11.21.2008

Anxiety, perfectionism, and control, or How parenting brings out all my character defects

It will surprise no one to learn that I'm an anxious parent. I've always been a sort of high-adrenaline person in almost every facet of my life, and parenting is no exception.

Actually, I will say that it has surprised me a bit. I had this idea that I'd be what one of my friends terms an Adventure Mom--intrepid, carrying Maybelle with me out into the world, fearlessly facing what comes with her strapped to my back, all good attitude and high spirits. And while I do have traits of the Adventure Mom--not a day has passed since Maybelle came home that we haven't gone out and done things in the world--in many ways I'd be better described as a Control Mom than an Adventure Mom.

Having Maybelle in my life has shown me just how ingrained some of my character defects are. For one thing, I'm realizing how much I like things to be predictable. While I don't want a life where every day is the same, I do really like to have a sense of how things will probably go, and why. This, of course, is about control: predictability means being able to chart a path and determine an outcome. And this level of predictability and rationality just doesn't seem to apply to life with an infant. Experienced parents have told me this in lots of different ways. My mom assures me that as soon as you settle into a pattern with a baby, it changes. When I expressed my frustration over Maybelle's suddenly new bedtime habits to my friend Jay, he said, "Get used to that feeling." Virtually all my friends with kids have said, "Welcome to parenthood" when I've shared any of these anxieties.

In some sense these glib responses are comforting, because another source of anxiety for me is my sense that there must be a solution that I'm just not coming up with. So I often believe that if I think or work just a bit harder, I'll solve the problem. The constant reminders that I need to get used to feeling frustrated are reality checks, reminding me that this just isn't how parenting works. My anxieties or frustrations aren't evidence that I'm doing something wrong--they're just part of the ride. I guess the thing I'm doing wrong is expecting this ride to be different than it is.

And here's a happy Maybelle update, with video: she seems to be learning to smile!

5 comments:

Cindy said...

I admire your honesty on this issue...I wish I had been this honest with my own parenting shortcomings early on, it would have saved everyone a little heartache.
Go with your instinct and throw all the parenting books away....

Conseula said...

Parenting books are for suckers. Cindy's right--throw them all out. And as one of the friends who has repeatedly told you "welcome to parenthood," I'm sorry if I sounded glib.

Anonymous said...

Far from being a character defect, your need for predictability and your love for your child will certainly lead you to create a predicable environment for Maybelle.

Relax into your Control Mom-ity; Maybelle will thrive in it. You know you and Biffle are far too whacky (dog poop newspaper traps!?!) for her to ever become bored with the routines you create.

Daniel said...

Do y'all get the sense that it's just all this enormous improvisation? I mean, yeah, that's life, too, but when you get kids, you're face-up with the sense that you're really not calling all the tunes.

I spent about 30 minutes entertaining a 3-year-old this afternoon. I'm absolutely exhausted.

Curtis said...

That video is absolutely the cutest thing I've ever seen. Period.