If you are new to parenting or are excitedly planning your journey into your heart and head, I think it is best to know some things before you dive in. I believe one of the more challenging aspects of parenthood takes every adult in the equation by surprise: once you have a baby, you can never set plans in stone.
Your future girls’ night out, that vacation to Disney World with the family and any sports or hobbies are now, and forever more, encased in quicksand. One tiny shift in the wrong direction and your plans will flounder quicker and more finality than Atreyu Artax in The Neverending Story.
As a singleton, who sometimes wanted an excuse to miss an event, I might have thought that could prove convenient at times! How nice would it be to say, “Oh, it doesn’t work with such and such’s nap time,” and I’m free as a bird from an unwanted social situation? And it is true! Those excuses aid our occasional dips into introvert-land. However, I can almost guarantee that the number of times you will have to cancel a trip, event, class, retreat, etc., that you silently, desperately want to attend will be much higher.
For example, I am a leader and member of a local guild focusing on fiber arts. In tandem with the guild’s other officer, I spend no small amount of time each month planning the next class, writing a newsletter, responding to email RSVPs, posting on social media, and generally hyping everyone up for the upcoming class. As a mother whose husband travels for work, I have many additional steps I must take to attend my beloved class. I hire a babysitter to watch my two children; then, the night before, I set out all our clothes, pack up all the toys and accessories that will keep them entertained, make our lunches and snacks, and collect all the items I’ll need for the class itself. If I am not too exhausted, I even load the car ahead of time.
All this work, build-up, and excitement for a day just for me, focusing on something I love with minimal distraction from my two little ones. These classes make me feel like a person again, not just instant access to two milk-filled breasts with chapped nipples and two over-stimulated ears to listen to endless recountings of the most popular YouTube video of the day.
I need this monthly escape to help me reset.
So, when we go to “sleep,” and I spend most of the night tending to a hysterical six-year-old who has never had an ear infection before, my hopes start sinking faster than the planned day ahead. I hold out until the first rays of sunlight that my ministrations overnight will have wrought a miraculous change, but neither her ears nor my exhausted self was that lucky.
All the planning, prepping, and problem-solving led nowhere… I dropped off the supplies the guild needed, took my pitiful child to the doctor, spent the day tending to her needs, and tried not to cry. I don’t blame my child, of course, and would not leave her to anyone else’s care (except perhaps her father if he had been home), but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel upset.
As a parent, we just have to get used to putting our plans, many of our goals, and many more of our dreams aside at the drop of a hat — or, more likely, the spiking of a temperature.
Of course, we do it.
Of course, we are thankful for the dear ones we care for when they are hurt or ill. But sometimes, dropping ourselves in that instant is really hard.
Yet, we still do it.
Welcome to love and parenting 101. Your plans will never be set in stone again.