“Okay, there are two things that I remember about my childhood…First, I remember being with my dad. He would get these far-off looks in his eye, and he would say, ‘Life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan.’ I just wish I’d realized at the time that he was talking about MY life.”
–While You Were Sleeping
I guess in some ways my life is turning out just like I planned…college, teaching, marriage, baby. But what I did not foresee as I made my little hopeful life map is that it would be a struggle for me to adapt to life changes, even when they are exciting, anticipated, and planned for. I’ve been thinking hard about my own sense of identity and value lately. Here’s what it boils down to: on days when I have accomplished many things (goals accomplished, house clean, quality products to show for hours spent working), I feel like I have been a success. On days when I have less to show for my time, I feel discouraged, wasteful, and “blah” by the end of the day.
I feel like I am fighting against a semi-lazy nature, and so I over-compensate by trying to be over-productive. On days when I have less to show for myself, I feel like I have lost the battle. Normally, I’m forced by contract to put in a long day’s work at school. This summer, I’ve been able to stay in producer mode as I’ve tackled organizing and decorating projects and as I’ve thrown myself into lesson planning for my first quarter of school. I’m realizing that I take a lot of pride in my productivity, and that I use the checks on my to-do lists as measures of my own value and worth.
So it’s made me a little panicky as I’m watching the weeks tick by. Even now, I’m struggling to keep up my momentum as my body gets bigger and the days get hotter. It’s harder to fight off naps during the day. And even if I manage to beat my body and make it my slave, I know that I can’t put off this transition forever. In August, school will start without me (sort of). Possibly in the same week, I’ll be introduced to my new to-do: a baby who will have no regard whatsoever for the tasks I hope to complete in a day.
Although I may harbor secret hopes that I’m growing a super-cooperative baby who will be born with a natural sense of schedule and contentment, I am aware that it is likely that I’m facing a new lifestyle where I won’t necessarily be able to measure success by the number of tasks I can check off of my to-do list. I’ll get to the end of a day of “work” and the baby might still be crying, wet, dirty, and/or in need of feeding…my laundry will still be piled up wet, dirty, and/or in need of folding…my house will bear the signs of my distraction with dishes stacked up in the sink and beds left unmade.
Just thinking about it makes me feel like breathing in and out of a paper sack. I believe that raising children is a blessing and a high calling and one of the most (ultimately) satisfying endeavors in life. But I’m still expecting this transition to be a shock to my system, especially at first. Right now I feel like I’ll be jumping off of a moving train onto the platform. Gone will be the measuring of days by appointments and tasks, replaced by days measured in less “productive” terms of hours slept, ounces consumed, and diapers changed. I’m open to the idea that it will really be more like jumping from one moving train to another, and that Baby Days will not feel as unstructured as they look to me now. But either way, I’ll get whiplash.
What can I do to prepare myself better for this mental transition? Maybe some of you can tell me. Or maybe the shift will happen lots more naturally than I’m expecting–that the actual presence of Turniphead (who, at that point, will have a much more normal name) will help me see my new world with surprising clarity. Maybe I’ll look back on these summer fears as the final expressions of a mind defined by a pitiably narrow sense of purpose. I guess we’ll see. And if you keep following the blog, you’ll find out when I do.
**Disclaimer: I hope that those of you who are stay-at-home moms don’t feel like I have no respect for what you do all day. Quite the opposite! I am imagining my own shortcomings in adjusting to having to create my own schedule, to apply myself to less finite tasks, and to work with little to no thanks or appreciation! I know that the “productivity” that I take such pride in is mainly the result of having someone else holding my feet to the fire, not my own personal discipline. Those of you who devote your days to your children with joy and satisfaction make me hopeful that I can do it too. I’m just thinking ahead to making this transition in the midst of rollercoastering hormones and sleep deprivation, and wondering how my little brain will take it.