Monday, January 11, 2010

Chaos Theory

Tonight, as I was putting away the holiday crap (editor's note: before Christmas and immediately after, this stuff is called holiday decorations, which I love to put up. Around January 2nd it becomes annoying Christmas crap - clutter I can't wait to put away) I was thinking about how different life is from a year ago.

I've had almost 11 months as a mom, and 6 (ish, plus that part time thing I did early on) of working motherhood. It's been an interesting and rocky road, but an educational one for me.

The old me took care of everything in a timely manner. My holiday card list was always updated. The house, pretty much always ready for guests, with the exception of the eternal pile of mail that breeds in the corner of the living room when the lights are turned out. Surfaces had no dust on them. Or extraneous clutter. I was always 100% focused on getting whatever it was that needed doing, done.

In short, I had my act together.

Now, I just have to laugh. My to-do list gets written. Then I cut it in half, then in half again, and maybe about 2/3 of that might get done. Most of the time I am about 1 for 3. I either suck at work, at motherhood, or the rest of my life (sorry honey). With the exceptions of rare moments, I never make it all work together.

But, as one of my favorite wise men pointed out, even the great Ty Cobb only had a lifetime batting average of .367 - yep, he hit the ball one out of three times he was pitched to. Kinda makes you feel better about the crappy days, no?

So I've learned a few things from the trenches over the last 11 months, and I think they are some of the best things I've ever learned.

1. Get a system. Or die.
I've blogged about how chaotic things can get at Chez MoneyPenny these days. I learned from the chaos though. Everything, and I do mean everything, needs to be put back in it's place. Phone chargers are always in the hallway table. FSA paperwork is in the desk drawer in a folder. And so on. I was organized before, but this is master class. I'm too tired to have to go looking for something, and chances are I won't remember where I put it anyway. So every time I have an urge to just stuff things somewhere I remind myself that I'll only be able to blame myself when I can't find it...10 minutes from now.

2. You won't remember...anything
Write it down. Then again somewhere else. Call yourself if you have to. I'm convinced they knocked me over the head and yanked out a bit of my frontal lobe in the delivery room. I remember nothing for very long, and even if I do remember, it's never at a time or place when I can do anything about it. I always made lists. Now I make lists on anything that will hold ink. Or crayon. Or lipstick. Whatever.

3. No one wants to hear it
Eventually, no matter how sleep deprived you still are, or how busy your life has gotten, those thank you notes must be written, the phone calls returned, the little details of life attended to. And if, say, 11 months in you are still complaining of exhaustion and being overwhelmed - even if you are still exhausted, and working 60 hours a week plus parenthood is overwhelming, well, let's just say the sympathy bus left a long time ago. Eventually you'll get the side eye and speculation about your inability to cope instead of patient understanding. This is your life. Enjoy it. You can sleep later.

4. There is no separation of church and state
Back in the day, my personal life did not bleed into my professional life. Now, I'm lucky if I can make it through a week without having to leave work early because the baby has yet another (insert medical condition such as cold, conjunctivitis, ear infection, tummy ache, or new tooth) thing that requires Mommy to be on deck. Babies blow your carefully crafted professional persona know. And that's okay. Anyone that wants to judge that can - it's fair to say that I'm not quite as together as before. That said, I worry about how people perceive me less these days. I can't worry about it. I can only give my absolute best to every role I have at work and at home. After that I'm too tired to care.

5. Do something for yourself
I know, I know, who has time when you are a working parent? But this parenthood/work/life thing is a marathon, not a sprint. If you are a better person/coworker/mother/father because you took a few hours to yourself, then do it. Actually, there's no if here - you will be a better person.

6. Learn to say no
This is the most important lesson, and one that I admittedly suck at. But really, you can skip your uncle's sister's brother's son's first birthday party. Or that thing you really don't want to go to. Sure, sometimes you have to make the effort. But you know, sometimes you really can just shut down and take a nap on a Saturday afternoon. So the laundry doesn't get put away. You'll live.

It's been an interesting 11 months. I'm older, wiser, and in dire need of a pedicure. But I'm happier. I can be perfect later. When I've had some sleep.

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