I recently listened to an episode of the Slow Home podcast entitled Caring More and Caring Less with guest Erin Loechner. So much about this episode was simply wonderful—from Erin’s tales of her 83 year old mentor, to the nitty gritty of living slow and content. It was what we call minimalism at its finest and most balanced. Although I walked away with a lot of new insights, there was one thing in particular that caused me to reel out my own internal monologue and ask myself some questions I have long put to the side. The neglect of these questions was understandable, as they relate to life surrounding the arrival of a new baby, and we haven't had one of those in 4 years.
Erin and Slow Your Home writer/host, Brooke, both share how completely closed off they felt when their firstborn entered the world and threw their lives into utter chaos. They would hide from guests, and generally shut themselves off unless they felt that they could achieve some sort of perfection first. You know, asking a friend over only when your house is immaculate and dinner is perfect and homemade. They both were looking back with regret that they didn’t at once swallow their pride and simply talk to other women who had been there. This conversation brought back so many feelings from those first days as a mom; feelings I have pushed away, not knowing what else to do with them. Why didn’t I accept the confusion, exhaustion, and failure that I felt and simply be open with my friends, seeking counsel and healing through good conversation and a glass of wine? Part of the problem was that I think I didn't know how I felt. Someone would ask how I was doing, but I could barely see through the fog. I felt the opposite of self-aware, whatever that is, and so without any strong negative feelings or strong positive feelings (aside from the complete overwhelming cuteness of baby Seb), I brushed off questions with some version of "tired, but good!"
I sometimes wonder if this was because I had Seb at such a young age. Old souls definitely have the advantage here you guys, because I didn't know much about myself at barely 23, one year out of college, and one year married. I wouldn't do it differently if I were to go back, but having the knowledge I have now of what works and doesn't work for me has been really helpful for managing parenting and life. I thought that being a wife and mother and all the things would simply fall into place, but I've realized that it's something I have to work for in order to thrive.
A principle I learned during our year abroad was that peeling away layers of comfort reveals the core of our desires, our priorities, our interests and our gifts. When we first moved back to the states, I feared becoming comfortable again. I also craved it. I set out to straddle the two, opening myself to adventures and new relationships, but at the same time relishing in setting up a small home with our long boxed-up possessions that reminded us of our experiences and our loved ones. I frequently long to move abroad again, just so I can have a break from this straddling. I think this is why I'm not very worried about entering the world of a newborn again. I feel like I'm ready for this challenge again. I've been out of the ring for a while, if you will, and I am honestly excited not only to hold this precious boy for the first time, but to embrace the challenge. I have actual goals for the first months this time. I dream of taking advantage of those times when he'll sleep the day away and I'll walk to our local coffee shop and write. I am eager to take Seb and Bruno to the park or zoo, with the baby in tow. We'll have a to take nursing breaks and do on-the-go diaper changes, but we'll take it all in stride. Is it weird that I got excited filling our cloth diaper drawer this week? Yes, yes it is.
I want to hold things loosely this time. I want to let go of our schedule and seek to follow a rhythm instead. Borrowing Brooke's podcast phrasing, I want to care more, and care less. I want my heart to be happy when baby boy wakes up earlier than expected from his nap, because I've taken care of myself and it's game on with this new sweet soul. Sometime around September 4th, a layer of comfort and predictability will be peeled away, but if I let it, it will reveal more about who we are as a family, and what I do well as a mother. I know now that I thrive with an early bedtime, daily exercise, time to read aloud to my children, and some solo coffee shop breaks that give me time to create. I have come to terms with the fact that I do not enjoy meal planning or cooking, and my superhero of a husband does the grocery shopping (he spends less $$$ and generally doesn't share my view that the grocery store is a Dementor's kiss in disguise). By the time September 4th rolls around, we'll have spent a solid year decluttering our 1100 sq. ft. apartment. We'll have the things we need, the things we love, and nothing (much) more. I can't wait to place baby boy in the midst of that space.
All of these words may sound naive, particularly if you've ever been a new mom, but you should know that I'm usually a pessimist underneath the surface. These words are a sort of pep talk to myself. They're to remind me that I need to let go of the expectations I may perceive others have of me, and rise to meet the expectations I have for myself based on my personality and the particular workings of my family. I really don't like the typical new-mom advice that tends towards patting us on the back for doing a load of laundry. Not because simply doing a load of laundry is not in and of itself pretty heroic on most days, but because it neglects to address the need that we all feel to excel at our lives. New moms often struggle with the slow pace of things, and then interpret it to mean that they are incapable of more. This just isn't true, so don't let it rob you of your new-mom joy. Don't track the number of tasks you check off your list, track the quality of those tasks. Embrace the discomfort of slow and you might just learn something about yourself.
These are my #newmomgoals but also some of my #lifegoals. What are your big ones right now?