Preparing for a third child made my life hectic in the most real way. As I have juggled two other children, work and grad school, I have often been driven to the brink of crazy, only to realize I have been the one behind the wheel.
Frantically, I would find myself pacing the house picking up Legos and American Girl dolls, folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, making sure everything was in place. I would rush home from picking the kids up from school, hurry to make dinner and get everyone bathed, books read, homework completed and in bed by a reasonable time. I would work towards finishing up the nursery, folding tiny clothes, arranging tiny shoes.
Throughout the cleaning of our home, I’d often find myself cleaning out other areas of our lives — finances, personal relationships, issues with the two big kids. I would push for all our other issues to be resolved, like to-do-list line-items as opposed to everyday life circumstances. Some may call this a portion of the “nesting” instinct but for me, this is my life regardless of whether or not I am expecting another child, thus eradicating the nesting theory.
Without realizing it, I was setting myself up for failure by pushing for perfection.
In one of my last meetings with my midwife, I told her how much I was pushing to resolve all of my issues within my family before the baby was born, that I was hoping to get it all in order.
Her response? “This is your order.”
How freeing that thought, those words of grace extended by a third-party when I was so unwilling to extend them to myself. The thought that what was happening in my life was how my life was intended to be — likely to enable me to learn a lesson — allowed me to view things far more objectively.
So often, we are ready and willing to extend understanding to people in our lives who seem to need it — the slow older couple walking in front of us at the grocery store, a family member who has forgotten to return a phone call. We put ourselves in their shoes and see that they must have a lot going on. What we are not willing to do, more often than not, is to grant ourselves that same consideration.
I have stopped by the homes of so many friends who incessantly apologize for laundry on the couch or dishes in the sink and I quickly dismiss it, ignoring the slightest hints of forgotten domesticity in exchange for conversation and community. Throughout some of these same conversations come apologies for the interruptions made by crying toddlers or hungry babies.
“Oh, it’s fine,” I assure them, as we continue our time together.
Where is this level of understanding for myself and my self-perceived shortcomings? Where is this forgiveness for myself when I have fussed at my kids for something petty or have rushed through conversation with them for the sake of finishing up dinner?
While learning to be gracious with others is a skill needed in so many relationships, the same can be said for learning to be gracious and understanding with ourselves. When we choose to be too hard on ourselves, we neglect the important things around us: the friends who stop by, the neighbor who calls, the little people who call us mom or dad. When we are rushing around trying so hard to perfect our surroundings and our lives, we miss what is truly happening, setting us up for wasted days and wasted opportunities.
We have messed up in the past. We will again in the future. That is no surprise. But when that time comes, perhaps we can choose to give ourselves grace — for the undone laundry, the miscommunication with a loved one, the choices of our children. Sure, some things call for us to take personal responsibility and for us to make amends, but in other moments, sometimes it’s best for us to take a deep breath, look around and say, “This is my order.”
This story was written for CharlotteFive’s latest channel for parents in the QC, called QC Playground. Sign up for the weekly QC Playground newsletter here.