I know it's cliché, but parenthood is exhausting. I very naively thought when all three of my children started school full time this past August I would recharge all my energy stores that have been abused and stretched over the past seven years. I spent the final weeks of summer counting down the days until the kids started school. I had visions of reclaiming my creativity, energy and identity the moment the school bell rang the first day of school. In my visions, my focus and effectiveness would flow through me effortlessly.
My summer plan was that Fall 2017 would be about getting back into shape: mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I not only had a dream for this to happen, but I had what I thought was a clear plan for how to enter into this new, free stage of motherhood.
Things did not go as planned.
No major life incident threw my plan off course, except life itself. Yes, six hours a day of school is a nice chunk of time to get the wheels of progress in motion, especially compared to the past seven years that have included two hour blocks of non-working, child-free time a couple of days a week. On paper the time the kids spend in school seems like it would give me space for a complete personal renaissance if I wanted.
By the end of the first week of school my brain still felt like mush. I couldn't account for how I used the hours I spent months planning for. I recognized it was a little ambitious to assume that years of being in the daily grind of little kid world would turn into a new chapter so quickly. Instead of readapting my perspective to be a longer marathon, I again naively assumed that I would enter into the newer, less demanding, stage of motherhood after a couple of weeks of school.
A couple of weeks came and went.
Then a couple of months.
Now we're in November and I still haven't truly found my flow. My schedule still demands that I coordinate childcare when I work. I somehow still end up grocery shopping with all three kids in tow more often than not. My daily and weekly schedules still get hijacked by doctor appointments, school activities, sports.
Life is still happening.
While the kids are in school during the day they aren't going into a vacuum. They don't disappear to give me rest and then reappear as they were before. Each day at school they are building bigger, more complex lives. I play a major role in these evolving lives, so it's no wonder I don't feel the lightness and clear thinking I imagined. I don't think I will ever get the ability back to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I may not be able to start a project and finish it as quickly as when I was in my early 20s. And I may never again have the freedom to be as spontaneous as I once once.
As I've checked in with myself over the past months I have found that there have been some really content moments, some encouraging times, some discouraging experiences, and some really foggy days. Basically, even though on paper my schedule could look less motherhood-time demanding, I am still experiencing motherhood.
I know it may seem absurd that I have been so caught off guard by the ongoing demands of motherhood, even when my kids aren't around. I know I am not alone, though. I recently ran into a mom who is a few years ahead of me and she mentioned it took her a full school year to adapt to the new lifestyle, how to use her day effectively. Her side comment was a testament to how validating off-the-cuff comments can be for moms in transition.
I signed up for motherhood, and I love it. It does take constant readjustment, though. We are constantly shifting to meet the needs of our growing children, our broadening schedules, and our limiting time. The dynamics of motherhood are remarkable.
During my most recent personal motherhood check-in, months after my anticipated renaissance, I didn't judge myself for not accomplishing as much as I anticipated, or not using the school hours effectively every day of the week. I took note of my naivety about this season of parenthood, and I recommitted to making it a priority to find my flow.
Yes, being with small children all day definitely disrupts productivity, but what's even more disruptive is not having a personal flow to adapt to the demands around us. Finding my flow doesn't mean I find the perfect schedule for my family. No matter how hard I try to plan my week, life is still progressing and mixing up whatever schedule I plan. That's life. It's happening. I can find my flow by building in space and time during the day for me to ground myself, so that I may adapt to whatever may happen during the day.
The best I can do at this point is not to strive for a personal metamorphosis, but to lean into the chaos and find a flow.