Home > Family, Humor, Learning, Parenting, Reflections > Parenthood and juggling practice

Parenthood and juggling practice

I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

Becoming a parent does not rob folks of brain cells. Parenthood doesn’t clobber a person over the head and run away with their competence.

No, most parents remain at least as smart and competent after having children as they were before. (Heck, in many ways, I’ve discovered newfound competence that only successfully navigating new challenges could have sown.)

So what the heck is going on, then? Why did new parent Sue forget about brunch? Why was proud new father Rob miles away when  your golf game–scheduled last January–was supposed to begin?

Today I call on my underutilized power of crappy illustration to demonstrate.

Behold: Deb, life juggler.

juggling 1

Caring for myself in usual circumstances isn’t so hard. There’s a routine and rhythm to things. And if I miss a meal, so what? I’ll make it up next meal.

But then I get a dog. Check it out, the mangy fella actually needs me to do things for him. Something about not having opposable thumbs makes him demanding. So I oblige his needs, and even offer snuggles.

juggling 2

Enter husband. (Hush, you.) Stuff changes. Wildly. I couldn’t tell you how, exactly, but there is a lot of figuring stuff out. Even after five years.

juggling 3

And then, not yet having mastered the whole husband-having thing, here comes child numero uno. Holy cow, is there a lot to remember to ensure this little person thrives! It’s not like all my other obligations disappear, either.

juggling 4

 

Eventually I get into the swing of caring for that first child. I learn to speak his language. I hardly ever forget his lunch, and call it a “treat” when I stop by the store halfway to preschool to buy a deli sandwich, an avocado and a bunch of string cheese.

The kid’s too young to know the difference yet . . . most the time. Other times, seeing through my facade, he’ll laugh and say, “Silly Mommy, you forgot my lunch!”

Then it happens. The Conversation. Hey, what the heck? One kid is so awesome, why don’t we have another one?!

We do, and there is that much more to track.

juggling 5

Yes, there’s are different bubbles for feeding a child and a baby. The child doesn’t want breastmilk, and the baby doesn’t have a clue what to do with that yummy kale salad. (Even if he could figure out the whole swallowing thing, his digestive tract does. not. want.)

Yes, there are different bubbles for protecting child and baby. Don’t believe there should be? Follow a newly reparented friend to the grocery store and witness the magic that unfolds. And, to be clear, what I really mean is, “falls from the shelves as the older child tries to sneak things into the basket while your newly reparented friend watches baby and navigates the store while conferring with grocery list.”

Yes, there are a zillion more bubbles for each child. Each of these bubbles is actually a giant bubble that contains dozens of smaller ones. I could get into detail, but you know what helps me keep all those balls up in the air a little better? Sleep. You know, the thing I won’t get if I make these illustrations any more nuanced.

Yesterday was my baby’s first day at daycare. I drove away feeling thrilled I’d somehow managed to remember everything. I’d signed in my kids, shown them how much I loved them, and hauled in the required truckload of items, all in a mostly timely fashion.

Most importantly, I’d remembered bottles. Wouldn’t want the baby to go without …

D’oh.

I wasn’t too far away from the preschool when it hit me I’d brought milk bottles but no feeding bottles. Babies? Not so good at chugging. Fortunately, there’s a CVS on every corner, and I was able to quickly deliver a feeding bottle to the school.

And when it was time to pick up my kids?

I remembered the kids, but forgot one signout.

I remembered the signout, but forgot the milk bottles.

I remembered the milk bottles, but forgot my purse.

Eventually I did make it away, with baby, child and all necessary accoutrements in tow. I was chuckling at myself, because: perspective. Yes, I’d fumbled a couple of bubbles. Who wouldn’t, with so many up in the air? The big thing was that none of them had actually dropped.

I know–from experience–that I’ll find my new routine before long. Much as routine is decried and no one wants to sleepwalk through life, certain routines are useful. The more bubbles are up in the air, the more routine helps ensure they all stay up in the air. This is especially true the later it gets in the day, when sheer exhaustion can make autonomous thinking challenging.

