This post is dedicated to my son, Alexander, who will celebrate his Fourth Birthday tomorrow. The truth is, my son has changed my life. There are three major changes that he facilitated in my life:
- Slowing Down
- Experiencing More Joy
- Accepting Imperfections
Truth to be told, I am type A girl. Slowing down is a bad word. I don’t believe in slow, so unless I am dead, I am going, with a sped of light. Multitasking is a way of living. It is like listening to audio-books, normal speed is 1.0, my speed 1.5. All my life, I believed, my job is getting more done, crossing things off my list and driving bus forward. In my heard I believed, it is how I was created.
Besides, when you slow down, what would you do with all that free time? It is sort of scary to be idle. My parents were never idle, so slowing down was not part of was used to. Now, having a third baby at 35 really changed my speed.
Before, I could survive without getting enough sleep, skipping meals, ignoring my headaches and other discomforts. Now, my body simply refused to go without self-care. If I would not get enough sleep for one night, the next day, I was a zombie. And I mean, angry, bitchy, irritable, forgetful and sleepy zombie. No, I did not suck blood, but it was really close, I promise and I did bite a lot.
What is the point? After having my third kid at the age of 35 years old, I have to stop doing certain things. For example, cleaning my house became less of a priority, but instead, my kids got that chore assigned. I realized our laundry does not need to be done every day, and yes, my family can use their clothes and towels more than once before tossing them in a laundry basket.
Slowing down brought about surprising benefits, It freed up time to listen to audio-books, connect with my friends and do more yoga, which eliminated my chronic back pain. I started enjoying being at home with my son and spend time doing one very important thing- NOTHING.
When was the last time you did NOTHING? When was the last time you gave yourself permission to watch a movie, just for you? Or maybe take a very long bath, just for you? When was the last time you doodled and got lost reading a fun article while sunbathing on your backyard? Not sure about you, sister, but it has been YEARS for me. I got to tell you, it feels SO GOOD!
Recently, i had this fun experience at home. It was an early afternoon, and i was very tired, so i left our messy, crazy and loud house and i walked out with a big blanket and a favorite book to my garden. I put the blanket down, lied on the top of it and after a few pages of reading, i fall fast asleep. A few hours later, I was awakened by the sound of dishes clinking in our kitchen.
It turns out, i napped into dinner time and my spouse already fed our kids and there were cleaning up together. Wow.. i thought… I napped for a while. I felt calm, quiet and peaceful inside. Sun was going down and as i walked into our home, i realized, how easy it was to relax and let go. The world did not stop, but i did take a nap, first time in years.
So, it is happening, I have slowed down and learned to turn my speed way down, like a gas stove, my pot is not boiling over the edges, it is barely simmering, and I have to tell you, it feels nice! Taking time to enjoy things, feels amazing. It is restorative, calming and it sure makes me a better mom and less of a zombie…
Experiencing More Joy
Secrets to be told, I do not recall my parents doing things for fun. I grew up in the post-Soviet Union era and “joy” was not a priority. My parents always worked and on the weekends, we would commute to a community garden, where we worked all day on sun, cultivating a giant garden, so our family has plenty of vegetables to eat in the wintertime. We were exhausted all the time. All of us.
My son taught me a new model. He taught me how to do something for no other reason but because it feels good. Weird and very simple, but it was such a game-changer for me! Somehow, before he was born, I was very task and goal-oriented and very practical. Being honest here. I did not do anything that would not yield some sort of benefit for me. This is how I was raised. Don’t waste effort, time or resources. Wasting is bad!
For example, before he was born, I would go for a walk to exercise, our family would take family vacation to expose kids to improve their health; we would earn money to build a secure financial future etc. Anywhere I looked I would see goals, accomplishment and acquisitions. I had to be useful and used.
That sad approach yielded somewhat distant relationships with my family and almost no close-friendships, since those types of things required an investment of time, and I just did not see how would that get me closer to where I had to be in my “optimal level of success map”. I know, by now, you might be thinking… Wow, what a b… you were! Maybe, I was, like most of us, immigrants, focusing on tangible things and building secure future.
Now, that said, my son… He did not care about my career accomplishments, my title or my earning ability. He simply loved me for who I was, and that did something. It changed me. I realized I don’t have to be a certain way, or be better, earn more, be the best, win everything just to be accepted and loved. So I let the guard down and started testing my theories of having a more joyful life.
I started slow and built on that. It felt scary at first to claim my time and resources to have fun. I was uncomfortable explaining to my kids or my spouse, why do I need to go on girls night out, coffee with a friend or a hike, along. But, as I learned, having more fun is not a frivolous waste of time and resources, it is absolutely a must. Joy recharges us and makes us better parents. Doing things just for fun feel good and playful, it brightens up our day, puts a smile on our faces and makes us remember what it is like to be happy again!
I have a confession to make. I am a critical and super judgmental person, first and foremost of myself. Here is how it manifests itself: I like things perfect. I prefer everything and everyone around me perfect. And I mean “A+” perfect, all the time. I like it perfect. I feel awful if I am not.
Here is a little problem, the perfection of any kids is a perception and it does not exist. Now, since I spent most of my life comparing my present self to my perfect self, most of my life I was disappointed, depressed and very hard on myself and terribly hard on others. After I had my son, it changed.
By no means, I am not claiming to be cured. Not even close.
But when my son looks at me, I know he has no relevance on how tidy my hair looks like, whether I have make-up on, or whether I am wearing a fancy outfit or still in my pajamas. He does not care if our house is spotless, my garden has no weeds or whether I took the trash out, or washed those dishes last night. He loves me AS IS. Realizing that was no easy. It felt strange and uncomfortable. It felt like a trap. I don’t have to be anything to anyone? Hmmm…
Knowing, he loves me like that was very healing and humbling, and very hard to accept. My son taught me this one lesson, that fundamentally changed my view on my identity:
I am enough..
There are no IFs or WHENs to that statement. I am enough. Today. Now…
Nobody told me that before. My son did, by loving me exactly as I am, IMPERFECT…every day, every minute, always.. I only dream that I could learn from my son, how to love myself and love others by using this new “I am enough now” mantra. It has been a taught transition for me. It is so hard to let go.
It has been very hard to continue telling myself, regardless of how much is done or undone at the end of the day, I am imperfect and vulnerable and scared at times, but I am worthy or love and belonging and I am enough…
Here is a crazy extension to this new mindset: YOU ARE ENOUGH TOO!!
No demands, buts, ifs, whens or other bs.. YOU ARE ENOUGH. AS IS.
You are successful enough, smart enough, patient enough, you are an amazing parent, girlfriend, dad or a son. TODAY you earn enough money and you have enough time and your partner is also enough, and yes, your kids are enough too.
To celebrate my sons fourth birthday, I will leave you with this gem of a TED talk video. It is by far, Brene Brown of my favorite authors of all times. In my opinion, she is amazing. The “The power of vulnerability” TED talk video was watched over 36 million times and translated in 52 languages. It has to be good, right? Enjoy…
Questions to readers:
What about your life, how was it changed by having children?
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