5 Unconventional Choices I Made in Motherhood
(and how they can save your sanity, too!)
There I was. Sitting at the weekly mom's group that meets near my house. My toddler was exploring (mostly a box of tissues that she ripped to a million tiny shreds) as I sat on the floor in a circle with a handful of other women. All but one were fellow first timers like me. The veteran mama (she had two littles and was practically a prophet to us rookies) turned to me and said, "you're so laid-back. I wasn't that relaxed until my second...what's your secret?"
I thought about it for a second and replied that I guess it was just my personality and gave her a shrug.
But over the next hour as I listened to the mamas around me comparing the latest parenting articles they read or stressing about regretting saying 'yes' to hosting a friend's bridal shower or fretting over their baby suddenly sleeping too much or too little it occurred to me: there actually were a few things I'd been doing differently as a mom that were keeping me out of the swirling vortex of anxiety and neurosis and in the sweet spot of (mostly) happy and calm motherhood.
It's true that babies don't come with a user manual but there are a handful of things you can start doing right now that'll help you be the most chilled out mama on the block.
1. DON'T READ ANY BOOKS
If there's only one thing you do (or don't do in this case) this one is seriously key. Don't pick up a single book on parenting. Yes I like to read about baby's development (I mean, their brains y'all! so.much.growing. Fascinating!) but learning about how a developing brain works and grows is way different than reading about what to do and how to do it when it comes to childrearing. That latter type of book? That's just a bunch of batshit-crazy-making material. I'm gonna let you in on a secret, sister: YOU are the expert on your baby. Do what works for you, boo. To help you make good on this top priority, I made a quick list of 5 must-read books for mamas (that are tired of parenting books).
2. START SAYING 'NO'
As a recovering people-pleaser I understand how hard this one is. I GET IT. You don't want to disappoint anyone or hurt feelings or look like you're not doing "enough." Blerg. Here again, being a 'yes' mama is batshit-crazy-making behavior because it leaves you overcommitted, over-scheduled --and oftentimes-- resentful of the people/situation you said 'yes' too. Spoiler alert: that's not a good look on you, peach. So let me break it down into some helpful reminders / tips to build your confidence in owning your 'no':
Remember: every 'yes' is a 'no'. In other words: every time you say 'yes' to something (eg: volunteering on the school board) you're saying 'no' to something else (eg: personal time with your family or self). Make sure the trade-off feels worthy to you.
Tip: keep your 'no' short. Be confident and kind. "I can't commit to volunteering right now" is perfectly fine. No need to yammer on about the why's.
Remember: your 'no' can simply mean 'not now'. It doesn't have to be "hell no! never gonna happen! not over my dead body." Got a gal pal who wants to meet up for a drink but you are 1000000% tapped out and literally fantasizing about soaking in your tub before getting into bed early? That's cool. Just tell her, "I'd love to hang out but I'm not able tonight. What about next weekend?"
3. FORGET ABOUT THE SCHEDULE
This one might earn me some heat but I'll take it because seriously, y'all. Whoever first uttered the words "baby" and "schedule" in the same sentence should really be sent to live on a deserted island and think about what they've done until the end of time. How much time and energy are we each spending when our babies are young FREAKING THE EFF OUT over their sleep times and wake times and eating times down to the damn nanosecond. Like, basically the whole entire first year, right?! Hear me out:
Babies aren't robots, they're human people in very small bodies. Sometimes this is embarrassingly easy to forget. Think about it: though you likely go to bed, wake up, eat lunch, etc. around the same time each day there are times when you need more sleep or less sleep or eat later or eat earlier, etc. You see what I'm saying?
The sooner we can let go of a rigid schedule and instead consider our days/nights having a rhythm and routine, the better. Is it frustrating as hell not knowing exactly when things are going to happen? You bet. I'd even argue the hardest part of motherhood is adjusting to the lack of control over our time. But what can help you reclaim sanity is knowing each day/night has a predictable sequence of events (and this makes for a more chilled out baby, too!) that will flow in order, even if the timing varies a bit.
4. DO THE BARE MINIMUM
One time, a dear mama friend of mine asked me what, if any, gymnastics class I had enrolled my daughter in (for the record: my LO was 12 months old at the time and my friend's babe was about 8 months old) because was looking to sign up her baby. I literally didn't know what she was talking about and had to Google "gym class for babies." Turns out, this is a thing. But here's what I believe (and there's actually science to back this up):
Just being in the world is stimulating enough for little growing brains and lots of unstructured free play time is one of the best ways our young ones learn. Listen sister, if enrolling your toddler in music class makes you happy and it's a fun way for you to spend time together, knock yourself out. But if you're signing up for classes because you're afraid otherwise your kiddo won't have enough stimulation or opportunity to learn...take a breath. Pull out some tupperware from your kitchen cabinet or spread out a blanket in your backyard. Then watch your baby have the time of their life.
5. CHANGE YOUR MIND
I can't quite decide if this is the easiest or the hardest thing to do but it's probably the most powerful: change your mind. I'll confess: before motherhood I was the Queen Bee at simmering over things. I could wake up on the wrong side of the bed and that was it. Game over. Nothing would go right the whole day and my bitchiness knew no bounds. Post baby? I don't have time for that game. I quickly realized whenever I decided to wallow in my shitty mood, all that would happen is I'd get to the end of the day and look at the face of my sweet sleeping baby and literally kick myself in the ass for wasting a whole day. Do we have the right to be exhausted? YES. Do we have the right to want a damn break now and then? YES. But here's what I suggest:
Acknowledge your shitty feelings. Sometimes I literally say out loud, "I feel pissy right now. My body is tired AF and my brain is basically on life support. THIS SUCKS."
I let myself feel down and out and then when I'm ready I pick myself up and say, "I'm feeling down and out. But I am willing to see this differently."
I put on my favorite Florence + the Machine song (I highly suggest having a playlist of music that makes you feel awesome for days like these) as loud as I can stand it and scream the words at the top of my lungs.
I think of one thing --just ONE THING-- that I can feel grateful or happy about.
Then I repeat to myself "I feel shitty. That's okay. I can change my mind. And I'm going to do my best to kick ass today."