Motherhood is Organized Chaos: 4 Areas of Near Constant Change
Organized chaos is still chaos. By definition, chaos is messy, confusing and disorderly.
I have a classic STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) mind.
I dislike chaos.
I need rules.
I love order.
I adore predictability.
I live to identify problems and find lasting solutions.
I function at my best when correct and incorrect answers are the two options.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered motherhood offered precious few opportunities for me to utilize these strengths! But, I’m not going to lie; being a high-grade problem solver was extremely useful while raising my daughters!
Nevertheless, it was difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that there were no permanent solutions. The most I could achieve was temporary stability because parenting is a roller coaster ride with constant ups and downs. I learned to enjoy my moments of peace and braced myself for sudden shifts. I believe my ultimate success as a mother occurred after I recognized that motherhood is simply organized chaos.
One of the most common words that I used over the past twenty-five years was: “WHAAAAAT?”
I was constantly surprised when a previously calm aspect of parenting suddenly took on a life if its own. It demanded new attention to manage it; consequently, I had to pause and reorganize my brain. I then had to decide which things to stop monitoring in order to focus on the new area of concern. Of course, that meant that in time, the new unmonitored area would become out of control. The parenting vicious cycle is real.
My best advice for my fellow Momma Addicts (MA) is to take a deep breath, then just start moving. There is often no time to plan for the best course of action because the situation could rapidly spiral out of control if immediate steps are not taken. Later, you can decide whether or not you made the best decision because now is not the time second guess yourself. This is called survival mode of motherhood.
The unpredictability of motherhood comes at a rapid pace and no topic is off limits. Our children are built to constantly topple any castle of calmness that we dare to build. Some flashbacks of unexpected chaos included me questioning the following:
Why did my infant start crying as soon as we checked in at the airport?
This has been your favorite food for weeks. Why is it on the floor now?
What is wrong with sleeping in your favorite pajamas tonight?
How come don’t you want to wear the outfit to school that we spent hours picking out last night?
Why are you still crying about something that happened on the playground this morning at school?
Who are these children who look like me but are running up and down the grocery store aisles knocking food off the shelves as they play tag?
These examples represent some early preschool chaotic events that immediately came to mind but sadly remain as extremely vivid memories 20 years later. Don’t even get me started talking about the chaos that the middle and high years school brought! Just as your Nana does for you, your job as a mom is to calm down your kids, focus their attention on problem-solving for themselves and teaching them consequences before they got swept away again.
I soon found it to be a waste of time and energy to dwell on the “why” because the answers were usually not helpful. Accepting that the problem exists allows you to determine your course of action and will save you additional pain and suffering. I wish I had accepted this sooner.
As an empty nester reflecting back on my parenting years, I believe motherhood places us in the center of a hurricane. Yes, we function while standing in the eye of the storm! The swirling chaos around us represents all the aspects of your child’s life that are constantly changing and frequently overpowering them. When the storm gets too much for them handle, they will have a meltdown. Our MA arms will then reach out to pull them into the storm’s eye for a moment before releasing them back into the swirling madness.
The organized chaos theory allows us the freedom to organize the parts of our child’s life that we choose while recognizing that there will still be constant disorder and unpredictability.
The variability in motherhood comes from our individual choices about which things to organize and which ones to leave alone. Just because you opt to use your energy on one thing today doesn’t mean you cannot circle back later and attack that other chaotic situation when it suits you. I highly recommend keeping yourself flexible and have no shame in changing your mind and taking a new approach.
Since becoming a blogger, I have read tons of motherhood blogs and stories; however, I was most fascinated by the actions of a fellow Doctor Mom. Her actions perfectly highlight the need for moms to make immediate decisions and move forward. Kudos!
My personal problem was (and still remains) that I use both arms and both legs to juggle an unnatural number of chaotic events. I believe this is also one of the defining features of a Momma Addict. Picking and choosing which chaos to organize should come with a warning: limit the number of events being handled at one time AND limit the amount of time that you keep your child safe in the eye of the storm!
Our kids must learn to navigate within their own Category 5 hurricane! When an MA shields her child from the dangerous storm winds and provides prolonged shelter in the safe zone, she slows her child’s personal growth curve. As a recovering MA, I know this to be true.
Life is beautiful, but it is messy. Early acceptance of the Momma Addict’s theory of constant childhood chaos will help mothers who, like me, and crave rules, order, and predictability.
