The Fall 2011 issue of Real Simple Family has a Q&A on "What have you stopped worrying about as a parent?"
The answers range from things like "Leaving dirty dishes in the sink" to "Will my three-year-old choose an expensive private college?" to "My husband and I are raising our 12-month-old daughter aboard our sailboat and are about to embark on a world circumnavigation. I've stopped worrying about what others think of that. Our boat is small, but the world is large and meant to be explored."
It also includes some responses from kids on what their moms should stop worrying about. Some answers? "Sharks!" "Dad. I can take care of him."
This simple, cute article got me thinking about my own worry. I'm sort of a natural worrier. I feel like I'm pretty good at rolling with the punches, but I like to have contingency plans in place when those punches come around. There aren't too many things directly related to parenting that I've had to learn to let go of, yet. But my daughter's ten months old. Give it time.
There are, however, a lot of things I have had to let go of in other areas of my life in order to function. Some days these things come back, like monsters lurking behind corners in dark alleys. When they do, I respond the way any self-respecting adult responds to lurking monsters: I run, screaming.
Here, in no particular order, are some things I've learned to let go:
Housecleaning- No, no. I haven't given up on all housecleaning (though, depending on the day, if you stopped by my house you might think that's the case). What I have given up is the idea that I should have this perfectly clean, guest-ready house with shining floors and uncluttered corners. I almost never make my bed, there are often dry goods stacked on my kitchen counters, and the plethora of bags I carry back and forth to to work often live in the living room armchair. These things used to (and sometimes still do) bother me, but the amount of energy I put into trying to fix them was not worth the payout.
Hypothetical Beauty- Before I had my daughter, I would often put off things until I hit some hypothetical appearance. I'll buy new clothes or get that cute haircut when I lose ten pounds. I'll say yes to more events that require me to dress up when I get these arms toned.
This probably sounds cliche, but something about the empowerment of giving birth to a human being made me respect my body in the way it deserved all along. I'm not going to go around flaunting a bikini any time soon (ever), but I'm also not going to punish myself for not being someone else.
Mapping the Future- This is the by far the hardest one. I have been a future-mapper since before I had the ability to conceptualize the word "future." In kindergarten (kindergarten!) I declared I would be a marine biologist. As I aged, I plotted colleges, future moves, and hobbies around this desire. It remained until a doctor told me I had damaged ear drums and probably shouldn't dive--in high school. Instead of being devastated that my life plans were destroyed, I set forth making new life plans because the important thing was that a plan was in place. That plan (working in disease control) was ill-formed, something I found out after an excruciatingly boring semester as a biology major. When I switched to English, I immediately started mapping out a plan of what this new career path would look like.
Very recently, I've discovered that, yes, it's important to have goals and move toward them, but that narrowing my focus so rigidly was like putting on blinders to unconsidered opportunities.
None of my plans included a part-time PhD program and an unformed future career path. But I know that I work hard and enjoy what I do. Sometimes I feel panicky when I admit to myself that I don't exactly know what the next five years "should" look like, but I'm learning to let that go.What things have you let go?
Photo credit: against the tide