I wrote this piece for Parent Life Network a few weeks ago knowing that this was just the beginning of a series; letting go is a bit of a work in progress, and motherhood truly is a series of letting goes. The posts in this series will appear right here on Josephine and on Parent Life Network. I have no idea how many “letting goes” there will be, so I guess I will just keep posting as they come.
I was out on a walk recently and a neighbour of mine asked how things were going. As a new mother you always take this as a loaded question and try to answer with generic responses like; “it’s going well so far,” or “not too bad, learning as we go” and hope that they don’t dig any deeper. My neighbour is very polite and did not ask too many questions, instead she simply offered this; “I once heard that motherhood is a series of letting go.” She is not a mother and was just making friendly conversation, but those words rang so true that I answered with an overzealous “Yes”! Yes, in motherhood letting go really is an art form; a series of primordial exhalations. After the first five months of what I can only describe as treading water in a cloudy haze, I can say that I feel like I’ve started to re-enter society with a new awareness that has only come from letting go.
These days there is an over-abundance of advice available to new mothers and fathers. In fact, the internet is so packed with parenting advice that I was hesitant to add this piece to the pile. So please don’t take this as advice, it’s just something that I am learning for myself and decided to share.
When I talk about letting go in motherhood, I mean allowing yourself to be where you are even if it might not be where you are “supposed to be.” Motherhood, unlike a regular nine to five job, is never over; the work is never done. So, you have to pace yourself and stop kicking too hard or you’ll drown. Well, I’m a little out of breath and only five months in, so instead of trying to fit some pre-fabricated motherhood mould, or muscling through every new stage of my son’s development, I’m going to step out of my comfort zone a little and let go of a few things.
There is no such thing as perfect parenting, so I’m letting this go entirely. Everyone’s had experiences with parenting in one way or another, so most people will want to share their stories, or offer advice. I’ve realized that textbook parenting is incredibly limiting, it’s kind of like learning to swim without ever jumping into the water. So, I will skim through the books, take advice with a grain of salt and be open to new ideas, but I’m letting go of the fact that this experience will ever be perfect.
Ideal Sleeping Patterns:
At this stage my son is not a terrible sleeper (I’m saying this with my fingers crossed) but he does take naps in his car seat. He prefers to nap in his car seat because he likes it in there better than his crib or bassinet, and he’s happy. I have no idea why he’s happy in there; it might be because it feels very similar to being wrapped in someone’s arms, but whatever his reason, this makes him happy and comfortable enough to take a few naps during the day, which subsequently makes everyone in our home happy. Ever since our son was born, we are constantly being asked about his sleep patterns and whether or not he’s sleeping through the night yet. While this seems to be one of those generic questions that concerned friends or family members feel inclined to ask, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and insecure.
I realize that he probably “should” nap in his crib so that later on he will adjust to this a bit better, but he won’t and a nap’s a nap, so I’m letting this go for now.
Being a chronic people pleaser does not work when you’re a mother. The added stress of making sure that you’re accommodating everyone or making everyone happy ends up leaving you, and subsequently your child, unhappy. Motherhood has taught me that I have to let this go and put my son’s and family’s needs first, even if I might feel a little bit selfish doing this. It is impossible to make everyone happy with or without children, so this is something I have to let go of.
Having it all:
So many new moms “want it all” – the great career, the perfect hair, our body back and, of course, the lovely home; believe me this idea is one that I’ve held on to for a long time. Motherhood, however, has taught me that you can have things, you can be things, but you might not be able to “have it all”. At some point you have to decide what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice to get those things. Keeping this simple and putting my family first is where I am going to start with this one.
Long to-do Lists:
Long to-do lists are something that have literally run my life since my school days. The very act of crossing something off the list was, and still is, more rewarding than I can express, but creating to-do lists that are unattainable set you up for failure. So, while I still need a list to get me through the day, week, or month, I am letting go of unattainable goals. Short, attainable to-do lists that allow me to enjoy a sense of accomplishment are something I am learning to love.
Becoming a mother has unearthed some serious insecurities; making a seemingly simple choice takes days or weeks to make. It sometimes feels like I need to be sitting down with a table full of trusty advisers before I can decide what type of baby cereal would be best for my son. While I am making very difficult choices based on the health and well being of my child, I am slowly learning to let go of my own insecurities and trust myself a little bit more when making these choices, a difficult, but necessary lesson.
The “Old Me”:
Motherhood changes you in more ways than I can explain or even grasp at this point, and it has taken me so far out of my comfort zone that I cannot even see where the shoreline is anymore. Things that I may have enjoyed before feel very different now and I’ve been told that life is not the same on the “other side”. Despite the fact that it may seem sad or strange to let go of old ways, or old lifestyles, this can actually be an incredibly liberating shift. The “new me” has done things that seemed impossible before I was a mother and feel more creative and compassionate than ever before.
Yes, motherhood really is a series of letting goes and a realization that if I try to tread water for too long, kicking and a fighting, I won’t make it, but if I swim for a bit and then float for a while, things might be ok. So instead of kicking and flapping my arms through this forever, I’m going to let go, dive through a few waves, and float a little.