Happiest Mama Mondays: Go with the Flow

Being flexible, or going with the flow, is something I’m not too shabby at. You have to learn these traits as a teacher and they have served me well as a parent. That’s not to say I haven’t had to acquire a more bendable attitude since my daughter was born, because I have; Isa might be little but she has BIG preferences and opinions and she can rewrite my day on a whim. Being a parent requires infinite patience and flexbility.

In this chapter of The Happiest Mom, Meagan Francis recommends planning weeks, not days. “Just as pediatricians advise us to judge a picky child’s diet by what he eats over the course of a week rather than a single 24-hour period, it helps to apply a bigger picture attitude to our must-do (and want-to-do) plans and activities.” Sometimes I really want to go to Babies R Us today (I’ll be right by there!) but I don’t really have time and the reality is I can go anytime before Friday (Baby food pouches will be 8 for $8 all week, after all). And even if I planned to do whites, I don’t make myself stay up late to get them done if I know Mi.Vida has socks and an undershirt clean for the next morning. While Francis says it’s good to have a plan in your head for when you’re going to do things, making changes to that plan should not feel like you’re failing in some way. If you were going to run errands but find the sun isn’t hiding behind the fog when you wake up (a San Francisco summer miracle), it’s okay to spend the morning at the park instead of running to Target.

It’s easiest to be flexible when you’re starting with a slimmed down schedule. Days that are scheduled back to back are just begging to result in a pile up. I used to leave little to no time for unseen complications in my day and when traffic or backed-up doctor’s office pushed one thing back 20 minutes the rest of my day was a wreck. Now I give myself ample time to do anything and if I end up with an extra 20 minutes I just enjoy reading blogs on my iPhone while sipping a hot chocolate from Starbucks (I only use gift cards there, I promise). I also remember that while some things have to get done (making my six month dentist appointment) others don’t have to get accomplished right away (getting my legs waxed). Keeping those two types of tasks separate allows you to feel less pressure to get the non-essentials done.

Another way to slim down your schedule is to resist offering your services to everyone and every cause. If you don’t think you’ll have time to help your SIL plan her mother’s birthday party then don’t tell her you’ll be second chair of the party planning committee. If you’d love to help with your best friend’s fundraiser but know your daughter’s school play is that week, ask to be a part of the next event. Being honest with yourself, and others, about what you can commit to will stave off that feeling of being spread too thin.

One thing that I felt this chapter was lacking was a section on expectations. If your expectations of what you can accomplish, or how successful a day will be, are realistic, you will be less likely to worry things are flying off the rails. There will also be fewer opportunities for disappointment. I personally have a hard time with expectations (ie I expect too much and build things up until dissatisfaction is the only possible outcome).

Take this last week for example. I was very excited to meet a fellow blogger and her children at a local discovery museum – I had even canceled plans with my FIL to make the day work. That morning one of her kids was sick and she had to cancel last minute and of course it was too late to reschedule the original plans with my FIL. I was so upset that in the end I almost didn’t think to just go to the museum with my daughter alone. Turns out we had a great time and it was wonderful to watch her play without being distracted by another adult offering intellectually stimulating conversation.

I had another chance to practice tempering disappointment this weekend when I was forced to “go with the flow” in what quickly became a disastrous situation. This weekend was my last of the summer and we had a huge rafting/camping trip planned with my family and three others. My mom had been working on this all summer and I was very excited to go. The first day was great and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. Mi.Vida and I went rafting with the group while a family friend watched her six year old son and Isa at the camp site. That night, Isa had trouble sleeping in the tent with us and kept waking up when we put her in her own little travel tent. Finally, by midnight she was completely melting down, screaming and crying inconsolably. We realized that we couldn’t stay there, disrupting all the other campers’ sleep so we packed up our campsite (by lantern light) and drove the three hours home. Sliding into bed at 4am, exhausted and supremely disappointed that I would miss the second half of our long awaited rafting trip I felt despondent. Later in the day though, I was proud of our ability to change our plans so quickly and completely, doing what had to be done for our daughter, despite wanting so badly to stay there and make it work.

Are you good at going with the flow? When do messed up plans frustrate you the most? Do you have any tips on how best to deal with unexpected issues?

Next week: Make Your Bed

7 responses

  1. I see what you mean about the bamboo metaphor. I’m so sorry J was sick and we had to cancel our play date. I was so disappointed that we didn’t meet up, and have to admit that I wasn’t being very bamboo-ish about it while dealing with a super cranky three year old with a fever.

    Our two posts today are pretty similar: both deal with making the most of cancelled plans! Huh. We’re building good skills, right.?

    • I forgot to mention on my comment on your post – I was so sorry to hear about your plans in Austin getting canceled. I’d have been so disappointed. I hope you can do that trip sometime soon.

  2. I think a lot of this ties in with your aim-low-go-slow thing. I hate having to cancel/reschedule plans, but I have found that since having a baby, I am becoming WAY more flexible and it doesn’t bother me as much. I am learning to say no to even the most attractive of offers (playdates, money-making activities, family get-togethers) if I feel the fun isn’t worth the stress. And you are right to look at things in larger chunks of time- a bad hour doesn’t mean a bad day, and a bad day doesn’t mean a bad week.

    SO sorry your camping trip didn’t go as planned. Going with the flow, yes, but it still really sucks. But just think of all the future camping trips you’ll get to have when Isa IS old enough to enjoy a night in a tent!

    • I am also learning to say no to things because it just doesn’t make sense to try them. It can be hard (I hate missing out on stuff) but I am learning. And Isa continues to teach me what she is and isn’t capable of. And of course that changes all the time too! That is why we need to be flexible!

      As far as further camping trips, I’m not thinking of that any time soon. 😉

  3. I am HORRIBLE at going with the flow. I’m a consummate planner. I think I’ve gotten better with children, who throw wrenches into everything … but I still find myself frustrated. I think the most important thing I do for myself is try to gain perspective when my plans are thwarted. Why was it so important to do things the way I’d planned to, anyway? And what did I gain as a result of the thwarted plans? 🙂

    • Children are pretty astute wrench throwers, aren’t they? Sometimes I swear my daughter knows exactly what I don’t want her to do. She is psychic like that! I love asking why it was so important to do things the way I wanted, and to think of what I gained as a result of the thwarted plans. I”ll have to try that sometime. I actually was doing that about camping. I kept saying, now you have a whole day at home, you won’t be getting back late, you don’t have to worry about traffic, you can do laundry and chores. It was good to think of what was better about that scenario.

      Today I had a tough time with my FIL because he wanted to do everything a certain way and when I suggested a different way (that I knew would be better) it was like he didn’t even hear me. I finally just sat back and accepted what he was doing. It was hard at first but then it felt much better.

  4. I’ve always been a stickler for being on time (by which I mean EARLY) to every appointment and I’m the kind of person who will decide suddenly that TODAY is the day I MUST go to Ikea to get that new set of bedroom doors that I’ve been talking about for weeks. I’m still that person, but having a baby has made me more accepting that sometimes, my plans just aren’t going to work out. I’m definitely better at saying “No” (mostly) and if Will is having a rough day and needs to be home I will cancel our plans – I still don’t like it but it’s getting easier.

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