Practice makes better. I’m fumbling bunches of bubbles right now, but it’s not such a big deal. My brain cells are just fine. It’s my task juggling muscles that are getting a workout.

But you know what? Like all things in life, I’ve just gotta keep practicing.

I hope I have many decades yet to practice.

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  1. July 1, 2014 at 4:47 am

    NOT BAD.
    I drop just as many balls as I’m juggling and some of them roll away never to be seen again but demmit, I still keep juggling 😛

    • July 1, 2014 at 4:50 am

      That’s the trick–to just keep on juggling, tiredness and all! 🙂 I’m pretty impressed with what all you keep up in the air.

  2. Charlie
    July 1, 2014 at 4:47 am

    It DOES get easier! Even after adding a third. 🙂 You learn which bubbles to focus on and which can falter for a day or six. But, eventually, they all do get the attention.

    • July 1, 2014 at 4:53 am

      Yes about learning! At the beginning, it seems like all need constant attention, but familiarity makes it easier to see which bubbles can be set down for a time.

      It’s heartening to think how much more proficient I’ll be even next Monday. 🙂

  3. July 1, 2014 at 5:53 am

    amen! I can handle about three things simultaneously – add a fourth, and all hell breaks loose …

    On Tue, Jul 1, 2014 at 7:42 AM, The Monster in Your Closet wrote:

    > Deborah the Closet Monster posted: “I’m going to let you in on a > little secret: Becoming a parent does not rob folks of brain > cells. Parenthood doesn’t clobber a person over the head and run away with > their competence. No, most parents remain at least as smart and competent > after havi”

  4. July 1, 2014 at 6:19 am

    “Becoming a parent does not rob folks of brain cells.”

    No, but it robs you of sleep, which has the same symptoms as losing brain cells.

    • July 5, 2014 at 1:42 am

      That’s an often overlooked problem. I was actually showing all the symptoms of Alzheimers for a couple of months. Because my mother had just died from Alzheimers, I wound up going to a specialist who pinpointed the problem: interrupted sleep caused by getting a new puppy that had health problems.

      • July 5, 2014 at 5:19 am

        That doesn’t surprise me at all. Lack of sleep can cause a LOT of problems.

      • July 6, 2014 at 2:16 pm

        I’m having a hard time not only because of the baby (who actually sleeps pretty darn well), but because of my older kid, who wakes up a lot the last few months and requires lots of reassurance. Most nights right now, I’m getting one to two 90-minute blocks of sleep. It’s taking a toll and, wow, do I hope my older son starts feeling grounded in our new normal soon. For all of us! I know it will take time, though, so I’m trying to be patient and approach it with a sense of humor whenever possible.

    • July 6, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      True story. I saw it with my mom and have been dealing with some related problems myself. So far, none have to do with cognition. Thankfully.

  5. July 1, 2014 at 6:24 am

    I am a firm believer that being really busy makes one more organized. I’ve done nearly your same juggling act when mine were younger. During the teen years those bubbles get bigger and heavier! 🙂 Once I stopped working, I spent some time feeling much less organized and competent than I did in the past. I’ve learned that I need to be busy and thrive on juggling more activities and responsibilities–it’s just how I am.
    You’ll definitely get your routine down after some very normal adjustment time. 🙂 Have a lovely day keeping all of your balls in the air, my friend! 🙂

    • July 6, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      being really busy makes one more organized.
      Yes! My best grades of college were senior year, when I took an overfull course load, worked lots of hours and volunteered a couple of places. At the time, I thought it was a fluke, but then I came to see that being busy forced me to organize myself well enough to keep up. I’m hoping it’s not too long before I start feeling caught up in this new normal!

  6. July 1, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Bubbles are dropping all over the place in the kingdom these days. I know we will get into a good juggling routine eventually, but it sure is hard at the moment.

    • July 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Hear that. I’m trying to maintain a sense of humor in the face of faith I’ll find this new groove, but sometimes it’s a lot easier than others. I’m rooting for you from here.

