I use to reserve a 3 AM spot every six months or so for lying awake and feeling intense emotion—as all emotion is at 3 AM. Usually this centered around times like starting a new job, navigating a rocky relationship, moving across the country, etc.
These days I fill that 3 AM slot so often that I overflow into other moments during the day.
I’m that crazy lady you see in the corner of the coffee shop crying into her novel. The one with spit up on her shoulder and a cup of earl grey tea.
I wrote about how I was prepared—how parenting was less overwhelming when I looked at it as just another adventure that I had the skills to tackle. That knowledge was freeing for me. Once I got it from my head to my anxious heart.
Yet parenthood still felt so much bigger, so much wilder, so much MORE than I anticipated.
Over the last 8 months I have realized there is one very stark and frightening difference between today and my life up to this point.
I can’t turn the emotion off.
I can’t zone out for a few weeks until I recover.
I can’t detach mentally and physically from the present.
I can’t escape ALL OF THE FEELINGS.
This ability was a valuable tool in some of the intense periods of my life. I’m not talking about an unhealthy detachment because of trauma or discontentment.Anyone who has faced depression, periods of intense academic study, a high intensity job, years on the mission field, or counselling hurting people understands this skill intimately.
You can’t deeply feel everything all the time or you will become burnt out and therefore more useless than if you take a mental break.
Sometimes Jim Elliot’s famous words “Wherever you are, be all there”, should be applied,
“Be as much there as you possibly can.”
Here is the thing.
Being a parent does not allow that.
Here is a human being who belongs totally and completely to you and it totally and completely dependent on you for physical, mental, and spiritual health. And not only can you not stop loving or caring for them altogether, you can’t lessen the love or decrease the caring even if you tried. You are attached to every part of them, whether you like it or not.
I can’t emotionally distance myself from Merek, just because suddenly I am of terrified of losing him and lay awake worrying about every disease or possible accident.
I can’t detach myself physically just because I am feeling overwhelmed by the 24 hours cycle of feeding him, changing him, bathing him, and cleaning up after his little tornado trail.
I can’t stop investing time and energy into his life, just because I am really tired that day.
I can’t stop training him, just because he keeps doing the same thing over and over and over again.
I can’t help crying over touching stories or getting ridiculously excited when he learns to stack the blocks by himself.
I can’t help feeling rushes of love, pride, embarrassment, or frustration depending on his actions.
There are hours, afternoons, and whole days at work when I am not physically with him.
But still he is at the back of my mind the whole time.
I carve out time alone during the day, get babysitters, and keep pursuing my professional life.
But I never totally leave him behind.
This is the biggest transition for me. The one thing I did not prepare for. The hardest place for me to find balance.
Suddenly for first time in my life I am forced to be present with my emotions all the time.