Tuesday, October 20, 2009

All the Unexpected Changes

A friend of a friend is newly pregnant. I suppose I could just simplify and call her my friend. I like her and her husband - they're awesome people. But, I guess I'm not good at that whole making friends and sharing groups and how does that work out and I still feel like our mutual friend should be invited when we do stuff. ANYWAY, my friendship psychosis has NOTHING to do with this story, so let's move on, shall we?

She's one of the first of her group of friends to be pregnant, and she was adopted by her parents, so she has found herself not only new to this pregnancy business, but having a surprisingly singular experience among her peeps. I'm completely open to supporting her in any way I can, and I told her so. She's planning on quitting her job and launching into a high-powered career as a SAHM when the little one comes. She had one question for me: "What have been some of the most unexpected changes you've faced transitioning from a working gal to a SAHM?"

What a question. Sometimes I wish someone could have explained to me everything that was going to change in my life, but there's nothing that a newly pregnant person can hear that will prepare her for the transition from singular person to mom, much less working singular person to SAHM. It's like trying to describe surgery to someone who's never had a scratch. Hm, that makes it sound less than fabulous, but the fact is, it's incredible, there's just no folder for something like it the file cabinet of her brain yet.

There are things that can be understood on a purely cerebral level. Women have babies. Period. No big deal there, right? I mean, the world has been turning for ages, and women have been having babies since the beginning of time! Some choose to stay at home and take care of those babies. They have to get used to a new ever-changing schedule. Check, check, aaaaand check. I mean, it's all well and good when it happens to SOMEONE ELSE, and of COURSE things change, blah di di blah blah. But when the exact same thing happens to YOU? It's a horse of an ENTIRELY different color. I'm pretty sure God planned parenthood that way. It's an experience unlike any other, and there is no way to prepare for it, you just have to have faith and learn as you go.

I don't know about you, but I LOVED the first couple months of my new gig as SAHM. They were AWESOME. I loved every second. I was on vacation! With a new teesey-weensey little baby! I spent my time staring at my new little baby and feeding her and taking naps and eating. My postpartum hormones weren't too bad (I think I can say that now) - there were some times when I would collapse in tears and wonder why in the world I thought I could EVER be a mom, but for the most part, I was great big equal amounts happy and awe-filled.

And then the reality of the situation set in when Lucy was about 5 months old. The adrenaline and new excitement wore off, and I was left with a very demanding, thankless, dirty job and not much to show for it. And I had to come up with a coping plan.

I've discovered a lot about myself on this SAHM journey. I am no longer master of my own schedule and giving up that control has been one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I am a person that needs feedback about the work I'm doing, and more meaningful than "Good job." That's something I've had to learn how to ask the Bubba for. I've had to rearrange the structure of my life and my daily goals.

Redefining success is something that I didn't think of as a solution right away, but I have to think about it almost daily now. When I plan my day, I have to make an effort to shift my focus from getting MY list items done to making life happy for a small person regardless of chores. So, my bathroom gets cleaned sometimes, my carpet gets vacuumed once in a while, dinner gets made most days, but my only responsibility is to my daughter. My job is to show her love and help her learn and grow. At the end of the day there's nothing in that that you can mark off a list, and there's no clean desk.

I still struggle with choosing Lucy's needs over coffee with friends or, more realistically, reading Hippos Go Berserk! for the millionth time over taking care of the overflowing hamper. Every new developmental stage Lucy goes through leads to a brand-spanking-new learning curve for me, and I'm still getting used to being a mom in a lot of ways. This brings me to the biggest change in my life: I've had to learn to live with very large doses of ambiguity. I am the kind of person that likes knowing what to do and doing it right the first time. In parenthood and especially as a SAHM, there is no direct reinforcement and I live with a nagging feeling that I'm not doing this right. Not only that, but there's no practice round (I suppose one could argue that that isn't true if you have more than one kid....)! There is no Right. The right way? Ends up being the way it works for you. It's been hard for me to learn to trust myself like that. In truth, most days I just try not to screw up too bad.


maggie said...

This pretty much what I have on deck for Parenting tomorrow, where I have redefined success as: cooking a dinner my husband complimented without prodding.

Great minds!

Amy --- Just A Titch said...

I really appreciate your honesty, even as a non-mommy, because I think it's important to hear that it's hard to pick your kid's needs over your own (seems like a struggle in ANY relationship, actually!) and that there is no magical RIGHT WAY. Both good insights. You are wise, my friend!

P.S. I wanna drink wine and have a phone call with you! That sounds fun! xo

Manda said...

You're doing a great job. AND I FEEL YOU.