Learning to pick your battles in the early years of parenthood may save your sanity. As you may quickly realize, parenthood can feel like a big jumble of frustration, bribes, lectures, and sometimes, yelling – that you promised yourself you would never partake in: but, these actions can happen. Somehow you suddenly encounter characteristics of an impatient parent that you witness in the midst of a child-induced tantrum at your local grocery store and you realize, “Oh! I get it now!” And all of those judgmental thoughts that you projected onto those strangers are now understood, because you’re finally experiencing parenthood.
We’ve all had those moments! And I suggest you are lying if you say you haven’t, especially when you are trying to balance everything that’s on your motherhood plate. (It’s quite full, isn’t it?)
Even if you choose to agree to your partner’s contrasting parent techniques, you will still encounter moments where you urge to go against that will. I mean, think about that box of Oreos you’ve strategically hidden out of your toddler’s eyesight to grab in “emergency situations”. What if that emergency situation may be wrangling your two small children into the car before their naptime hits? Emergency? Maybe.
Sure, you can even stick to your strict nighttime regime by sleep-training all you want, but there will always be sleepless nights. Nights where you wish nothing but slumber for both you and your baby.
Ironically as here I write, at 4:15am, sitting beside a wide-eyed one-year-old scarfing down raspberries as he watches cartoons so mommy can ‘rest’ before his big sister wakes. Something’s gotta give, right? And sometimes, just sometimes, it might be that routine or those rules, unless we choose to jeopardize our sanity (even more than it already has been).
It’s kind of like those bosses we’ve all had at some time or other; the ones who refused to take a sick day and didn’t know the value of rest and expected the same of you. The one who would rather get all their work done in one day rather than focus on the quality of their output, while all the while allowing today’s tasks to move into tomorrow. Those bosses who stuck to their rule-of-thumb and wanted their staff to abide by their way of doing things. You know those bosses?
Let me ask you this; were those bosses the best mentors? They didn’t support the needs of their employees. They supported their own need for control and rigid thoughts, leaving their team feeling over-worked, overwhelmed and clearly without a voice.
That can be like parenthood. You can choose to be the Burnout Boss, or you can choose to give some leeway to those times when you know that both you and your child might need it most.
Empathize a little. Or a lot.
Let me give you an example: our son’s sleep routine has been out of whack since a stomach virus had cycloned through our happy home. Throw in a top molar that is cutting through his gums and add another growth-spurt and my eyes snapped open at 3am. My brain told me to let the crying emanating from his bedroom settle him. Yup. Only if it persisted would I rock him. Perhaps give him some medication to soothe that gum pain. Then lay him back to rest.
So at 3am, that’s exactly what I did. I listened to my brain. But when he would not settle, I listened to my heart.
I finally realized, “To heck with it!” And I zombie shuffled to his bedroom, helped him out of his crib and led him down the stairs to a bowlful of berries, nut butter toast, cheerios and without guilt, the old reliable idiot box.
I mean, at this point in my child’s life, I won’t be succumbing to the borrowing of the family car begging for a ‘night out’, so I might as well let him watch an hour or two, if I’m being totally honest, of television until I’m ready to start the day…prematurely.
No doubt I know that there will be a few people that read this article and will be unable to relate. However, I justify and comfort myself by what I know: these days WILL come. You too will share my pain.
Oh, they will come. And when they do, you must make one of these two choices: will you listen to your brain or will you listen to your heart? Because one of them will offer false pride for that rigid determination, that will power to stick to your guns, when the other will encourage you to empathize with your child when it may be needed most.
These kinds of days have arrived in my parenthood journey more often than I expected them to. Perhaps I’ve been ‘giving in’ to my expectations. Or perhaps this is what motherhood feels like: a battle in which you often lose. Or at least settle into… even with a toddler. Because I don’t know about you, but my energy to fight day-in/ day-out is waning.
I’m tired. No- exhausted.
However, what I’ve realized is that I’m not giving up. I am meeting my children, even in the early years, with one part understanding and one part giving-up-on-everything-I’ve-practiced-in-parenthood-thus-far.
I believe I am successfully letting go of unneeded stress for both my children and myself. I am respecting my lack of control, which in turn relieves the anxiety that I would have other wise taken on.
And don’t ever forget, as I try to remind myself everyday, your child will feel when you’re stressed. They will understand when you are compromising your feelings, especially if you try to push against or through them.
I’m not encouraging you to feed your child treats when they refuse to listen, nor am I suggesting you allow them to dictate when they wake. But today I think I will have with my berry-filled baby while I try to validate the times when I must mutter to myself at 3 in the morning, “It’s going to be one of those days. Let it go.”
Leave some space for sanity, for love and for growth. Not just for the baby with the growing pains, but for you as a mother. Because there will be times when we must compromise what we’ve been trying to learn all along and decide to just go with the flow.
It’s ok to occasionally go against your usual in order to regroup, regain, re-energize and retry.
Every day is a new day. Even if TODAY is going to be just one of those days.
Words by Julian Jamie
Children are wearing AIKO by Gioia Seghers