Each stage of early motherhood has its own challenges, but I’d say one of my biggest transitions occurred around four or five months. The maternity leave had been expended, and the husband had to start teaching again at the end of summer. With both of us working, we had to establish a new morning routine for the family. We decided that I would take the child in the morning because I didn’t have to be into the office quite so early, and my husband would pick him up because he got off a little earlier. It has been a great plan, and even after almost four years and another child it still works well.
As I am writing this post, I marvel how simple the plan looks on paper. Just get ready, change the baby, and walk out the door. I will freely admit to my ineptitude at sticking to the easy plan. Reality is so much more complicated. Often I need to make a few beds, find kid socks that match, put away laundry, search for the one baby shoe that has managed to wedge itself between the couch and the wall (not even sure how it gets back there), pack a backpack and a briefcase…the list goes on and on.
This transition from an easy relaxing morning on maternity leave to the craziness that is getting out the door with an extra human being in tow was quite a turning point for me. I was already struggling with all the mommy guilt, but even more than that, I questioned my ability to juggle everything. There were days where I walked a very fine line between total meltdown and barely managing. My arrival time at the office was hit and miss at best. I kept going with the hope that, at some point, I would nail the routine and stick the landing. I don’t know how other moms push through, but I cite this one morning in particular for my breakthrough.
My oldest son had terrible ear infections his first year. He was frequently on antibiotics, and even though his digestive system worked like clockwork, the product was usually of a type and consistency that could not be discussed in civilized society and would make a grown man run from the room. His blow-outs usually took two sets of hands and a bathtub to remedy.
On this morning in particular, I had just pinned a new outfit from Pinterest—cream-colored pants and a black turtleneck sweater with pearls and a sophisticated hairstyle. It was perfect for the office, and considering I owned a pair of SATIN (dry-clean only) cream-colored pants, I was so excited to try it out. You see where this is going…right?
I dressed the boy. I dressed myself in the previously-stated fabulous outfit. (Oh, I LOVE those pants!) I styled my hair and applied my make-up. I had time to spare! And just as I am grabbing my pearls and throwing the diaper bag together, my baby boy, who was previously occupied with some bright and flashy chew thing, started to cry. With the accompanying sounds and smell, it really didn’t take much of my mother’s intuition to know what happened.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have to gulp down tears. After all that work with the outfit, I was now facing a blow-out of epic proportions, and there was no one to save me. No extra hands. No extra time. I actually remember coaching myself under my breath. Long and short of it, my son needed me, and regardless of the fabric or care instructions on my pants, he was my first and only priority.
I almost wish there was a reality show camera tuned to me in that moment. I probably looked hilarious in my meticulous care of my son in full work get-up, heels, and pearls. I managed to calm and soothe him, strip him down, bathe him, change him, clean the tub, and wash the clothes in the space of about ten minutes. It was only after all this, while cuddling a clean, happy baby that I stopped to assess the damage. Not a speck. Not a smudge. Not a stain. I had managed one of the world’s crappiest situation, and I escaped unscathed and unmarked. I was overwhelmed with a sense of incredible accomplishment. I could forever claim victory over a poopy diaper.
Here’s the transition…I quit agonizing over some unattainable picture of a perfect morning, and just started living it out. Parents deal with so much crap (literal and figurative), and every now again, it is nice to remember those small morning victories. Those times you keep your pants and shirt clean despite the endless faucet of baby slobber. Those times you remember your lunch. Those times you manage to make a bed or two. Those times you keep your cool even with a very unhappy toddler screaming at you. Those times you trade an extra snuggle for the fancy hairstyle. Some mornings are great, and some mornings are absolutely terrible. But all mornings, are a blessing and a gift. Invent your own version of a perfect morning each in every day.