Before I had kids, I was totally on top of things. I was your typical Type-A overachiever, organized and punctual. I lived by my to-do list and things got done. The house was clean, the bills were paid and I never missed a deadline. If I had an exam to take, I studied hard and passed it. When I needed to lose weight, I picked a diet and dropped the pounds. I managed to write a thesis, work full-time and plan a wedding without breaking a sweat. And if I did happen to break that sweat, I just took a shower. Because I could.
I approached my first pregnancy with the same obsessive-compulsive style that had previously served me so well. I read books, surfed the web, signed up for every parenting listserv I could find and made list after list. I created detailed birthing plans and spreadsheets comparing strollers and downloaded every parenting podcast I could find. I was going to kick parenthood's ass, even though I had no idea what, exactly, that meant.
And then I actually became a mother. The birth of my first daughter (which involved a four-day labor that definitely did NOT conform to my birth plan) taught me that the illusion of control which had served me so well for so many years was, well, bullshit. Even my most carefully laid plans were constantly waylaid by diaper blow-outs and napping children (or even worse, non-napping children) or fevers and rashes of unknown origins. I stopped making lists, because they would have consisted of nothing more than "take a shower" and "try to remember to get out of house" and "take a few deep breaths and try not to lose your shit." Most of those cute little check boxes I draw next to each item would have remained unchecked at the end of the day anyway.
I had gained a daughter, but completely lost my center. My search for solid ground led me to the world of self-help. It didn't take long for my obsessive tendencies to kick in, and before I knew it, I was a junkie. A self-help junkie. I became certain that if I could just find the right mantra or mentor, I would be back to my old control freak self in no time.
I started following the Twitter feeds of all sorts of parenting experts and inspirational speakers, Zen retreat centers and mindfulness experts. I've saved hundreds of Tweets, mostly inspirational quotes and links to articles about how to lose weight or get a good night's sleep that I'll probably never get around to reading. My Facebook feed is filled with images of sunsets and affirmations, reminders to enjoy the moment and be grateful for everything I have. I've bought Groupons for yoga studios and guides on how to achieve happiness in 28 days. I eat up every last bit of it. I click on every link, download every book to my Kindle and revel in all of it.
I love it all, but at the end of the day, I'm still a junkie, and I'm not sure I'll ever be a guru. I don't keep a gratitude journal, I rarely make it to yoga class and I still haven't dropped the baby weight. Yet something is changing. I'm slowly starting to regain my footing. Maybe it's because parenting has gotten easier; my girls now poop on a fairly reliable schedule and usually sleep through the night. But I'm also getting better at motherhood, at the new version of me. I'm coming to terms with the reality that my life will never be the same; the days of predictability and control are over. Success can no longer be defined in terms of completed projects or favorable reviews. But I have started making to-do lists again: Take a breath. Hug the kids. Repeat.