Motherhood Is Teaching Me to Live in the Moment

Perhaps this is what life will always be like. A back-and-forth between chaos and calm.
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Close-up of a woman smiling with her son
Close-up of a woman smiling with her son

Before I had a baby, I felt like I always had to be "on." I didn't know how to do "nothing." There was always work to be done, places to go, social events to attend. I didn't like to sit idly without a thing to do. It made me feel restless and sometimes even guilty. I felt so wrapped up in doing "something," that I never fully appreciated the moments of "nothing." The moments of stillness, of calmness, of appreciating the beat of your own heart and nothing else.

I admit that I would often get so wrapped up in doing something and going after goals that I lost sight of what was in front of me. I'm a planner, and I like things like stability and predictability. I thought if I chased after goals and knew every step it took to get there, it would help bring the stable predictability I craved. And it did, to an extent. But the problem was, I was always living with one eye towards the future and what comes next, rather than living in the moment. I wasn't living in the present, but rather for a future that didn't even exist yet.

Enter a small, helpless baby. I knew my stable, predictable life was ending. At first, it was hard. There is nothing predictable about a newborn baby. There is nothing stable about their emotions, either. He would be peacefully snoozing on me one second and the next, screaming his head off, with nothing to calm him down. Those moments were harder than I imagined. I felt so helpless when I had no idea what he wanted. When I tried everything and he was still crying. I craved my predictability. I craved my stability. I wondered if maybe I wasn't cut out for motherhood after all.

As the days passed and chaos still ensued (as it often does with a newborn), I realized I had a choice. I could either fight it or roll with it. It wasn't easy, but I stopped fighting it. I stopped looking for predictability and started embracing the uncertainty. I couldn't control a newborn's erratic schedule and his ever-changing emotions. And the less I fought it, the more I could actually enjoy it and the little moments of "nothing" that were actually very much "something."
The day I stopped chasing the future, I could start appreciating the now. Small moments that felt insignificant before felt so special now. My husband and I getting a rare moment to actually eat dinner at the same time (instead of one of us shoveling in food as fast as possible so the other can take over baby duty). Five minutes to myself to take a hot shower suddenly felt like heaven. The rare time when everyone is asleep at night and the house is quiet and still.

But it wasn't just the moments of silence and calm that I came to appreciate. Even the chaos has its beauty. Sometimes the baby is cluster feeding in the middle of the night and I feel so very tired and ready to be done. Yet, I often look down at his sweet head and feel his warm body snuggled close. I'm exhausted, but this moment is fleeting. Before I know it, we won't have these middle of the night feedings. I won't get these extra cuddles. So even if I'm beyond exhausted, I hold him a little tighter and remember to appreciate this exact moment in time for what it represents. A time represented by a baby growing in size, in love, and in understanding of the world around him.

It's not as if life is perfect. Some days I lose my cool. Some days I still feel frustrated and helpless. But, I keep trying to remember these days will be gone before I know it. These are the days he needs me most. So, I try to find something to appreciate, even on the hardest days. No longer do I feel like I need to chase after days full of doing big things. Instead, I focus on the little things.

My life is no longer predictable. I no longer have an eye to the future. Instead, I'm living each moment for what it is. And I feel like I'm finding all the things I may otherwise miss. The moment when the baby grasps my finger tightly when I try to put him down. The moment when his eyes focus and he wants nothing more than to stare intently into my eyes, as if he's memorizing who this "mommy" person is. My son looking at me with a smile filled with all the joy and wonder of the world. They are small, quiet moments, but they feel monumental. They help make up for the chaos.

Perhaps this is what life will always be like. A back-and-forth between chaos and calm. I don't know what the future holds, and that's OK. For now, as my son sleeps soundly in my arms, I know that living for these small moments feels so much better then chasing after whatever comes next. After all, I'll find out what the future holds when I get there. Eventually.