Someone on a mom’s internet group I’m in once said that the most challenging part of being a parent for her was no longer having control over how she spends her time and energy.
While the day-to-day is filled with many micro-challenges, on the macro-level, I don’t think truer words have ever been spoken.
Each of us has limited resources – time, money, energy. And life is difficult enough when we are free to allocate them according to our priorities.
But we lose that freedom as parents, don’t we?
- We’re late because the toddler refused to be strapped into the carseat, not because the appointment didn’t matter to us.
- We can’t stay out late with cherished friends because we know we’ll have a 5 a.m. wake-up call.
- We have to bow out of a commitment to a volunteer organization because a child vomited until the wee hours of the morning.
We can plan, organize, prioritize and schedule until we just can’t anymore. But it only takes one fun-filled diaper to wreck the whole day.
Even more distressing than the loss of control over how we allocate our time is the loss of control over how we expend our emotional energy. Maybe we wake with a take-charge attitude, ready to have a great day, only to be felled by a sibling argument over who got more eggs at breakfast. Or by a toddler who bites you while pulling your hair because you said you were taking a shower.
I read a Facebook post from a public figure recently talking all about how everyone is “busy” and that if you really care you will prioritize what matters to you.
At first her post really galled me, just like so many of the New Year “take charge” of your life / work / sleep, etc. posts do. But instead of getting annoyed, I tried to look inside myself at what was really nagging me. It didn’t take long.
I find it incredibly challenging to operate in a world where people assume I have control over my time, energy and emotional engagement. They assume, as the public figure mentioned above does, that my actions follow my priorities. That upsets me because being “all in” with this parenting gig and having young children at home means that my daily priorities often get hijacked.
But then it kind of dawned on me, that I actually am aligned with the priorities I have set. I brought these little people into the world. Their physical and emotional needs are the highest priority on my list all day every day.
So whether or not the world-at-large fully understands how very little choice I have over the allocation of my personal resources, I’m going to try to be gentler with myself.
And go to bed earlier. Because that 5 a.m. wake-up comes whether mama likes it or not.
(The rest of the line in the title is “…for nothing left to lose,” from Me and My Bobby McGee. Most people think of Janis Joplin when they hear that line. But the song was actually written by Kris Kristofferson. A Rhodes scholar. For more on that famous line, read this.)