I’ve been a mom for less than two months, and I’m fairly certain I’ve already traumatized my kid.
It happened this week en route to her 6-week checkup. The morning had gone beautifully, and I was considering nominating myself for mother of the year since I got her fed, dressed and out the door with a headband in her hair all while finding time to eat a bowl of oatmeal and put on a bra.
We were driving down the interstate listening to “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack when I heard a tiny, adorable grunt coming from the backseat. I assumed Wren was just trying to adjust herself in the carseat, so I kept my eyes on the road and continued belting “THIS IS THE GREATEST SHOW” with Hugh and the others at the top of my lungs.
A few miles down the road, the grunt got a bit less adorable and a lot more forceful. I took a peek at Wren in the mirror and realized her cute little headband had begun to slide down her forehead and was now resting across her eyebrows – or where they would be if she actually had eyebrows. Really hoping those come in soon.
“Uh oh,” I said to the newborn who I know full well can’t understand me. “Hang in there, sister. I’ll fix it when we get to the doctor’s office.” Wren did not find this reassuring. She continued to wiggle and bob her head about until the headband completely covered her eyes. This is when she began to scream.
“Wren, I’m so sorry, but I can’t pull over on the interstate,” I said trying to talk over her shouts of rage. Again, this did not comfort her. I continued to console her with promises to fix it when we arrived as I weaved in and out of traffic trying to reach our destination as quickly as possible. She yelled and kicked and threatened to runaway and never return, and after what felt like an eternity, we finally made it to the clinic.
I jumped out of the car, ran around to the backseat and took the headband off. She looked at me like “What is wrong with you? Do you have any idea what you are doing?!”
No, I do not.
This about sums up my first couple of months of motherhood. It’s moments of feeling like I’ve finally got the hang of things immediately followed by fear that Child Protective Services could show up at any moment because who thought it was a good idea to let me raise a human?
It’s holding Wren all day and feeling like a good mom until I see all the dishes I didn’t wash, the errands I didn’t run and the emails I didn’t answer. Missed calls from clients. Not getting my dad a birthday present. Thank you notes I should have written months ago. Watching frantically as all the balls I’m accustomed to juggling crash to the ground and roll in 75 different directions.
It’s stressful trying to take care of a newborn AND run a business AND keep the house clean AND eat healthy AND shower occasionally AND work out AND be a good wife, friend, sister, daughter, dog-mom, etc.
It’s just not realistic to do it all perfectly. And I’m learning to be ok with that.
To be ok with my in-laws coming over and discovering our floors are covered with cat hair. Or letting a week (or a few weeks) pass before returning a phone call from a friend. Or setting specific hours to deal with client work and sticking to them. Or eating takeout every night this week.
To be ok with dropping the ball every now and then. Because in this season, Wren is the most important ball.
I started seeing a therapist about a year and half ago, and one of the most important exercises she taught me is how to prioritize, both my time and energy, and how those priorities can change. She encouraged me to pick three things that would take priority over all others. These can be anything from my family to my career to a certain goal I’m working toward. Once I settle on my three priorities, I have permission to pour less time and energy into everything that didn’t make the list.
The best part about the list is my three priorities are constantly changing depending on my season of life. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I stop and think about what three things I need to prioritize right now.
Without the list, I end up trying to go everywhere, be there for everyone and do everything, which leads to anxiety and disappointment. I spread myself too thin, and instead of doing everything well, I come up short across the board.
But with the list, I can pick three priorities, give them the attention they need, and free myself from the guilt that comes with letting go of everything else. When I start to feel embarrassed about having a dirty house or skipping a workout, I tell myself, it’s just not on the list right now.
And right now, Wren is at the top of the list, which means I’m going to have to let some other balls hit the cat-hair coated floor. I won’t always be able to cuddle on the couch with her. Or to solve all of her problems just by holding her close. Or spend an hour doing nothing but encouraging her to coo and smile. But right now, I can, so I’m going to snuggle her and sing off-key to her and maybe wait until we reach our destination to put her headband on to avoid traumatizing her.
I hope you too can set your priorities, and enjoy the freedom of letting go that comes along with it. I hope you can drop the ball a few times and know that the world isn’t going to end. Because it’s ok to drop the ball this Mother’s Day – just not the baby.