Tonight, right after dinner, I paused and looked around my house. My 5-year old had just dumped his entire Halloween candy basket all over the dining room floor, while exclaiming with frustration that he had lost a bag of Cheetos. My almost 8-year old was playing a snake charmer song on the piano for the millionth time. Loudly.
The kitchen sink was overflowing with dishes, and a peek into the refrigerator revealed that we’d be out of milk before breakfast. My husband was still trying to appease complaints about the sweet potatoes he made by pulling out some carrots. My phone was buzzing with a reminder that my little guy had a dentist appointment I needed to take him to at 8am tomorrow morning. And a legal client was trying to schedule a call with me for the morning.
If you’re a working mama, I suspect you can relate. The daily scene is the pictorial definition of chaos. The dictionary definition of “chaos” per Merriam Webster is:
(1) a state of utter confusion; (2) a confused mass or mixture; (3) a state of things in which chance is supreme; or (4) the inherent unpredictability in the behavior of a complex natural system.
In my book, #4 completely nails the working parent ecosystem.
No, I Don’t Automatically See Chaos as Beautiful
I LOVE order. I love predictability. Routines. And the cozy comfort of knowing what’s about to happen next. I have to work hard to curb my Type A tendencies. (Hence my earlier post: Curbing the Inner Mama Control Freak.) So when I pause to consider whether there’s an upside to all this chaos in my life as a working parent, I don’t come out with an automatic “oh yes, of course.”
This is not a sugar-coated “love the chaos – it’s beautiful!” blog post. But it is a “chaos has taught me useful lessons and seems to be an important part of life” post.
I’ve been reading an old book recently by the late Gabrielle Roth, the founder of the 5Rhythms movement meditation practice (of which one of these so-called “5 rhythms” is chaos). The book is called Sweat Your Prayers: Movement as Spiritual Practice, and in it, Roth writes the following about chaos:
As an energy, chaos gets a bad rap in our culture. Often when I’m teaching I feel the room contract with anxiety as we approach this rhythm. Chaos implies being out of control, and this makes a lot of people nervous. The word comes from the Greek word ‘chaos,’ meaning empty space or abyss. Most of us are afraid of emptiness because we consider it a vacuum, a negative force. In reality it is a positive space, loaded with potential, free of all the strictures and structures of the ordinary world. Chaos has many teachings…In chaos it is ordinary to be visionary, which is why it is the realm of art…
We try desperately to hold our lives together, to keep everything secure and predictable, but life is none of those things. Chaos teaches us how to hang in the unknown and dig it.
Chaos, she reminds us, is in a Jackson Pollack Painting. The blending of a smoothie. And in Niagara Falls.
But Surrendering to Chaos Does Seem to Make Life More Meaningful
Okay, so I might not have a bias for loving chaos. But I have to agree with Roth that chaos – and in my case, a particular flavor of it called “working parent chaos” – has proven to be an excellent teacher.
There is no longer any part of my life that can afford to be inflexible or rigid. I’m much more able to adapt to what’s thrown at me – at work or at home. I can surrender to the unknown with greater ease. When I dance the 5Rhythms, my greatest “aha” moments about life have come in the dance of chaos. Even if it’s not my instinct, I’m teaching myself to see the creative wonder in this chaos.
The elementary school playground this morning was abuzz with hundreds of children climbing, jumping, screaming, and running. It was chaos…and art.
Children’s books a legal client of mine gifted my boys are strewn all over my couch. It is chaos…and a gesture of love and appreciation.
My oldest plays his snake charmer song on repeat (and practices without being asked). That is chaos…and music to my ears and to my soul.
My youngest blows crazy raspberries on my belly at unexpected moments. That is chaos…and the reason I love being his mama.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.