When I was pregnant with Shea, I swore that I’d never be “that parent” that lost their own identity. I always joke that I’m the kid that won’t grow-up — I’ll be 31 in less than 2 months and I play ice-hockey (when I’m not pregnant) and tennis weekly. And not just play, but play competitively or as “competitively” as a working mom can. But this doesn’t come without challenges – ice hockey is usually a 40 minute drive away and game times often start around 9pm (ahem, I’m generally crawling into bed around 9:30pm!), and tennis is usually a trade-off of time with Shea and hubby. It comes with some guilt to participate in things that we do for our own enjoyment that may take away time from our family unit.
I’m fortunate in that Mark fully supports my playing sports – we coordinate any dates I may need him to be home for and Saturday mornings start with daddy-daughter time. Not only does he realize how important hockey and tennis are to me, but just as I do, he recognizes the benefit in keeping healthy and having that “adult time”. Many of my friends in the area are ones I’ve met through sports.
Then there’s the (no longer hotly debated) fact that I do have 2 gym memberships – one very close to home where I play tennis, and one that is right across the street from work. When Shea was teeny tiny, having her at daycare was much more difficult for me. She napped like garbage, was over-stimulated ALL day, and would pass out on our way home, and be a fatigued hot mess the rest of the evening. Every day I thought, is this really worth it? I couldn’t wait to get out of work and get my baby back home and into my arms. I’d bark at Mark for working late because dinner and my workout would be postponed and he’d always say, “Nicole, you get out of work at a very reasonable time – you need to do your workout then.” I “got it” but I never gave myself that grace to carve out that 30-45 minutes of workout time for me. I’d use the excuse that I’d have to double back near home in the opposite direction, to only turn around and head back to pick-up Shea and then come right back near home. It would add 30-35 minutes of nonsense commuting in our little town and I argued that that time could be used in so many more useful ways. And so up until a few months ago, I never did exercise right after work…I continued to pick-up the baby and suffer through the evenings of annoyance with Mark and our inability to see eye-to-eye with this issue.
Finding a schedule that works for all family members is so important. I have to admit that this week with Mark out of the country has gone really smoothly. My evenings have seemed so long with getting a jump on dinner and working out immediately after work, before picking up Shea. But part of it, too, is just having found a good groove with work, daycare, workouts, and quick meals. These are all critical parts of my day going smoothly and my ability to give myself grace and forgiveness – to sometimes do something just for me, especially when it’s good for me.
I’m reading a book right now called Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom and the author so candidly speaks about her struggles with her children at times. The book weaves in Christian messages and scripture and I can relate to so much of it, especially since we’ve started to see glimpses of “the terrible 2’s” behavior already emerging. There have been a handful of times I have YELLED at my daughter over something so small – coming down the stairs at a snail’s pace, or purposefully spilling her water. At times I have lost it over the smallest of naughties and I’ve ended up in tears myself because of how terrible I feel after losing my cool with this little person I love more than anything. I know that this is only the very beginning of the trying times ahead, especially as she enters into an age of defiance and testing the limits, as her language emerges past cute and into sassy and ‘tude-y. I have to give myself grace, just as the author of this book talks about. There is nothing about me that’s anything close to perfect and I can’t be under the false belief that my parenting will be any different. Grace.
Last Friday, Shea and I went to the gym like most every other Friday. I had a tennis lesson and was planning to pound out a few miles on the treadmill beforehand. When I dropped Shea off in the daycare where she’s been many times before, she went ballistic. SOBBING, SCREAMING, RED FACED, and WRITHING out of the arms of the women who were desperately trying to comfort her. I felt terrible…for everyone involved. I peeked in the window to the room a few times and the situation was not improving. I waited it out 10 minutes and with no lessening of her fit, I conceded that my workout was not in the cards – there’s an upset toddler and then there was this. It was bad. I showed us all a bit of grace and we returned home.
The balance and unpredictability…the coordination with busy work schedules and life, it can be a lot. As we embark on adding another baby to the mix, I have to continue to give myself grace and acceptance. I have to relinquish control over what I can no longer control and mold my needs and wants at times to fit what will work in the moment. But when I do carve out that time to run or play tennis or go to my hockey game…or to just sit and catch up with the DVR or a good book, I have to understand, believe, and trust, that it’s not only good for me but for my girls to see, too. I have to remember that sometimes everything will go wrong in a morning – oatmeal will end up in hair, a diaper will be filled with something wretched as we’re walking out the door, toothpaste will end up on walls…the possibilities are endless. I have to remember that despite the stress of the moment, these tough times are the ones worth cherishing most. To breathe, to relax, to give grace.
I have to remember to tell myself this daily and when I don’t pause to breathe, relax, and give grace – to forgive myself, apologize, give hugs and kisses, and move forward.