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What motherhood has taught me about slowing things down

Nadine Wild-Palmer
First time mum and writer

I didn’t expect motherhood to come with a side order of existential crisis. But here we are. When I was pregnant, a lot of people told me that my life was about to change. I thought it was a rather obvious statement, particularly as this was a change that I welcomed and was prepared for. However, what I was not prepared for was how I would feel, not just on the surface but deeply. Philosophically. Frankly, I just wasn’t prepared for how motherhood would make me feel about my own mortality.

As I observe spring shifting into summer around me, I have become hyper aware of the speed at which my baby is growing. I believe I’ve always lived life to the full and at quite a high speed, but watching my little squish grow has shown me just how fast life is really moving… and it scares me.

Naturally, I’m frightened that something will happen to me but also, for the first time in my life, I’m scared of getting old and what that actually means now that I’m responsible for another person’s life.

From my feeding station on the sofa, I watch the seasons progress. The weigela that, just a few weeks ago, was a muddle of dead sticks is now a bouquet of burgundy with insects thriving on its glorious fecundity. And, like the weigela, some of my baby’s growth seems to have happened overnight. All this makes me wonder: was I previously living my life so quickly that I didn’t notice these tiny details that make a life full? I hope not, but it certainly seems that way now.

But instead of living in a constant state of nostalgia and desperately trying not to miss a thing, I’m making a conscious effort to find ways to stay present. To enjoy the rapid rate at which my life is moving, now exemplified by the growth of my tiny human. It’s not always easy, but I thought I’d share my intentions here, in words. My attempt to make a mark that’s a little more permanent. So that maybe you can find a way to stay more present too.

Don’t rush

I have spent most of my life in a hurry, rushing from one place to another, as I think many of us do. But now I’m trying to slow the pace, allow myself an hour to get my little squish and myself out the door. And if we aren’t going to make it? Don’t sweat it. Instead of trying to make that train or class, I will choose to breathe and stop. Grab a coffee, literally slow down and smell the roses. There’s no one keeping score, so just let it roll on!

Listen and accept

This has been a huge learning curve for me as someone who is always trying to tidy up and organise everything. But my baby can’t be tidied up, cleaned up, or organised. She’s a tiny human with her own personality. She has up days and down days just like me. The only difference is that she can’t tell me what’s going on with her and so I am learning to listen, intuit, respond to her needs in the moment, and not think too far ahead. I have learned that, when I listen to her gabble, most of the time I do know what she wants or needs and, even when I don’t, that it’s okay.

Embrace

I am learning to do this in its entirety. To embrace my baby, alongside the changes happening to me physically and mentally. To embrace the new family dynamic and the deep stretch involved in the growth of my relationships and friendships even when it hurts. ​​I’ve never been great with change and I definitely suffer from some characteristics of the Peter Pan complex (not the good ones). But these aren’t traits I want to pass on.

So, I am learning that I cannot control everything but, similarly, I have noticed that there is some security to be found in embracing a loose but steady daily routine. This has been a game-changer. It helps me shape our days so that time doesn’t get away from us, and puts me back in the driving seat when we go off-road. I’m no expert but there’s a chance that parenting might be a state of mind - how I react in the moment seems to dictate now more than ever what will happen next and whether we go into meltdown or not. A routine means you always know how to get back on track. And, I’ve also discovered you can have routines within routines if you want to be super prepared for the next poosplosion!

My new motto? Embrace the shift (hmmm).