One of my most recent challenging life transitions has been having kids. So far, hands down, this is the most difficult life transition I have handled yet. Last week I had blogged about life transitions being so difficult because of the flip flopping between the past and the future and I think this is no exception. I struggled with the idea of having a little one dependent on me and losing a good majority of my personal freedom (future thinking). I kept thinking about people I had known as parents and some of the issues they talked about were not having any "me" time (past thinking). "Say goodbye to your personal life" is what I heard most often. How discouraging. I was determined that I would still have a personal life and I would find a way to balance it all! (cough... control freak perfectionist anyone?!)
I don't know about everyone else, but avoiding things or pretending they don't exist does NOT work. I really struggled in the beginning of my first six months of being a new mom. No one really clued me in to the amount of time committed to your newborn baby; especially if you are a breastfeeding momma. My mind was completely preoccupied with the baby. What time did she eat? Is she eating enough? When did she last have a diaper change? Is she sleeping enough? How can I help her sleep more? Is it okay to hold her through out the day or should I lay her down more? What's the scoop on co-sleeping? Schedule or no schedule? How are these present situations going to affect her in the future?
No longer were my thoughts me-focused. How should I wear my hair today? Does this outfit look okay? What am I going to eat today? I had somehow convinced myself that I was losing me and all I was now was my daughter's mom. I quickly started thinking about how I was going to manage doing anything else in my life beyond being a mother (future thinking). How am I possibly going to figure out how to still be a wife, counselor, business woman, friend, and daughter? After six months of trying to split myself into parts, I realized that I hadn't been voicing any of my frustrations, anxieties, short comings, or even achievements with anyone because none of my friends had kids so I didn't think they'd understand (Past issue with friends still haunting my present relationships). How often do we not express what we're feeling because we assume others won't understand?
Thankfully I work with some pretty great counselors. I expressed what was going on to one of my coworkers and realized that what I was telling myself wasn't true. I had some idea of how I needed to be and it wasn't working out that way. After realizing I needed to share the load of my emotions and thoughts with my friends and family, I realized I needed to stop splitting myself into parts and realize that I am just one Rachael... with many different roles. I just needed to remember my values, realign my priorities, and everything would balance out. By flip flopping between past and future I was preventing myself from growing into a better version of myself because of the shoulds and fears that were preventing me from moving forward and adjusting to my "new" life. Who needs to think about themselves much anyways? I'm much happier NOT having my thoughts so "me-focused" and being able to embrace the present more fully. It's amazing how much more of life you pick up on when you embrace the "now."
"When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which NEVER HAPPENED." - Winston Churchill
Have you ever had your worries take away from experiences you have had?
"If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present."
I read this quote a few weeks ago and have been really soaking it up lately. Its been helping me refocus to the present. When I'm feeling blue, I think about what's going on and it usually IS something from the past. I regret something I did or didn't do. I wish I would have done something different. I think about how I could have said something differently in order to get a different outcome. But what CAN I do about it? Is it wrong to think about our past? I think it depends how you do it. If you look to your past in order to learn from mistakes and make yourself into a better person, then by all means, keep considering the past. But when you LIVE in the past, continually problem solving something you can't do anything about, and you don't allow yourself to accept it, that's when it becomes a problem and depression sneaks up on you.
On the other hand, when I recognize I'm feeling tense, frustrated, and flustered, I find I am worrying about something that hasn't even happened yet, how it's going to turn out, and how I'm going to be able to handle it. Anxiety isn't a bad thing. It prepares us for things and helps us be proactive about situations we will face. (read more here)
Battling my inner control freak comes with a lot of mind wars.
"Why would I delegate tasks when I can do it just how I want it done?!"
"I'm afraid others won't do it correctly and it will reflect badly on me."
"If I just do it, I know it will be perfect."
I know it sounds quite controlling, but it also sounds like fear to me. Christopher Knippers, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at Pacific Coast Recovery in Laguna Beach, California stated control freaks "live with fear and insecurity and an illusion that they can have control over other people or that they can attain perfectionism, but it’s really not possible.” Being a control freak isn't always a bad thing. It drives someone to excel, be performance driven, and succeed. Unfortunately, it also can lead to self-inflicting pressure and an inability to relax because of a striving for something unattainable. We all like feeling in control because of the sense of power that comes with it. Who would want to give that up?
Thankfully giving up control does NOT have to mean giving up the power. Power can also come with an ability to delegate tasks well and learning to be more empathetic to those around you so they feel appreciated and perform better. When one doesn't delegate, they get over worked, stressed, and resentful towards others around them. This can really cause issues with ones personal and professional life.
I usually always focus on the process of things because that tends to be where it matters, but with a control freak, sometimes the focus needs to be on the outcome instead. If others use a different way of doing things but the outcome is the same, then that's all that matters. Working on empowering those around you and letting go of control is hard. Forbes Magazine (2010) states the transition "will be like nails on a chalkboard, but the payoff is less stress, increased confidence, and best of all, improved relationships in all areas of your life." Sounds pretty good to me. What do you think?
Rachael Kool, professional counselor and normal, everyday adult screw up