I spent all of my twenties avoiding the possibility of motherhood, like a little Peter Pan. I worried that I’d be a terrible mother full of impatience and selfishness if I got pregnant before I was ready. So imagine my surprise when, within minutes of turning thirty, that mythological clock started tick-tocking louder than a jet engine, but with more resonance and rhythm—deafening!
I then spent a few years tormented by the thought that a baby wouldn’t happen. So when I became pregnant two months after my thirty-sixth birthday, I was heart-glad, shaking with happiness, unbelieving of my good fortune. Throughout my pregnancy, I stifled this joy because there was a part of me that worried that because I wanted a baby so much, something would spoil the dream from becoming reality.
At some point during my worry-wart pregnancy, I made a deliberate bargain with myself that (if) when the baby arrived happy and healthy, I wouldn’t let tomorrow’s worries rob me of today’s joys. I made a pledge that as long as I did my best, I would abide by the infamous words of the comic Roseanne: “If the children are alive when I get home, I’ve done my job.”
To ensure I live in the moment and don’t allow anxiety or fear to spoil a minute of my new life as a mother, I track how I’m getting on by keeping a record of our special moments so that I can reflect on them at my leisure, re-live them, crystallize them, and smile the smiles again.
Write in a Notebook
I work three days a week outside the home (late shifts, three to midnight). Before I get into work, I write in a notebook what’s happened that day with my son and me. I write what time he woke up and what we had for breakfast. Perhaps we hugged for five whole special minutes before I dropped him into daycare. Or he mastered walking backwards. Or I used a hula hoop as a lasso and dragged him laughing towards me for hugs and kisses. The details do matter and are a thread through the fabric of time.
This writing in a notebook means that when I have forgotten yesterday entirely, I don’t have to worry that I’ve lost a day of my son’s babyhood because it’s written down. It’s not about writing well or orderly; it’s about the flavor of our week, approximate milestones, and happy laughing minutes.
One day after an arduous outing to the bank (mortgage meeting), my husband and I walked our boy to his daycare Christmas party. It was the first time he’d held both our hands and walked between us. What a glorious moment. And I wrote it down. I can feel his tiny hand in mine any time I read through my notebook. (I also drew us as stick figures so I knew what I meant!)
Use the Ten-Second Timer
It goes without saying that I take (obsessive) photos of my child. But the ratio of him to me in the pictures is probably 50 to 1—I’m the one behind the camera. So I made a quiet pact that at least once a month I’ll take a ten-second timer photo of him and me. We spend so much time together, so it’s nice to have a photograph to prove it. Also the smiles are out of this world when someone (me) has only ten seconds to run back, bouncing the baby along with me, to the photo spot!
Tell Three Things I Love About Him
At naptime (if I’m working that night) or bedtime, I tell my boy three things I love about him during our day together. He’s so little he doesn’t understand the words, but he understands the intent and I can feel him relax into my arms before he goes for a sleep. I always follow it up with, “The fourth thing I love about you . . . is everything!” and every time, without fail, he giggles and snuggles me a little closer. This is a way to keep track of what happened in our day. It’s amazing that by bedtime I’ve forgotten most of the day, but this way I get to be deliberate and pick out moments.
The whole parenting thing for me is, of course, a work in progress—my son is only eighteen months old so I’ve got plenty of learning curve balls to catch! And I’ve no doubt they’ll include plenty of situations in which I’ll have to try not to worry. But I’ve made a choice to try to enjoy every minute—to throw worry to the wind and instead know my time is better spent endeavoring to glimpse each grain of sand as it slips through the egg-timer of our lives.
QUESTION: What are your common worries as a mother? Could writing down beautiful moments with your children, creating special photographs with them, and verbalizing your deep love for them help to negate those worries?
CHALLENGE: The next time you grab the camera to take a photo of your children, set the ten-second timer and run to get in the picture, too!
Image provided by Georgina Ham.