I listen to a lot of podcasts and read blog posts about motherhood and parenting. I come across two themes of advice that are useful yet seem in conflict with each other.
The first is to not get stuck in “when, then” thinking.
“When, then” thinking is a thought pattern of putting off doing or being or feeling a certain way until you have some particular set of external circumstances lined up. Some examples:
”When I get back to pre-baby weight, then I will wear a bikini at the beach.”
”When my kids are in school, then I will start working out.”
”When my baby sleeps through, then I will start that Project I’ve been dreaming about.”
”When the kids are older, then we can go on date night again.”
The second is to “respect your season”
This piece of advice is to acknowledge the stage of life you are in and give yourself grace when you aren’t achieving all the things when you want to. For example: being heavily involved in a local Theatre Group may not be possible when you are the working mother of small children, but could be ideal in a later season such as when the kids are in high school.
Engaging with these two ways of approaching what I do with my time and energy comes up so often in this stage of parenting a baby and a toddler. If I’m woken throughout the night and decide to skip my workout in response, am I putting off looking after my health, or giving myself a break and respecting the season?
Before I became a mother, I used to think a lot more in terms of dichotomies. Either one story was true or the opposite/competing story was true. Motherhood has taught me that multiple truths can exist at the same time, and a lot of life now is riding the tension between coexisting yet conflicting viewpoints.
At the moment, I’m attempting to avoid “when, then” thinking, as I think I did a bit too much of it between baby number one and baby number two. I don’t want to sit around and wait until the circumstances are just right for me to live the life I want to live. At the same time I try to recognise how intense this season of parenting is and not push myself to do too much too soon. Sometimes I miss the mark but I feel like more often than not at the moment, I get the balance right.