When my son was born three years ago, I wrestled through all the phases new moms go through: learning to function with little sleep, adjusting to being subject to someone else’s needs and schedule, adapting to being responsible for someone besides yourself. I accepted each new phase as it came and quickly learned to roll with the punches. I learned to operate on a few hours of jumbled sleep. I put aside my old schedule and learned to let naps dictate my day. When he dropped a nap, I rearranged my work hours to accommodate. I learned to let go of some personal needs and just go with the flow of my son’s.
For me, it became easier to give up some personal things in order to ease my mental stress load instead of trying to constantly fight it. My son was colicky, had reflux, and never slept. I was exhausted, burnt out, and completely spent at the end of each day. Instead of locking myself in a padded room, I adapted to my current situation. I went into survival mode. The order of things on my priority list changed. I gave up my daily multi-hour workout sessions because my son screamed his head off the entire time I was at the gym. I put away my bike because I didn’t have any child-free hours left to ride it. I cut back on work projects because I couldn’t make them fit. I decided I’d rather give these things up than my sanity or any more time away from my son. These are things I was okay with – personal decisions that allowed me to operate as the best parent I could be during any given time. I did what I had to do to survive new parenthood, and I felt good about my decisions.
Then slowly — so, so, so slowly — things started to evolve back the other direction. I barely noticed it happening until one day I simply realized: oh, I have time for that or I can make that work now. Somewhere along the way I’d forgotten that I could add those things back into my life. I’d settled the score with myself a long time ago — those were the things I chose to give up to be okay with every day. Then I forgot that things continued to change. I’d solved the problems I’d been having — the need for more time, more sleep, more energy — and then stopped adapting in the other direction when the time was right.
My son is 3 now, so maybe he won’t freak out at the gym daycare anymore or maybe it won’t matter if he does. He’s old enough to ride on a bike trailer now, so that can come out of storage. He’s big enough to be able to play by himself for a bit while I do a little work. I’ve learned how to handle my workload with a toddler afoot, so perhaps I could go back to some of the old projects I’d put to the side. Or maybe it just means a girl’s night out won’t wreck me by keeping me up past my self-imposed 9 o’clock bedtime.
It seems like it happened overnight; my son’s slowly but surely been growing up, just like they told me he would, but I just wasn’t recognizing it. He doesn’t need me for every little thing now. Nobody will be hurt if I take back a little bit of the “me” I gave up a few years ago.
I did such a good job of adapting and going with the flow to meet my son’s needs where they were that I forgot those didn’t need to be permanent changes. That perhaps now is the time where a little bit of that “me” gets to comes back. The first few years were about surviving, learning, and adjusting, but those years have passed. Now our years are about having fun, enjoying parenthood, and balancing life back out.