It has been a little while since my last update but that is because I’ve been taking a bit of a break. We arrived back in France and are staying at the Husband’s parent’s house in the Lot department of France. We’ve been here since the 16th of May and will stay for 2 months in total. That means…that we are halfway already.
It is fabulous being here in such a beautiful place and properly set up with all the comforts of home. Having B’s grandparents around is also a great help because there are two extra sets of hands to help wrangle him. I’m working hard at allowing myself to enjoy this and not feeling guilty. Having the time to have a break is really handy for a number of reasons, least of which is that it gives me time to think and re-frame before we return to our new normal life.
New. Normal. Life. This is a very strange concept to me. I’ve been acutely aware that we have been living in a holiday bubble for a while. I’ve been trying to live in the moment rather than worrying about what the new normal will look like. However now that the end is in sight I’ve been giving the concept some thought.
Returning home will not be going back to normal for us because we’ve never had a normal that involved Baby B as a toddler and me working full time and studying part time. If there’s anyway possible, I’d also like to get back into the gym but we’ll have to see how that goes. Hopefully I can manage at least once a week.
So you see, although I know it will all fit together somehow (completely outside my current knowledge), I’m a little apprehensive about which parts I might have to pull back on in order to fit in the things that matter most. Having watched a few mums go back to work I’ve seen that often their anxieties are misplaced and things work even better than before. Still, this doesn’t stop me from making exhaustive lists in my head of the squillions of things that need doing each day and then trying to slot each one into its little place where it will undoubtedly get replaced by something much more important like sitting on the couch with eyes glazed over or taking an extra 10 minutes of sleep and replacing the shower and hair wash with a face-washer rub down, extra deodorant and dry shampoo.
When you enter a new phase of life it is naturally a time to consider how this change will effect you as a person and what kind of person you want to be. I have always held myself to extremely high standards in terms of what I seek to accomplish and the time I allow myself to do it. Even I know that to balance full time work with part time study is a feat in itself let alone with a toddler (who doesn’t sleep unless he has a boob in his mouth) in the mix.
Another consideration for me is to maintain a level of comfort with myself when I don’t measure up to the standard I set for myself. I mean, to decide what percentage of the whole I can achieve and still be satisfied with how I’m going. Since B was born the percentage sacrificed has varied between 20 and 100%. I lost all productivity in the first weeks and now most days I feel that I’m at around 60-80% and I’m comfortable with that. However when I add in 37+ hours of work per week I’m not sure where my expectations will/should sit.
This might sound very methodical and not in tune with the whole mindfulness movement that is big right now but it helps me to compartmentalise in this way.
I don’t have the answers right now but the lesson that being a mother has taught me is to give myself (in advance) permission to fall short. Or to put a more positive spin on it, to try and measure my capability in a bottom-up direction rather than looking at the ideal scenario and considering anything less than that a failure. Now, this post might seem to contradict that entirely but I plan top-down and then I judge myself (now) bottom-up and that’s what works for me.
Now that I’ve become comfortable with what I see for myself I’m also looking at working on how I’m effected by my perceptions of how others see me. This is an extremely difficult challenge for a mother. I might feel like a mighty warrior (albeit a tired one) after surviving a night of constant waking from a teething unsettled baby who insisted on sleeping next to me all night. I might be proud of myself that I comforted him when he needed me and didn’t lose my shit. However to another that might look as though I reinforced bad habits and sleep associations by feeding him to sleep and allowing him in my bed rather than sleep training him in the cot. They might think that by responding I’m spoiling my boy and letting him manipulate me.
Most people wouldn’t think this and probably no one does but I’m using this as an example of two different approaches to parenting and how the one side might look at the other. Whichever side I might be on on any given day (and I have been on both sides at some points in time), I could easily be brought to tears by how the other side might think of me. I’m desperate to be a good mother and the myriad of options that are available means that it is so easy to question whether you are doing the ‘right’ thing. Particularly when you start taking other people’s opinions into account.
Feeling like this is really quite awful but its very common amongst mums. It’s important to develop the confidence and plain good sense to let these thoughts wash away and get on with things. If only it was that easy. If I was talking to anyone else I would be able to tell them not to worry about what others think and that they are doing a great job but to tell this to myself? well that’s the greatest challenge of all. In any case, I’m working on it along with everything else.
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