Joy Even in Chaos
Before becoming a parent, here’s a sample of some wisdom other parents tried to pass on to me:
- you will never sleep again.
- you think a newborn exhausting? It gets worse.
- I feel like a shadow of my former self; everything is about my kids now.
- my options are narrower than before kids.
- I regret the decision sometimes.
Having been a parent for a few months now, I can say that these are only true if you believe them going in. Chances are some well meaning person passed these very common “facts” on to these new parents and now they are attempting to pass them on to me. But I won’t believe them.
And it’s not because these pieces of advice lack truth, and it’s not as if 4 months of parenting has given me a full range of emotions, feelings, and lessons…
It’s because these little tid bits are almost impulsive. And they are contagious. Like any belief, it becomes much more real when you tell yourself it’s true. It’s how we lock into patterns as humans (and so can also be used to our benefit).
I’ve talked with so many parents about the job, and I’ve learned that the only “true” things people know about parenting are rooted in their own experiences. Come to think of it, it couldn’t be any other way. I’ve also found that these blanket statements about parenting can change per person depending on when they are asked.
Ask a parent about the job after a family trip and you’re bound to get a much different response than after they’ve just watched their kid in a school musical.
All I can really extract from this is that the experience is vastly different from person to person: for every one of the negative statements above, I also heard the exact opposite at some point. Maybe there’s a duality to it. When you’re down, you’re really down. But when you’re up, it’s the greatest feeling. I’m familiar with this sentiment, having been a teacher.
The way I handle these challenges is through robust systems. I determine my needs, and then I figure out the needs of my family and I try to automate processes either using my brain (a checklist of questions, a decision tree, etc) or using a computer/app if I can.
It’s not perfect and never will be. Having a system in place (like GTD, but could be anything trustworthy) means that I can do things like move house, change jobs, and have kids, and I won’t be as easily overwhelmed as I would be without the systems.
There’s one other element. I once heard in a class on health that no diet or fitness regime will be sustained if it’s not done with joy. I think the same is true for parenting. Having joy doesn’t mean every moment will be easy or painless. But it does mean that the roots of your beliefs are in abundance instead of scarcity.
There is joy even in chaos.
Write it on your hand.