When I first found out I was pregnant with our oldest daughter – like so many moms – I spent every waking moment (and a few sleepy ones too) learning everything I could about becoming the best possible parent in the universe. I was determined to make that tiny person’s life as amazing as possible. She’d have great food, health care, a safe home, lots of encouragement, the best education, the most we could possibly give her. Then I determined how I’d go about it and was more determined than ever to follow the game plan I’d set out in my mind.
I was very clear on the ultimate goal and the “best” way to get there. Since then, I’ve pretty much spent my days retracting all of those plans because – ultimately – I’ve had to conceded just about everything I thought was right to the realities of parenting.
It’s been a pride-swallowing five years to say the least. About the time I thought I’d figured anything out the game changed – whether it be birth plans, television, food choices or childhood friends – and none more dramatically than in recent days.
Since our oldest was very little I’ve been of the mind that life experience and immersing ourselves in whatever the kiddos interests were at that point was the way to build fun, confident, inquisitive children. It led us to lots of adventures and eventually to a life of homeschooling where the kiddo could experience the world at her own (very fast) pace. I am a home learner at heart and homeschooling truly suited our family – or so I thought.
There was no reason for me to think differently, until last October.The birth of our youngest daughter brought about so many changes in our lives – all of them incredibly positive. In the beginning, I just plowed through. But, as the months went by I became less and less effective at everything I did while trying to figure out how to balance this wonderful new addition to our already extremely busy family.
I can’t tell you how many moments where I just completely broke down took place in that time. How could I run my business any more? Raise the kids right? Get my failing health back on track? Give anyone or anything the adequate attention? And then, of course, there was making sure our oldest got an education.
I had, officially, maxed out. No one could tell me differently. Every night I went to sleep with a sense of panic that I woke up with the next day. Nothing was getting done well, nor would it until our family made some major decisions. People kept handing me the post-partum depression card. I kept handing it back to them. This wasn’t depression. This was reality check time.
My mother and I aren’t known for having the best of relationships. But, it was in this incredibly desperate place that I turned to her for advice. She tends to be unceremoniously blunt about the realities of parenthood, womanhood and general hoods. I knew that – even if I didn’t want to hear it – she’d tell me what I needed to know.
“It’s time you put M into public school,” she said as I audibly gasped on the other end of the phone. Not homeschooling our kiddo was not on the list of available options. Apparently, though, it was. She gave me the laundry list of reasons why women go crazy in the land of motherhood – losing themselves to what they think “has” to be done.
Now, to be fair, there are things that HAVE to be done. I’d love to spend my days with a personal trainer, have a babysitter at my fingertips, never wonder how to pay the bills and leisurely parent pleasant, well-mannered children. Laundry, cooking, cleaning and the dreaded disciplining all get the HAVE to be done label – which unfortunately outranks my plans for a regular pedicure.
But, as my mother pointed out rather frankly, homeschooling is – well – optional.
It hurt me to hang up the phone with her and begin mulling over her advice. How dare she ask me to sacrifice my kids education for sanity. I mean, what the hell was she thinking.
She called back to remind me there is no shame in realizing that the great life plan is ultimately one that will potentially sacrifice the whole family’s well-being in order to follow through with.
Damn, I hate it when she’s right.
We talked, a lot. M had been asking for a while to go to school with the other kids in the neighborhood. We put it out on the table and she loved the idea.
I didn’t. I felt like I was failing. I totally didn’t want to fail.
But, then as I looked around at my life I realized that I was failing at some level at just about everything in it because I couldn’t give anything my all. The longer this went on, the less attention anything got, the bigger each problem became.
I could handle changing gears, but failing my kids, myself. It was time to suck it up and realize that nothing we plan ever plays out the way we envisioned it.
So, I headed on over to our neighborhood school and registered the big kid for first grade next year. As I left, I felt this enormous weight lift off of my shoulders, like opening a window for a cool breeze to freshen up a room. For the first time in a very long while I had space inside me again. I didn’t feel like I would be swallowed whole at any second. I could give to my kids and myself and my work all that needed to be given.
And everyone would be great, I knew it…even if life had never looked that way to me before.
Category: Your Healthy Nature