Before I had a baby, I had things under control. I went to work at a certain time and returned home (mostly) within a certain time. I cooked dinner several nights a week. I paid my bills, did my taxes, caught up with friends, wrote a thesis, travelled. I knew that if I did A then B would be the effect.
I read baby books before my baby was born. I thought I had it all worked out. Yep, I was confident about this parenting thing. How hard could it be?
I didn’t realise that babies literally didn’t come with an instruction manual. Surprise surprise – they are all individuals just like we are! Or perhaps the manuals I was reading were for some other model of baby. Suddenly A might lead to C or Z or even F! and never consistently! I tried to make it better by reading more, getting more advice, only to become totally confused and riddled with self doubt.
Some of the hardest things that were beyond my control were sleeping and crying patterns. It got to the point where every evening I kept waiting for the bomb to drop. For weeks I couldn’t sleep, cursed by insomnia as well as sleep deprivation, my heart pounding as I lay there desperately trying to get some precious shuteye before my “shift” started.
I’ve realised now that my illusion of being in control before children was false, of course. We just think we’re in control and most of the time life plays along with this (just like easy babies play along with some parents’ thinking that they managed to train their babies into a nice sleeping routine).
Most importantly, I’ve remembered a saying from the very wise Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived a Nazi concentration camp. He said “Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” In other words, what I do have control over is how I approach the journey of parenthood. And that makes me somehow feel even more in control than I did before.