became my new normal so when Elina was born I still expected to be able to do the things I did when it was just Cati and me. I would get frustrated and had children that cried more than they do now because I still tried to operate as if I only had one child to look after. I had to lower my standards and give myself more credit for what I was actually doing. How could I honestly expect to do laundry, have a clean house, and make dinner while I was caring full-time for two kids? Why couldn't I realize that cooking dinner and making a dessert were actually huge accomplishments?
Simply Be. This ties in to the above. In trying to do everything I was sacrificing time with my children. Cati was throwing tantrums like crazy because on top of having to split my attention with Elina, she also had to split it with household chores. Neither of them were really getting quality time with me because I felt like I had to do it all. Then I realized they really don't care if I can't do it. They don't care about laundry, clean floors, or a home-cooked meal. Heck, they don't even notice those things. I'm the only one that cares about those things! All either of them wanted was my attention; Elina wanted me to really hold her (as opposed to holding her in the sling) and Cati wanted me to play and converse with her. The house won't fall apart if things don't get done but my girls will fall apart if I'm not meeting their emotional needs. They need undistracted me, plain and simple.
Interruptions. Proof that there is always something to learn, a light flickered off in my brain when I read Shawni Pothier's post on Rockstar Diaries this past week. So much about life is the meaning you attribute to things: change the meaning and you can change the way you feel and react to certain things. Cati constantly interrupts me and sometimes it doesn't bother me but sometimes it bothers me a lot and I can feel myself starting to lose my cool. Then I read this quote and now I don't want her to ever stop interrupting me:
When you are exasperated by interruptions, try to remember that their very frequency may indicate the value of your life. Only people who are full of help and strength are burdened by other persons' needs. The interruptions which we chafe at are the credentials of our indispensability. The greatest condemnation that anybody could incur -and it is a danger to guard against - is to be so independent, sounhelpful, that nobody ever interrupts us, and we are left comfortably alone -Anonymous from The Anglican Digest
Feeling Human. If you've been around me the past few weeks you'll be familiar with me saying I want to feel human again. By that I mean, I want to feel like I am doing something for me, something that is outside that daily routine of caring for the girls that oftentimes leaves me feeling like I'm on autopilot. I want to feel the spasm of new thoughts, the unpredictability of free will, the ability to control something. I cherish the moments I get to myself and they are like little nuggets of energy that help me get through the day.
Embrace Your Unique Child. Oh Elina. I am so sorry. The only thing I regret with Elina is not accepting her as a unique individual sooner. I kept waiting for her to morph into the type of baby that scared and scarred me with Cati. Any little thing that reminded me of Cati would send my mind into a tailspin. Once I started focusing more on how she was different from Cati, I started enjoying her more and that led to me enjoying being a mother of two more. I still make comparisons but they are limited to the physical: when did each start rolling, smiling, etc. Elina is her own special person who is not following Cati's path; she is making her own path and teaching me the importance of flexibility.
Motherhood is a journey. Motherhood is insanity peppered with moments of sanity. Motherhood is bliss, love, anger, forgiveness, and pain all rolled into one. Motherhood is that thing you will never figure out but it's so much fun that you don't even want it all figured out. I love being a mother and I love my girls. I love that they introduced me to this new side of me and I love that we get to go on this journey of discovery together.