Friday, February 21, 2014

Intro to the B Team and the 3 F's

Flexibility, Forgiveness, Foresight

"Never say never."

After I had my first two children, I swore I was done producing offspring.  I had them in my early twenties, and both were difficult pregnancies marked by extended bed rest and hospital stays. I also went through bouts of postpartum depression. I was finishing college courses but doing it mostly independently, so I was at home.  A lot.  Just me and the kids. I never really left the house except to go to the grocery store, the doctor, church, and occasionally school.  While I was so very thankful to be able to be at home to raise my children, I didn't have much of anything going on outside the home to keep me engaged, inspired, and growing as an individual. I didn't have many friends, and the few I did have weren't necessarily in the same stage of life as me.  This was before Facebook, Pinterest, smartphones, affordable digital cameras, and all these great social media platforms that help people stay connected, so I had no "stay-at-home Mom" network to connect with to keep me from going stir crazy inside those four walls.

So, it seemed like the best solution was to be done having children.  Two were plenty, and since I had them at a young age, I would be "43 and free" when they were adults. (My sister-in-law and I both joked about that and dreamed of all the European countries we'd travel to when that day came!)

But... as they say, never say never. I was convinced I would never have more children.  But life has a way of surprising us.  As I was getting to know my now-husband, I confessed my fears about more children. In talking about it, I realized that much of my fear was situational, and more importantly, able to be changed and addressed. Sure, I had difficult pregnancies, which physically might have been out of my control, but setting up my life with intentional steps to get out of the house, pursue other things for my own development, and surround myself with loving, supportive people would make a world of difference in my approach to parenting. I also felt much more mature and able to advocate for myself as a mother when I went to the doctor. I felt more mature and seasoned as a parent.

Love makes us do crazy things.  Like taking a chance on happiness. Or getting a puppy.
Kissing a cute puppy
Yes, that's me kissing a puppy, after I said I never wanted another dog. I adore this dog now!
Or... start dreaming about having a baby in my mid-30s. Hey, it happens!  But rather than be terrified by the prospect, I found myself more and more excited about this second round of parenting... or "the B team," as we lovingly started referring to it.

So, Baby will make his arrival in April. His older brother and sister will be almost 13 and 11. That's over a decade between the A team and the B team, but that's okay!  The A team is looking forward to helping out, and I've learned a lot in parenting them that make me more confident this time around. There are things I will do the same; there are things I will do differently. For instance, I will stay home with this baby, just like I did my first two. But this time around, I'm going to try and work very part-time, to keep up my skills in my field and also to get out of the house and be around other adults.  I plan to breastfeed and make my own baby food, just like I did the first time around.  But this time I probably won't co-sleep as long as I did before, so I can get more rest and preserve my well-being.  You get the idea.  But the REALLY big difference this time around is that if something doesn't work out according to plan, I'm going to roll with it and not feel like a failure.  If the cloth diapering I'm attempting makes me want to pull my hair out, I'll send the hubby to buy disposables and pat myself on the back for trying. If I find I need to work more/less or sooner/later than planned for my sanity, then I will do that without feeling guilty.

I've experienced so many different stages a mother can be in-- young mom, older mom, stay-at-home mom, in-school mom, working mom, married mom, single mom, remarried mom. Mom without family nearby. Mom with family nearby. Loner mom. More outgoing mom.  Etc, etc. The thing I've discovered is that there is no "right" way or circumstance to be a mother--there are good parts and difficult parts in every situation, and much of it is out of our control. But you make the most of the hand you've been dealt. If I could sum up what I've learned as a mother these past 13 years as advice to give myself getting ready for the B team, it would be:
  1. Flexibility
  2. Forgiveness
  3. Foresight
Flexibility-- "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry," and the best laid plans of mothers do as well. You may have a birth plan all laid out, you may have read every parenting book you can get your hands on, you may have stocked up on cloth diapers, and have your breast pump at the ready, but in reality, the baby will come when and how he's ready, you'll discover he hasn't read the same books you have (the nerve!), you may hate washing poopy diapers, and formula is not the end of the world. You will have to continue to be flexible in the toddler years, the elementary years, the middle school years, and (I can only imagine) the high school years and beyond.  You are raising a separate individual, not an extension of yourself. Being rigid will only lead to frustration; be flexible and don't sweat the details. Be ready to throw expectations and schedules to the wind if need be.

Forgiveness-- Forgive yourself NOW for all the mistakes you will inevitably make. (My hubby calls this "pre-forgiving yourself"-- making the best decisions you can, knowing that you are human and fallible and forgiving yourself ahead of time for that human element.) Be gentle with yourself. Be honest with yourself and others. Forgive your baby for crying for days on end, because sometimes that's just what babies do. Forgive your toddler for being unreasonable and irrational, because that's how kids' brains work. Forgive your pre-teen for being moody and emotional, because hormones can be beastly. Forgive your spouse for not reading your mind every minute of the day. Take a deep breath. Be flexible and forgive.

Foresight-- An online mommy friend had the best quote ever during a discussion about worrying about our children: "Take the long view and trust in their resilience."  I posted that on my computer desktop so I would remind myself of it daily.  (I wish I could find that old discussion thread, so I could not only give this mommy credit but also kiss her face for that advice!) It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day worries and cares, thinking every decision as a parent may permanently scar and screw up our children. But a loving, supportive environment does much to mitigate those moments of bad parenting. Did you yell at your child? Ask his forgiveness. Does your child seem extra emotional?  Give her lots of snuggles. Don't stress that all of your faults, flaws, and deep-seated insecurities will inevitably transfer onto your children; again, they are separate individuals with their own chemical and genetic make-ups, their own experiences, and their own ways of looking at the world. Will this one evening of crying and yelling change the trajectory of their life?  Probably not. Kids are more resilient than our helicopter-parent culture gives them credit for. Have the foresight to see the big picture of their life, and if the good, loving, supportive moments outweigh the bad, angry, frustrated moments, they are going to be just fine.

As the first member of the B team makes his appearance, I will be posting more about the things I'm learning, re-learning, and changing as I take on babyhood in a different decade and stage of life. I anticipate I'll make a lot of mistakes and have to adjust my plans. But that's all just part of the adventure, right? This blog is part of my plan to be more intentional about reaching out to others and doing something creative while I'm at home with the B team. ;-)

Be flexible, forgive, have foresight,
Mulligan Mama

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