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