I’ll admit to being relatively “Type A.” In fact, a family member recently upgraded me to “A+” (I’m still not sure if the comment was intended as a compliment or poke!). But, I wasn’t always this way. If you ask my college friends, they’d probably describe a more carefree, “I’ll cram the night before”, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-skirt personality. When I was in my teens and early twenties, my family coined the term “Jackie-time” to mean “at your own pace” or even “10 minutes late."
Then I became a lawyer. And bought a house. And got married. And had a kid.
I was suddenly responsible for my clients, their cases, their deadlines. I had to track and justify my time in six-minute increments. I had chores, laundry, grocery shopping to do. I had to make time for my husband so that this marriage thing, you know, resembled a partnership. When we got pregnant with John, I researched pregnancy, healthy eating, breastfeeding, baby gear, making organic baby food, area pediatricians, etc. ‘til the wee hours of the morning.
After he was a few weeks old, I plotted his course, making sure every single one of his needs was anticipated…and calendared. I knew I’d be going back to work soon, and felt that if I couldn’t be the one with him during the day, I was going to make sure his caretakers gave my baby everything he needed when he needed it (as I saw it, at least). My beautiful baby boy was sleeping through the night, taking three solid naps, and poo-ing like clockwork when he was just three months old.
I had a schedule for work, for baby, for family time, for home chores, and for social events. If something threw us “off schedule”- a doctor’s appointment ran late, I hit traffic on my way home – I went into triage mode and, like the GPS lady who recalculates your route at a detour, I had to scramble to recalculate the schedule. I scheduled my work appointments so that I could be home at night to nurse and cuddle my baby, get in a few more minutes of tummy time, and do the nighttime ritual. Then my husband and I would eat dinner, have a few moments of adult conversation, then I’d work a few more hours from home. Sleep (some), wake, repeat.
This diatribe will not end with my sudden revelation that “Jackie-time” is a better way to live, or that I moved to a hippie compound a’ la Jennifer Aniston in Wanderlust where I’ve found freedom without clocks. (Look, I’ve referenced a relatively recent movie—things can’t be that bad!) To the contrary, I love schedules. I need schedules. I thrive on schedules.
What I needed was some give, some flexibility, a cushion…some forgiveness. It came in the form of my second son.
My son, Joey, is not what was unexpected; he was happily planned. But then, at six months pregnant, with a new house and 1 and ½ year old at home, I left my job to open my own practice with two partners. I at least tripled my “day time” responsibilities and obligations while chasing after a toddler at night and on the weekends…with 30 extra pounds and heartburn. Despite the changing responsibilities and needs of my life, I clung to my schedules with all of my might, hoping to cling to my sanity.
When Joey was born, I thought I’d ease him into a schedule and gradually modify John’s schedule, as necessary, until we were all at peak performance.
Who knew the newborn would have to nurse right when the toddler stunk up the room with a dirty diaper or was bordering on hysteria because his nap was so delayed? Or that they’d never, ever sleep at the same time? Or that the toddler’s voice was the one sure fire noise that would wake the baby (breaking glass and horn honking be damned)?
Fine, go ahead and insert your LOLs and SMHs here.
Now, in hindsight, I know that I actually had it really easy. My boys are great, they just happened to disagree that 2pm was family nap time. So, in their own laid back (Joey) or very vocal (John) way, they started to train Mommy. I was the one whose schedule needed to be “gradually modified.” Basically, two babies eased me in to the idea that I couldn’t plan, or plan for, everything. Inevitably, Joey would need an entire outfit change as we were headed out the door to [insert perfectly-timed-between-meals-and-naps appointment here] or John would refuse to [insert scheduled nap, meal, or other event here] until he found that single, crucial toy well hidden in the couch. I was forced by two rug rats to adapt and, thankfully, they had me well trained before I went back to work from my second maternity leave.
I still plan to the best of my ability. Now, though, I’m better prepared to handle something “interfering” with my schedule. Joey won’t nap. John gets an ear infection. My sitter runs late. My client needs something done yesterday. I have to handle a last minute meeting or court appearance for a colleague. My husband has to attend a work meeting in Detroit on Thursday. It snows. A lot. For days. (Hello, Philadelphia 2014 winter!)
What my children taught me is that these things are not unexpected: You can’t change that a newborn will be fickle with sleep, a toddler will get sick, traffic jams happen, clients have immediate demands, and weather can be severe in the Northeast. What you can change is how you react and, accepting that obstacles and interference with your perfectly laid plans can be expected, is the first step.
I still live and work within a schedule, but I’m no longer confined by it. So, when the inner GPS voice tells me that she’s “recalculating schedule” and it will add 12 minutes/change my dinner plans/require back up child care, I take it in stride, breathe, and adjust. And, I am much happier—and more productive—because of it.