We just finished The Martian with Matt Damon. I didn’t want to see it (the last sci-fi to excite me was Dune), but it was Mike’s movie choice tonight. I feel like I should have watched the Sandra Bullock space movie Gravity before this one to support my girls. But back to Matt, I loved the film. It reaffirmed my hope in humanity, and incidentally, Matt Damon’s character says prophetic words…words that immediately caught my attention as a mother:
“You just keep solving one problem and then the next and then the next. Eventually, if you get to solve enough problems, you can come home.”
As mothers, our mind is the first to go. We have so many thoughts, so many competing voices in our head how to parent. Add our culture, our own parents, the wider media – and our minds are mush. So many voices. So many problems.
First, it’s food- Am I making enough milk? Is it ok if I feed him formula? When should I start him on real food?
Then, maybe it’s sleep – Should I put him in his crib or in bed next to me? Why isn’t the kid sleeping? Did he eat enough to fall asleep?
Maybe then it’s social skills- Am I doing enough to stimulate his growth? Does he need to be around other kids more so he learns to share? Why does he love the word “MINE” right now?
Or maybe it’s tv- How much is too much? What will enrich my child? What is too violent for my child at his age? Did he just figure out my Ipad code?
We parents might recognize this inner chatter. It’s incessant.
There are a million tiny little decisions that have to be made to guide our overall beliefs about parenting, and then here’s the rub- we have to follow through with our decisions.
Parenting is hard freaking work.
The overwhelm alone can do us in. It can zap our energy and cause us to waiver when we need to be strong.
Matt nails it in the film – Pick one thing to focus on, work at it, and move on to the next.
Mothers – YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL.
I don’t say this pessimistically or to break your stride. I say this as a realist.
You will drown in all that external chatter. You will flood your system with all the possible negative outcomes in all your mental run throughs from your parenting decisions.
So on this Mother’s day – it’s time we see how very hard we work, how very hard we devote our time, how very hard we love, and how very hard it is to be a mother.
Yes, I am comparing mothers (and parenting in general) to being astronauts.
I encourage you to – like Matt does in the film – to “science the shit out of this” first. Research what other people have already experienced in this motherhood thing. Read books on the neuroscience of our children’s developing brains, their developing skills. Talk to your friends, parents, people of your community.
And then stop there. Quiet those voices and seek your own intuition. Pretend you are alone in space with nothing but silence around you, and then concentrate on what’s important to you.
When Matt’s left with limited options to find a way to propel himself to the passing Hermes ship, when he’s so close – or when you’ve finally found a way to get the kid to eat some veggies (even if they are coated in a greasy batter) – you listen to your own voice. You know your son loves smoothies, so you add some spinach and kale to those. Your child gets both. You forget about the naysayers. You silence those telling you good mothers only allow organic food perfectly prepared in cute recycled separated trays. (I know- I’ve bought them all, thinking it would help Lars eat!)
Matt decides to fly like “Iron Man” by puncturing his astronaut suit so he would jet faster to make his final approach toward the Hermes. He did what he needed to do based on his own understanding of his circumstance, his abilities, and science, even though people thought it was a dumb idea. But it worked.
So this Mother’s Day I wish you the best.
But most of all, I wish you to simplify.
Don’t try to fix all the “problems” of parenting all at once.
I know it feels like you are pulling 9gs out there. You feel dizzy, overwhelmed. You feel pressure beyond what you have ever known since having that baby. You feel alone.
But take it one day at a time. Investigate, experiment, listen. Soon, you’ll be home.