Fear. It’s been proven to be a motivating force in many situations. It’s not as sustainable—or healthy for that matter—as something like ambition or passion but it will keep you going for some time if you let it.
Fear has become my natural state of being since becoming a mother nearly two years ago. I’m not referring to the common fear that many parents have that something will happen to their child or that worse yet, something will happen to them and they will be unable to care for their child. My fear is rooted in the precarious balance that I have choreographed in my daily life in order to survive. I don’t ‘have it all’ but I have managed to hold on, with clenched fists, to some of what I used to have before my son. My career in public relations is thriving, although I have increased the hours I work remotely. My household is in order—in my definition at least, which is tidy and organized. And since my husband works long hours as a business owner, my son’s daily routine, which includes daily daycare drop off and pick up, is predominately in my hands and managed with precision.
I’ve grown so accustomed to operating independently on auto-pilot that even in bi-weekly therapy—an activity I started when I got pregnant—it is noted that I keep a fair amount of emotional distance. I resist going down the rabbit hole of embracing what I am feeling simply because I am fearful the process will paralyze me and turn my world of order on its head. I don’t know when I would even find the time to cry or reflect because those minutes are already accounted for and more likely, double booked.
The prospect of any disturbance gives me anxiety. What if my son wakes up with a fever tomorrow? What is one of my parents becomes ill? What if I am asked to stay at work late for a meeting or an event? I simply do not have the margins for these expected and common curve balls of life. Even at the suggestion of doing something outside of my regiment, such as my husband asking if I want to go out to a family dinner on a Wednesday night at 7 pm, I can feel my chest tighten. His take on it, rightfully so, is that I am inflexible. My take on it, is that I am trying painfully hard to still accomplish everything I feel is necessary before I put my head on a pillow and this dinner will make that impossible.
On the exterior I seem to have it all figured out and my family and friends compliment me on being so competent and polished. But even with the fortitude and discipline of a military general, I have set myself up to be as resilient as tissue paper. The slightest breeze in life will cripple me. And I know that this is not only an unsustainable way to live my life but also not the healthiest way to raise my son who will undoubtedly benefit from a mother who is not perfect, but rather human.
So, I am constantly reminding myself that it is ok to be just average on most days. That I need to stop being my own harshest critic and setting impossible standards for myself as a wife and a mother. It is ok to order take-out whenever I need to. And it is acceptable to put in 85% effort at work. Because this stage of life, of parenting a young child, is temporary and things will get easier and more manageable.
We can all benefit from asking for help and admitting to ourselves and others that we need it. It is important to establish and utilize support systems in family, friends and child care providers that can carry us through the tough weeks of stomach viruses and board meetings. Our kids need to see that even superhero moms are not superhuman. It is far better for them to know that, and for us to admit it.