I’ve confessed this before, and I’ll do it again here: I’m the Type A “need for order” and control sort. My husband even made up a in jest about the topic. For whatever reason (and there are likely many), I prefer to know what’s coming next. To plan what’s coming next. And to be able to predict with some certainty how things will play out.
Enter, parenthood. Where the unknown becomes the norm. Where soooooo many things are so incredibly out of our control.
When the heck will this baby arrive? No idea.
When will my baby fall asleep, and how long will his nap last? No idea.
Will I be able to go to work tomorrow, or will I be home with a sick kiddo? No idea.
How will my colleagues react when I walk out the door at 4:30pm every day to do daycare pick up? No idea.
Why did my toddler just have a meltdown about eating with a green spoon instead of a yellow one? No idea.
Will I have a daycare spot before I go back to work? Or will my 4-year old get off the Pre-K lottery waitlist at my local school? No idea.
When will my 6-year old stop melting down every time he loses at a game? No idea.
I could go on and on, of course. The list of what we have no control over in parenthood – or in life – is simply endless. And ultimately, that’s okay. Truly. Because as hard as it may be to believe, we’re not meant to have all the answers to everything.
As I was grappling with this issue of wanting control the other day, I had an internal conflict over the good things that come from a desire to know, versus the harmful sides of that desire for control. On the one hand, I think it’s good to be curious about the future. To create plans that propel you forward and make family life run a bit smoother. And to trust that things like scientific inquiry lead to valuable information.
On the other hand, we humans were not born to be crystal ball gazers. Yes, there’s planning and science…and there’s also just the messy reality that we can’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We simply can’t know exactly where we’ll be, what we’ll be doing, or how our kids will act or react.
My strategies for coping with the unknown have evolved as I’ve grown into my life as a parent. Here are four things I am truly finding helpful right now:
4 Strategies for Releasing the Inner Mama Control Freak
- My newest mantra: “Breathe in the mystery…breathe out the need to know.” I went to a 5Rhythms dance class a few weeks ago while I was on vacation, where the theme of the evening was about sinking into the mystery of life. Wow, did I need that re-orientation. For these past few weeks, I’ve adopted the mantra “Breathe in the mystery…breathe out the need to know” as a daily reminder and meditation. (Check out my other 10 favorite mantras for working mamas here.)
- Accept that enjoying order is part of who I am. We beat ourselves up about enough things in life. Why judge ourselves for craving some control? I’m happier (and calmer) when I can smile, love the person I am, and chuckle at that sweet little girl inside who just wants to KNOW!
- Plan the heck out of what I CAN plan the heck out of. I know I can be more present with my family when I’m with my family, and more present at work when I’m at work, when I’ve taken a number of thoughtful, mindful, planning steps to make my weeks go more smoothly. That’s why my husband and I do a Saturday meeting (check out our “Saturday basket” practice here) to consolidate chaos. And why we do an annual planning meeting and mid-year check-in.
- Work at a daily gratitude practice. I started a nightly gratitude journal after taking the Abundant Mama course a number of years ago, and it is one practice I’ve been inspired to keep up with over the years. “Finding the good” each night before I go to sleep helps turn off spiraling thoughts, and helps me to focus on what I have in life, rather than what I wish I had or wish I knew the answers to.
Do you struggle with this wanting to know what comes next? What strategies help you let go a bit? Do share them in comments to help us all out!
The more we are able to accept what IS and not worry as much about what WILL be, the more we can sink into and savor the sweetness and wonder that comes from being parents to some amazing and beautiful little people.
Heading back to work after maternity leave soon, and anxious about the transition? Join the next session of Mindful Return to learn new skills and meet other new working mamas.