If anybody knew me before motherhood, they would have maybe described me as busy. Did I use a day planner? Sure. Did I follow it? Not usually. I, more or less, was able to go with the flow. I was even capable of throwing all caution to the wind and going on a spur-of-the-moment vacation. Maybe it was the sudden responsibility or the extreme sleep deprivation, but when my first baby was born, so was my type-A personality.
To begin with, I should clarify what kind of “type-A” I am. Because, type-A is not all-encompassing! I stayed very true to my organized-chaos method of cleanliness; you’ll find a pile of papers (and an Amazon box or two) strewn across my desk, but ask me for a specific document, and with photographic memory precision, I’ll pinpoint it in a second flat. By “type-A”, I mean time, routine, and schedule. My entire family was thrown for a loop when, suddenly, dinner had to be at 5:00 sharp, or breakfast at 6:30. When before, who knew about dinner? Breakfast easily morphed into brunch. But, this personality change didn’t come out of nowhere.
Similarly to every other mother and father out there, I couldn’t believe the maternity ward nurses handed me a little baby and sent me home without any instruction manual. As a result, I went on a search for one. With endless Google searches and parenting books, I mustered up the courage to conclude that possibly my only way to survive these two-hour sleep sessions was to time everything else. If I knew when my baby fell asleep, I could maybe sleep, too. When you’re in the trenches, knowing that you get to nap in an hour can be the one thing that keeps you going. So, working backwards, I began to time out wake times, meal times, play times, and, yes, bedtime!
On the other hand, this new (and improved?) me was an adjustment for everyone. My husband worked to balance my new drive to keep to a strict schedule. Weekly family dinners out became an entire event to prepare for all day long. Travel and family outings were saved for special occasions. We could no longer feel like doing something and just do it. I could feel the inconvenience I was forcing on to everyone else. At times, I tested and questioned it, too. But, looking back, I think it turned out the best for everyone.
Due to my type-A tendencies, I was able to survive my constantly nursing baby who seemed to dislike sleep. I was able to accurately predict each and every nap, mealtime, and fussy times. I could identify other issues like illnesses and milestones easier.
In this technology-obsessed parenting era, my over-abundance of research provided some form of anxiety relief when faced with the overwhelming supply of choices.
Were there other options than turning type-A? I know that there were. Was I capable of those other options? I don’t think so. I marvel at the mothers who keep themselves together through a play group that coincides with naptime, who don’t have to miss birthday parties and library storytimes, and who have babies who, in turn, are well-adjusted and able to nap an hour or two later without crying nonstop. Maybe my journey into motherhood naturally caused my rigid behavior, or maybe I learned this rigid behavior from just trying to survive a fussy newborn.
In a word, they say you can find a person’s true character when face with adversity. And within all of the adversity a new mother suddenly faces, my true anxious, helicopter, planning, type-A personality shined through.