When I first became a mother there were so many moments full of joy and wonder. But there were also moments when I felt lost and confused.
Everything felt different. My body, my mind, the routine of my day, and my experience of time. The days were long and unending, but the months seemed to fly by. I felt at times like I didn't have a grip on my own life.
When I was four months postpartum I walked out of a boutique and noticed a display of red lingerie near the front and thought in passing, "Oh, that's because Valentine's Day is coming up." When I got out to the car and was buckling my son into his car seat I noticed how warm it was outside. It was June, not Febuary. My brain was apparently so muddled I couldn't even remember the month, much less the day.
I was both amused and alarmed by my mistake. But over the months there were other small mistakes--forgetting snack time or letting the afternoon slip by without finishing my to do list.
I decided that I needed to find a new normal if I was going to thrive in this new life. The trouble was, I wasn't sure how to find it.
If motherhood is like being dropped in a new country, then finding a new normal is like drawing a map for that new country you are in. When you have a map, you have a sense of control. If I go in this direction, I’ll end up in this place. It is so comforting to have a map; it can make you feel less scared.
My goal became to find that new normal, to sketch out a map for myself, so I could wrestle my life back into order.
I think by "find new normal" what I really wanted was control. I wanted the control I used to have. I like stability and organization. I like knowing where things are kept in my cabinets and having a rough schedule for the day.
I wanted to know what my new life was going to look like so that each day I could wake up and know what to expect. In other words, to have some sense of control over what would come at me during any given day.
But when you have an infant and a toddler, your new life isn't going to stay one thing. Your routine is going to change monthly along with all the changes your kids are going through. Your wardrobe may change once you stop nursing. Your morning may change if your baby begins sleeping later. Your diet may change if you discover your child has a food allergy.
That control I reached for kept seeming to elude my grasp with each change and stage my kids went through.
Over time I began to realize that soon as I created certain expectations about our lives, my kids would change and I'd have to find new expectations.
Instead of getting settled, I discovered I had to get comfortable with sometimes being unsettled. Instead of finding a new normal, I needed to find a new perspective.
My family life continues to evolve. And I continue to see that finding a new normal is less about doing and more about accepting what you can't do. It's about accepting that for some things in life, like parenting, there aren't maps and there never will be. And it's about being more graceful with yourself and others when things feel out of control.
Sometimes when I think of all of us mothers out there, I think of us all in a wilderness. We have days when we are striding through with strength and confidence, and days we are stumbling along with exhaustion and doubt. We don't have a map, but our footsteps are making new paths. We're learning how to live without the map.