The life crises our kids will have in their lifetime are too numerous to count. Each bump in their roads feels like the end of the world. As mothers, we must stop allowing them to feel that each crisis is the worse one. We must acknowledge the problem but then, in a firm way, move them through it.
As a warning, let me remind you that I am a military veteran and being firm in my beliefs is a strong character trait. I have no problem making a decision, but I also have no problem reversing my previous decision and being just as strong in the opposite direction! How odd is that? But it worked.
I know that kids will live through things that many parents are wringing their hands over. Below are my suggestions for handling some of the most common areas of chaos in your child’s life. The common thread is you making a decision and lovingly sticking to it. After a period of time, assess your results and consider changing directions. On your time table, not your child’s!
If your child has special needs, sensory or emotional differences, or medical illnesses these tips will not apply to you. But the rest of you, here are the tips that allowed me to keep my sanity and steer my daughters into adulthood.
3 major areas of motherhood which are constantly in chaos
At some point in their lives, most kids are picky eaters; however, picky does not mean they only eat 5 foods. That is beyond picky! I never understood the ongoing need for parents to make special meals for their kids instead of finding things that the rest of the family is eating. Fast foods and processed foods have sugar and salt that kids crave; consequently, I rarely hear about kids who hate french fries! Use their favorite foods as a reward for eating the others.
My daughters disliked sooooo many foods. As a busy working mom, there was no time for me address these desires. They would eat something or be hungry. It didn’t have to be one certain food, but it could not always be the food they wanted. Yup, I said it!
I am not a feeding expert with tried and true solutions, but I know hunger is a powerful tool. You cannot make a child eat any special food, but you can also choose not to repeatedly give the same food they want.
Your child only eat bananas? What if you never bought another banana again? Ever. How many kids in the world never have the chance the eat bananas? Your child will not die. They will find another food.
I lived through food meltdowns and fully empathize with you. BUT I did not give in. My kids became creative in finding solutions. Who knew that dipping broccoli in apple sauce made it taste better?
Dear Lord. These were the times I envied mothers with boys because most boys at school looked completely disinterested in what they were wearing. Girls? They knew what each other girl wore last week! Not only did they not want to be an “outfit repeater” but they needed their own style.
Kids should be allowed to express their individuality through clothing; however, you need to only buy clothes you are comfortable with them wearing. No matter how cool it was, my girls were not allowed to wear clothes with words written across the butt! Just no. Who wants to encourage the world to look at my babies’ butts?
Allow kids to mix and match the pieces you bought AND require outfits to be chosen at night. They can spend hours making choices, but our family rule was: if you picked it last night, you ARE wearing it today. We went to school many days with swollen puffy eyes because they wanted to change their mind. No. They learned to make better choices at night.
Yup, we went to school many days with swollen puffy crying eyes because they wanted to change their mind in the morning. No. Ain’t nobody got time for that! They learned to make better choices at night.
A whole blog can be dedicated to girls and their clothing drama. I will stop here.
3. Friends, especially for girls!
Best friends will come and go, often for no clear reason. Allow your child to move through friends but require them to be kind. It is okay to not want someone at their birthday party, but it is not okay to make others feel bad about being excluded. Kids must learn kindness at an early age.
Teach your child that they will someday be excluded and that is okay too. They need to learn to handle it and NOT have mom call and find out why! Everybody cannot be invited to everything.
Finally, I know it can be hard to find great mom friends; however, your child’s friendships are not about you. I sadly learned the hard way that moms that I loved to spend time with could no longer be my friends when our kids “broke up”. I tried to keep those friendships alive but the persistent mom friendships caused stress to kids on both sides. Let it go.
Kids learn and grow whether you choose public, private or home school. One is not better than the other and they all have pros and cons. Recognize and respect the awesome benefits of other choices in education.
My girls experienced all three options and they were richer for it. Yes, I consider my kids homeschooled every summer because they never went without a curriculum. At the start of summer, I mapped out my plan which needed to be done in addition to any required school work. The Burton summer session was not an actual rigorous homeschool curriculum but my standards were much higher than those required in their traditional schools.
And during the year, I re-graded all assignments during elementary school to show that the grade their teacher gave them was not the same grade I gave them. They learned to work to my standards, which allowed them to excel in their classrooms.
I encourage you to avoid letting your kids brain “rest” over the summer. Simple reading, writing or math workbooks will go a long way to jump starting the next school year.
Embrace the chaos of motherhood and chart a course that allows you to organize it for the benefit of your kids.