Throughout my life I’ve prided myself on being a disciplined person. I get it in my head that I want to do something, and then I execute on that idea. This kind of thinking has allowed me to accomplish goals like traveling the world, building a career, playing musical instruments and building a family.
Yet, I see now that the biggest challenge for me in being a parent is discipline, in every application of the word.
There’s the discipline of being a parent who must show relentless patience, even in the face of exhaustion and despair. When my kiddo has just made a huge mess or screams when I change her diaper for the thousandth time in her life, I have to summon up all my composure and realize that I am the adult, and she is learning and cannot yet help how she acts. I need the discipline to teach her in these and other moments, so that she will do great things in this world.
There’s the discipline of living my life in a way that will allow me to express who I am and fulfill my dreams. Since being a mom, I started my own consulting practice on education reform so I can work flexibly to be a parent and professional. I committed to a weight loss regiment and lifestyle where I’ve seen around 50 pounds shed from my postpartum body. I’ve connected with neighbors and friends to schedule playdates and share parenting tips, and build community.
The thing is, I’m quite exhausted, in every application of the word.
The rub is that I want to achieve all of these things: parent, worker, friend, wife, community-member, well-rounded individual. But I am coming to the conclusion that it’s just not possible, and I have to relax the rigidness of my life so I can be happy. I can’t crumble when we’ve forgotten the baby’s bottle 30 minutes away at someone’s house, or because we’re sitting in unexpected traffic (again) on Route 66 in Fairfax.
These feelings are surely mixed up in the ever-growing realization that there are many pressures of being a parent in today’s society – with limited time and too many inputs. This is a theme I’ve discussed before on my blog, and will continue to explore.
What I keep coming back to is, at the end of the day, did I have fun with my daughter? Did we laugh together? Did she learn something, either about herself, her world or the people who are her guides on the journey of life? Ironically, I find that as much as I want to discipline her to behave “correctly” and follow “the rules” because this will make my life easier, I also don’t want to squash her curiosity. Right now she can do whatever she wants. It is both a power trip and a humbling task to mold her into what I, personally, think is appropriate in this life.
What I’ve learned about discipline is that, as a parent, sometimes I’m better without it.