Sometimes I think my heart is going to explode
I’ve stopped reading how-to baby books, mostly because they don’t seem to have anything to do with the baby I actually have and also because my brother casually pointed out one day that the people who write baby books are probably the same kind of people who write relationship books.
I don’t know why that never occurred to me.
I hate relationship books. Trust me, I get that every relationship requires some amount of nurturing, and I definitely believe that we can all benefit from sifting through outside opinions now and then. But there’s something so… goopy about relationship books. I can’t help it. They gross me right out. All those ugly stereotypes about the way men/women think and relate. All that fear-mongering about how your husband will leave you if you don’t “take care of yourself” physically and all the jolly, nudge-wink sexism.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Baby books are a whole different kind of unrealistic, but it’s still there, and it was still depressing me. The only one I’m still chewing my way through isn’t so much about babies as it is about mothering. Not how to get your baby to sleep through the night by three months and save the world by six, but how to thrive personally despite the challenging times. I can handle that.
One of the chapters was about simplifying your scope, paring down the subconscious or half-conscious list of goals for yourself and identifying the ones most likely to actually make you happy. She said to limit the list to 3. Just 3 simple goals. Everything else needs to go.
It was a good exercise for me, because even though I rarely admit to having an ambition problem, I do keep a huge personal list for myself. Nothing is ever quite enough, and I am always trying to squeeze in one or two more things. So getting it down to three feels confusingly bare. Also incredibly relieving.
I’ve been using this list for the last few days, and it’s been good. It’s nice to feel good about mac’n’cheese for dinner and still carrying those 10 pounds of baby weight for a change. I’ll get to those things, but right now I’m focusing on my top 3 priorities, and I’m actually pretty awesome at them. Who knew it was so easy to get everything done, when everything is really only three things.
#1. Enjoy Iris.
I don’t worry about the necessary bits. There’s not one slice of a percent that I’m not going to be there to feed her, change her diapers, walk her to sleep, or punch the first person who fails to see her total wit and beauty.
Those are givens.
My goal is simply to enjoy her more. The quizzical eyebrows. The way her mouth holds in a firm O when she falls asleep nursing and all the milk dribbles out. The big eyes, drumstick thighs, and sticky fingers.
Even the neck jam.
I don’t kid myself about enjoying the fifth time she wakes up at night crying, but when I do finally wake up and it’s morning and I see her perfect, tranquil sleeping face next to mine—that is totally worth enjoying. And I do. Thoroughly.
#2. Spend time with just Carl.
It’s easy to get overly complicated when it comes to marriage. The truth is, we don’t need to work on our relationship. We just need to have one. When we spend time together, everything else is easy.
So the little goals can all go.
Asleep in her crib by 8pm is a nice ideal, but bouncing in the arms of a babysitter is a perfectly fine reality. When I stop trying to orchestrate perfection and just focus on the underlying priority, life is a whole lot easier.
#3. Take care of myself.
This doesn’t go over well with the martyr types, but the most memorable advice I ever got about motherhood was from a plaque. (Cheesy, I know).
If you love your children, take care of their mother.
Simple, but profound. As much as I love Iris, and as much as I want to be the perfect mom for her—loving, cheerful, consistent, fun—I can’t manufacture energy out of thin air. When I’m grouchy, I exude grouchiness. I can beat myself up for being that way, but I can’t really change it.
Bricks without straw, people. Always a poor idea.
Now, there are no hard and fast rules about this. Sometimes taking care of myself means going for that early morning jog or cooking a fantastic dinner, and sometimes it means stuffing the scales at the very back of the closet and asking Carl to pick up fast food. The only thing I really have to do is check in with myself regularly and stop feeling guilty about choosing to do the things that make me feel good (I can hear those puritan jaws dropping from here).
What it means today is that I’m spending Iris’s nap time blogging and ordering prints for her baby book instead of writing that article or doing the dishes. And you know what’s even better? I don’t even feel (that) badly about it.
Wild and crazy times.
Also weirdly relaxing.