I am incompatible with my life right now. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but I’m pretty sure it was sometime between “Push!” and “It’s a boy!” It’s not like I’m coming down on myself. My personality type is actually quite successful in many arenas and has gotten me to where I am today. I am who I am, and like with most things, the first step is to admit it. I am a perfectionist. I am a control freak. I am comfortable in the familiar and panicked in uncharted territory. I like the expected and am rattled by surprise. I like things to happen when I have scheduled them to happen. I like things to happen how I have envisioned them to happen. Having children was like pressing a “self-destruct” button in my brain.
My son was born 6 weeks early. I had my last day of work on Friday to allow for at least 2 weeks to prepare for our new child’s arrival in case he came a month early (the earliest possible time he could come in my mind). Saturday I allowed myself to rest before I would begin tackling the house and my long list of things that needed to happen. Sunday I went into labor and that was the beginning of the launch sequence. I have been free falling ever since trying desperately to find some kind of order in this chaos. I grasp at the air violently at times and other times I cross my arms and try to look like everything is just fine (while my cheeks flap in the air rushing past me at mind-blowing speed).
I distinctly remember one of the first times I caught a glimpse of how parenting was not going to go the way I had anticipated. I walked into the living room one day to see my toddler up on the coffee table. My instinct was to scream in terror—what if he fell off and hit his head?! I took a deep breath, tried to remain calm and told him, “no, no sweetheart, we don’t climb on the coffee table.” He looked up at me and then got off the table. Phew, disaster averted. I was then shocked to find him up on the coffee table again the very next day. I thought we had dealt with this issue. Hadn’t I told him just yesterday that we don’t climb on the coffee table? Had he not heard me? Maybe he didn’t understand what I meant. It took several more months (and many more opportunities to tell my son to get off the coffee table) before I came to understand the true nature of teaching a child anything.
Three years and another baby later I’ve come to realize that the ground has still not come up under my feet. This is my life. I’m still falling. So now what? I’ve been able to admit who I am and identify the reality I live in. But the two are not compatible. What do I do now? Living in my life as I currently am causes life to be experienced in exaggerated proportions: panic attacks, bouts of exhilaration, explosions of rage, encounters with hilarity, and floods of tears. Life shouldn’t be lived this way. It’s exhausting! I can’t just close my eyes, hold my breath and pray it will be over soon. I need to be able to function in my life everyday…maybe even enjoy it on a regular basis.
I watch other moms that seem to be floating through this free fall. Some even seem to be dancing. I long to be like that. I want to be flexible. I want to laugh more. I want to be fun. I want my house to be the house that all the kids want to be at. But I’m not that mom…not yet. I’ve decided that the only way I’ll get there from here is by slowly taking myself apart and putting myself back together in such a way that I don’t lose myself, but I lose all that is hindering me from embracing this fall and allowing myself to fly. It’s not easy. It’s painful. I feel like an idiot. I feel insecure and inadequate. But I’m changing.
I’ve found loopholes and secret passages through my personality quirks. I’ve found that I feel better if I plan to be flexible. I feel better if I schedule in time to be spontaneous. I try to allow extra time for everything to get done. I have back up plans. I have huge diaper bags and a packed trunk. But I feel good. I’m OK that I can’t jump in a car and go. I can still get in the car and go after a bit of time preparing. I’m not paralyzed anymore. I’m starting to dance. My movements may still be rigid, but I’m not flailing.
I talk out loud to myself a lot. I pray a lot too. I remind myself of who I want to become and where I am trying to go in my life as a mother every time I am faced with a choice of how to respond to all of the unexpected things thrown at me in this free fall. Am I still incompatible? The old me is, but the new me is starting to adapt more and more each day. So now, when I walk in to the living room for the first time to find my daughter up on the coffee table…I’ll be ready.