Lists: This ‘Type A’ Mom’s Worst Frenemy

I really needed a break this week, friends.

Sickness, that common December friend, swept through my house, meaning I was the only person well enough to take care of… well, everything and everyone else. I felt like I spent four days (covering an entire weekend that is usually our chance to get things done and have fun as a family) being trapped inside the box of my house. It seemed I simply cycled through an endless rotation of getting snacks, water, clean laundry, naps, and more clean laundry for the rest of my family. I did all the night wakings with two sick kiddos, one of whom decided he couldn’t go back to sleep for two hours each night after his night feed. I missed a couple of holiday events that I was really looking forward to: Breakfast with Santa in our local community, and a festive family lunch. I LOVE Christmas, so this really bothered me. I had big plans to have the tree up and decorated on Saturday, and it didn’t happen for two more days. Finally, on Monday, I hit a new low, when I started to feel the first rumblings of illness myself, and had a small meltdown (griping loudly in the kitchen about the not being able to handle everything by myself anymore).  Two-year-old A interrupted loudly to tell me, “I want you to go OUT, Mommy.” Surprised by his intensity, I asked him where, and he said, “Walk to the PARK, by YOURSELF.” When I started to cry at the realization that I needed emotional regulation lessons from a toddler, he said, “No, Mommy – DON’T be sad.” I of course went to the backyard and cried a little more in my winter coat and pyjama pants. (No judgement, please; I like to think we’ve all been there?)

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my thoughtful spot

Fortunately, a wonderful friend of mine, when I told her what had transpired, said, “Positive takeaway: that’s a pretty effective strategy for dealing with negative emotions, so… Way to go for teaching him something that isn’t stomping and yelling?” And she was right. There WAS a positive takeaway – but I had been too upset to see it.

I was too stuck in the mire of what I WASN’T able to achieve. I was only thinking about the expectations I’d had before the sickness struck, the plans of what we were going to do, what I was going to check off my list, what I was going to accomplish. And I’m a person who likes the plans to be fulfilled, who needs to get things done.

canada-post-boxWhen I finished crying in the backyard, I decided to go out for 20 minutes to knock one thing off the list – getting stamps for my holiday cards. If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you will appreciate the absolute rush of euphoria I felt upon popping those envelopes in the box. It was like the world was new, the day was brighter, and I suddenly felt everything would be alright.

This is the epitome of what it means to be Type A, I thought as I stood in the parking lot. In that moment, absolutely nothing short of getting something knocked off the damn list would have made me feel any better at all.

But now, a few days later, I can think more clearly about the whole situation. And there’s something else that could have made me feel better, if only I had been able to see it, if only I hadn’t been so mired… and that’s all the things I already WAS getting done.

I was holding down a fort alone that usually has two captains. In four days, I:

  • got groceries
  • did five loads of laundry
  • measured out a million doses of infant/children’s Tylenol and Motrin
  • tidied toys about sixteen times
  • read books
  • helped A with puzzles
  • played trains when A was up to it
  • made endless snacks and meals
  • cleaned up the dishes made by endless snacks
  • bathed children, sometimes more than once daily
  • breastfed little R twenty-two times
  • soothed crying people
  • changed bedding
  • fluffed pillows
  • retrieved blankets
  • found lovies and favourite blankies
  • found puke buckets
  • cleaned up puke that didn’t make it into the bucket or the toilet
  • showered! twice!
  • set up and decorated a Christmas tree
  • vacuumed up pine needles
  • finished writing Christmas cards
  • mailed Christmas cards!
  • and
  • TAUGHT MY CHILD SOMETHING OF VALUE! (sure, maybe I didn’t do this technically within those four days, but the evidence arrived then, so I’m taking it!)

I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, but that’s not the point. The point is, these are mostly things that aren’t usually on any list. And I don’t want to start putting things like these on lists (god no!), but I want simply to remind myself, and Type A moms like me out there, that expectations and lists can sometimes be our worst frenemy.

They start out all hopeful and encouraging, but they often soon become mocking little remnants of the you you hoped to be but now just don’t have the energy for. This is especially true when you are hit by unforeseen circumstances, like sickness, teething, sleeplessness, or you know, any number of totally normal things that happen with little kids.

So I don’t want to give up my lists, because it feels so truly awesome when I get to check them off. But I think I have to find a new relationship with them. I have to be able to adjust them to the curveballs of life, and recognize when things that don’t normally deserve to be on a list suddenly deserve a little more recognition.

After everyone else finally got a bit better, my illness got worse. And I had to adjust yet again – the items on my lists fell even further behind. But I did what I could, which is all that matters. The rest, as we say, is #goodenough.

 

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