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December 31, 2018
So, apparently, Christmas was a bust this year, at least according to my five-year-old daughter.
“Mom, I think I don’t really want to celebrate again” she told me yesterday. Her little body let out a heavy sigh and her long lashes turned down to the floor.
“Why’s that, sweetie?”
“Well, it wasn’t snowing so we didn’t have a White Christmas and some of my gifts weren’t what I told Santa that I wanted. So, we might as well not celebrate the holiday next year.”
Now it was my turn to breathe a big sigh. I know you know exactly why. I spent weeks making a list and checking it twice (no three times) to make sure everyone was fully accounted for in the Santa department and, knowing my oldest is especially sensitive, I made sure to go over her part of the list a few times just to ward off disappointment. This is not the first time I’ve heard about a birthday or even a school day being less than ideal.
“Darling,” I told her, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Santa and mommy can’t read your mind but we love you very much and wanted Christmas to be special. I bet you loved the chocolate cake you got at dinner and the sparkly chandelier you got for your room (yes, you heard that right. I bought my kid a crystal (plastic), fancy (Target clearance special) light fixture as a present. The moment she opened the package, her eyes lit up like she’d just won the stinkin’ lottery).” Her eyes sparkled again at the memory and she reluctantly acquiesced to the idea that we would not be doing a second-chance holiday extravaganza to make up for any failures in the first round.
It’s pretty easy for me to let my kid’s disappointment go when it’s unreasonable—to brush it off as immaturity. It’s harder, though, when it comes to my own expectations and threshold for disappointment—not so much at the holidays, but for my life as a whole.
I realized as I watched my daughter sulking that I have a way of sulking a lot, too—of really needing certain aspects of my world to be just the way I want them to be…or I consider them not good at all.
That’s true for so many other moms I meet, too.
The most obvious area where my plans for perfection get thwarted? Exercise.
I’m never going to be a fashion model and I’m not trying to get to a size two, but I think it’s safe to say I’m obsessed with exercising. I don’t mean I have an eating disorder—that I’m obsessed with my appearance or with reaching top physical fitness. I mean that, when I’m exercising consistently, I eat better, sleep better, feel better, act better—I am literally a better person. And when I’m not, I’m a pretty miserable, anxious, sluggish individual.
My work life plus my home life, unfortunately, make it incredibly difficult to make working out even three times a week a reality. My oldest daughter often wakes up early in the morning and snuggles in bed with me before I leave for work, waking the instant I rouse myself to do an early morning video. My patients’ appointments often edge past closing time at the office, making it impossible to arrive in time for an after work studio session. Even on my late-start work days, my nanny doesn’t arrive until 7:00 a.m., making it usually impossible to get out of the house in time to make it to any type of organized studio-type event with enough time to also get to the office.
Enter me, crying on the couch a few weeks ago about how I never actually get to get to a spin class, or a yoga class or a ____ (fill in the black with some other yuppy, group-based exercise experience). There I was, complaining to my husband about how I can never fit a workout in, about how I feel some days like physical fitness is a totally wasted goal now that my post-two baby, late 30s bod takes about 150% more effort to maintain, much less improve.
And enter my husband, sitting next to me on the couch—who hates analyzing for the sake of analysis but who also has a way of speaking streamlined wisdom in the moments that really count. After offering up alternatives to my preconceived self-care plans (take a run when you get home with one of the kids, get a pass to the tiny gym on the first floor of your building and jump on the elliptical for 15 minutes at lunch, squeeze in 10 minutes on an exercise video), to which I all turned down, he said this:
He was so right. Just like I try to teach my own kids to be flexible problem-solvers, I have to work on the same thing for myself. I also have to accept that, for my current stage of mommyhood, things need to be a little less fancy and a little more abbreviated when it comes to physical self-care. Whereas taking a full hour at a time by myself was really critical to my mental health in my babies’ newborn days, I have more bandwidth now to think a bit outside the box.
I started running again, something I’ve enjoyed since junior high school but have done way less of in the last five years. It’s like I’m saying “hi” to an old friend. I still make it to classes on the weekends when I can but the pressure is off to make it all work in quite the same way. The added benefit? I’ve started taking my kids with me—my oldest riding right alongside me or my youngest riding in the stroller—and it’s giving us even more quality time together.
It turns out my daughter and I both have something to learn about not getting upset when things don’t go exactly our way (me, especially). My New Year’s Resolution? To approach my motherhood experience—with all the ups and downs and unexpecteds that come with it—with the perspective that perfect would be nice, but that less than perfect can be pretty amazing, too.
Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.
Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).
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