  7. July 1, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Haha, I once forgot yhe formula for daycare and had to run to the store! I felt so silly but daycare understood 🙂

    • July 13, 2014 at 5:36 am

      The folks at mine asked, “You’re not getting much sleep, huh?” It’s true, although I’m getting more than I did at this point the first time around, thanks to Littler J sleeping pretty well!

  8. July 1, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Sounds like you’re doing it right. 🙂

  9. July 1, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Love your juggling pictures – who knew you were such a great artist? I know you’ve been eating smart and running, but as a friend, might I suggest you’re getting a little too thin? From that picture it looks like you’ve totally lost your boobies AND your hair!

    • July 6, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      This comment made me LOL the first time I read it, and it just had the same impact the second time! Thanks for that. 😀 😀 😀

  10. July 1, 2014 at 11:10 am

    I love your illustrations. They are very effective even without pointing out all the little sub-bubbles you didn’t include in the drawing. Maybe those bubbles could have little “to the power of” indicators, ranging from squared to infinity? 😉 You have always been awesone, and you continue to be awesome everyday no matter what. I can’t wait to visit! (Maybe when you visit OR, we can hop a bus or train down?) Love you!

  11. July 1, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I love this! You captured exactly what it’s like, and made me feel a lot better about what I feel like has happened to my once steel-trap of grey matter 🙂 It’s still there, just working overtime.

  12. July 1, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    I only have husband and baby number 1 to contend with and I’m already finding it difficult to juggle it all! I recently wrote about how absent minded I’ve become because of it all and how frustrating that is 😦

  13. July 1, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Love the illustrations! I don’t have kids so I can’t even come close to imagining the amount of juggling you’ve got to do – but no doubt you will continue to be an expert juggler!!! 😉

  14. July 1, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Huh. I missed the whole second kid thing–saw a baby photo recently but thought you were just being nostalgic about when the first was younger. Congratulations. As a stepmother of 3, I can tell you that you are lucky you got your juggling balls gradually–I got the husband and three kids all at once and had to learn to juggle from scratch. 🙂 I made a lot of mistakes. At least I don’t have a dog…

  15. July 2, 2014 at 3:51 am

    love the juggling balls, too funny. Yup, I have a few of those up in the air now and it’s not quite perfect…but the hard part for me is letting it be not-so-perfect. Realizing it’s ok when a ball or 2 drops (as long as this doesn’t involve anyone getting hurt!). So glad you are managing well under your new circumstances 🙂

  16. July 2, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Now that Peeper is a almost a whole year old, I find I don’t forget things nearly as often. It still happens though, but I don’t beat myself up over it. That also comes with perspective!

  17. July 2, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Sounds like it’s going very well, considering all the things you’re juggling. I always need to write a list or I forget something. Enjoy the circus performance, Deb! As a more seasoned woman told me when my daughter was young, “these are the golden years.” Good stuff. 🙂

  18. July 2, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    You dropped off and picked up the same two children at the appointed times and remembered everything else when you really really had to – I would call that success!!

  19. July 3, 2014 at 4:33 am

    The best example of Mommy and Daddy brain I have is Scout’s first doctor’s appt…and we forgot a diaper bag.

  20. July 3, 2014 at 6:10 am

    You did good on the first day. My mom forgot one of my sisters at church one time and as we were eating lunch one of the neighbors dropped her off.

  21. July 3, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Yet still you remain, kind, compassionate, funny; how do you do this? Oh did I forget, brilliant, talented; gad how did all this happen and still you come out here to tell us how you might fail at some of the small stuff.

    Oh Please

    This, this is why you remain one of my all time heroes.

    Gad I love you.

  22. July 10, 2014 at 4:14 am

    Love this! Trting to figure out the new routine since we added baby two in the mix (LOVE the WTH bubble) bc yes rourine does make it easier not to forget….as much. Still cant find that car key I lost two weeks ago ( second one lost in six months). Guess that isnt an important bubble to me.

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