I need to admit that I have a problem. It’s not so much a problem as a personality trait. Or, maybe it’s something learned over years of tying myself to a schedule that didn’t have room for movement.
I’m good at brushing things off. At work, when things go wrong, I’ve learned to laugh and focus on a solution. But, when it comes to checking things off my to-do list or being on time, I’m a psycho.
Being late to something has always bugged me. If I have an appointment, a meeting or I’ve said I’m going to be somewhere at a certain time, I want to stick to that. I don’t like making people wait or letting their brains wander to thinking less of me because I haven’t made it somewhere on time. Before kids, being on time wasn’t a problem. After one child, it required a little more planning. With three under three, it’s like a military operation.
A few months ago, I had an appointment for the twins. It was the first time I was leaving the house with them by myself. I was taking them to the hospital for a paediatrician appointment. I had it all planned. I would park in a certain carpark by a certain time and then I would roll into the clinic five minutes early to my appointment.
Unfortunately, having two hungry babies and a bit of motherly exhaustion and anxiety, we didn’t leave the house until fifteen minutes before the appointment. By the time I got to the carpark I was convinced I would park in, it was overflowing. When I found a close park, I was too nervous to try and fit my new mum van into it. When I found the next free car space, I had to do a million-point-turn to get into it. And when I finally managed to get the pram out of the back of my car, which I’d parked very close to a bush, it started to pour down rain. I’m not talking a sprinkle or a drizzle. I was soaked-to-my-underwear-shivering drenched.
Rain was pouring down in sheets. The pram was saturated and I didn’t have a rain cover. I’d forgotten to put my umbrella into my new car and was huddling under the open boot of my mum van. When I checked the time, I was now late to my appointment and there was no way I was going to be able to get my tiny babies into their wet pram and push them through the rain. I took refuge in the back of my car and burst into tears. I looked like I’d taken a shower fully clothed.
In between sobs, I threw myself back out of the car to wrestle the pram pieces back in and then sat in the back seat crying before calling my husband.
“Calm down,” he said. “Just cancel the appointment.”
Cancel? Cancel?! I don’t cancel appointments. I show up on time like I’ve planned. What would they think of me if I cancelled? They’d think I didn’t have it together, that I was a bad mother. But sitting in the car, watching the rain slosh against the window, I knew I had no choice.
I pulled myself together just long enough to call the reception, cancel and rebook for the next available appointment – in three months’ time. Then I cried all the way home and by the time I pulled into my driveway, it had stopped raining and then sun was peeking out from behind a grey cloud.
I pressed my forehead against the steering wheel and laughed. When I went inside, my mascara was smeared across my cheeks and my hair was dripping across my shoulders and I realised: it doesn’t matter. I was the one thinking those things about myself. And even if the receptionist could sense my emotional wreck on the other end of the phone, what would it matter what she thought?
Does it matter if I’m having a mum moment and having a breakdown in my car? Does it matter if I looked like I used to before children? Being stressed to tears over something like that is so not worth it. When I brought the babies back into the house and sprawled myself out across the couch, I made the decision to stop taking myself so seriously.
We can’t control everything in our lives – and why should we want to? That element of chaos is important for helping us grow and change. We’re all works in progress and the sooner we acknowledge and accept this, the more we can see our self-worth.