The ‘New’ Me
Does anyone else have moments, perhaps even really long moments, when it feels like all the characteristics you once valued in yourself have since disappeared?
I used to feel efficient. I’d plan ahead, do my errands strategically, and know exactly where in my week I could get things done. I’d work my full time job, come home and cook dinner, take care of some things on my to-do list, get ready for the next day, relax a little, and feel good, thinking, “Wow, I’m efficient.” My body held up, rarely was there a disruption to the plan, and I got a lot done.
Now, there are nights I’m lucky I have food to give my daughter, let alone my husband and I. Errands get done sporadically and decided upon more spontaneously based on a variety of new factors that have to be considered. Today I had to pick between writing this article and mowing the lawn. I figured if I mowed the lawn, I would still have to mow it again next week, so maybe I’d write this article today and just catch up with the lawn then. I’ve been meaning to get my oil changed for a month, and the birthday present for the party we just attended got wrapped four minutes before we walked out the door. Half the time when I do get lofty enough to make a plan to carry out some task, either my pregnant body decides it doesn’t want to, or my daughter requires something that prevents that plan from happening. Not always feeling so efficient.
I used to feel intelligent. At work, I prided myself on developing ideas and growing projects. I would read the news and stay abreast of developments in my profession. I wrote a book. I read. I held at least semi-intelligent conversations with people about a variety of topics. I valued my brain, and I considered it one of my most prized assets.
Now, I have streamlined my career to require as little extra and as little stress as possible. Granted, this is for a time limited portion of my life and something I did willingly so I could largely stay home with my children until they enter school. But it still requires much less intellectual energy than it used to. Now, if I get a moment to pop open my computer, I am pleasantly surprised when I remember that my homepage is CNN.com and I can get a quick glimpse of the day’s headlines. Or at least the two that are visible without having to scroll down the page. I find myself at times very adamantly not wanting to talk about babies or my job, but then wondering what else I have to say. I do still try to read. Parenting magazine. With my child on my lap while she points at all the pictures saying, “Baby! Baby! Baby!”. We haven’t quite made it to the classics yet.
I used to feel in tune with myself. I used to believe in my insight into myself, and I used to know how to re-center myself. It was simple to think about what was off, pin point why, and know what to do to right it. I ran, I spent time at the beach, I walked in the woods, I breathed the air outside. I thought, I was alone, I re-centered.
Now, I only know when I’m off. I don’t quite know how to right it right now. The things that used to help still do to an extent, but some are no longer possible, and others no longer work as effectively. I just don’t quite know what works anymore.
I know many new mothers feel this way, but I also wonder if this phenomenon is further intensified in new mothers who also happen to have a spouse in the medical training process. So much of our selves become devoted to ensuring that our family runs smoothly, whether that family be ourselves and our spouses or a household full of children. Even before children, we as medical spouses manage so much more than might be considered typical; once children come along, that increases exponentially. I watch other new mothers struggle to find a balance in their lives, to remember the person they once were. They work to incorporate the parts of their past lives that still make sense and develop new parts where the old parts don’t quite fit anymore. I watch them do this with spouses who run to the grocery store, or take the weekend morning shifts, or watch the baby while they work out. I watch them do this with a spouse who works 40-50 hours a week. And it’s hard for them.
So I decided some perspective taking was in order. I’m a pretty put together, high functioning, capable person. Have all my past traits disappeared? I don’t think so. They have simply been working new jobs, wearing new uniforms, and generally keeping our ship afloat. Sometimes I just seem to forget that our ship is actually incredibly afloat, and all those traits have been doing exactly what I needed them to be doing all along.
My efficiency has dressed itself in flexibility. I still always know what needs to get accomplished, the to-do list still exists, and in the end, everything does still get done. I just also know what’s reasonable and realistic given our circumstances. Who cares when that birthday present got wrapped? I had at least managed to remember I needed a present, figure out what I wanted to get, and go to the store to get it. That was pretty efficient given the fact that this week I also had to finally get that oil change, go grocery shopping, and attend an out of state wedding. Oh yeah, and I worked three days, and my husband was on call twice. The efficiency is still there. Things still get done. Maybe not in the way they would have before, but they still get done. We have introduced an amount of flexibility into the equation that makes me forget sometimes that it’s still efficient.
My intelligence is being channeled through instruction. I’m still good at what I do when I go to work and do my job. It took some time after having my baby, but I can now confidently say that I think clearly, do my job purposefully, and provide my clients with thoughtful and effective services. I may not currently feed my brain in all the ways I used to, but I use every ounce of the knowledge that I have, the training I have received, the creativity I possess, the cognitive processes that I use, and the common sense that I have to instruct the human being that I am raising. We may be reading Parenting magazine, pointing out the babies and the balls and the dogs, but my daughter understands and enjoys the act of reading. She makes connections on a daily basis between the world on a page and the world all around her. She learns what I teach her, and I have a lot to teach her. That’s a pretty powerful use for my intelligence.
I also think my ability to know myself still exists; I think it has just determined that I am ok enough for now. Perhaps it’s sufficient that I’m aware enough to know I’m still a work in progress. Maybe there’s no rush to find a new way. Things are only going to continue changing with the emergence of our second child and then with each developmental stage that they reach. I think for now I just need to live each moment, do what I can with each day, and appreciate what I have, knowing that life changes quickly, and it’s ok to roll with that.
I used to feel strong. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Now… well, now I still feel strong. In different ways, but quite possibly even stronger than I ever did before.
And P.S… I even got the lawn mowed today.
Jordyn is the proud mother of her one year old daughter. She works as a social worker doing therapy with children and families. She published her first book, “At Least You’ll Be Married To A Doctor”, in February 2012.