Treasuring the Chaos
The truth is, the chaos in my living room didn’t bother me half as much as the chaos in my head. Where thoughts used to be tidily filed away, there has been a break-in and everything is scattered, but there’s no time to clear up the mess. I find myself scrabbling round the floor of my mind for words, reaching out to the end of the sentence I started, imploring it to come back. I have put my credit card in the fridge, gone out with my shoes on the wrong feet, and walked into a room forgetting why I’m there more times than I care to remember. Fried, bamboozled, drunk on love and lack of sleep.
The baby days were the most emotionally chaotic, but even now, with my girls a little older—Sienna is three and Maia is two—there are tough days. Instead of night feeds and endless nappy changing, there are tantrums and tiny tornadoes. But here’s the thing with motherhood—it’s both most challenging and most precious thing I have known.
I’m not the same person that I was before children. My heart is bigger, and it grows every day. It is at much greater risk of breaking, but that’s a risk worth taking.
To begin with, I found it confusing to at once feel so blessed yet so frustrated. So deeply grateful for their presence, yet stressed out by their demands. So utterly in love, yet out of control.
I was feeling trapped by the realities of motherhood, but didn’t understand why, because I was so happy to be a mother. It was something I had long dreamt of and wished for, and my love for my girls could power the stars.
In time I realized what was going on, and what I could do about it. In my mind I could separate the context—being a mother to two sweet girls—and my response to that context, which included frustration, guilt, worry, and fear. That response had become a cage that was trapping me. And for a free spirit like me, that was crushing.
I came to see that it’s exactly because I treasure the context of motherhood so much that I find the cage bars so frustrating. They get in the way of the rest. I had been raging about the context, but it was the cage I needed to escape.
The more I thought about this, the more sense it made. And so I set out on a quest to discover how to free myself.
The thing I missed most was quiet time. Headspace and heartspace. Room for myself, to think, read, ponder, wander. A little corner of my day where I was free to do whatever I wanted. It sounds selfish, but as soon as I made it a priority, I realized it was the ultimate, and essential, self-care. And the more space I made for myself, the more present I was for my family, and in my business, and in every area of my life.
One of the books I read during that vital time of self-discovery, was the beautiful Anam Cara by John O’Donohue. In it, he says, “In order to preserve your own difference in love, you need plenty of room for your soul. In Hebrew one of the original words for salvation is also the word for space….That which grows needs space.”
It’s not just the children who are growing, but us parents, too. We need space to grow into the parents we are becoming. The discomfort is growth. That’s why it’s scary, difficult, and chaotic, but look what it leads to.
Now I look around at the chaos on my living-room floor—the half-dressed doll and rabble of Duplo blocks, the pile of books and scattering of abandoned crayons—and I see something else.
I see their incessant curiosity, boundless energy, and burning desire to learn more about the world around them. I see joy. Un-adult-erated child’s play. There’s medicine in their laughter and wonder in the air.
I think about how I want them to remember their childhood. Is the most important thing for them to say, “We always had a tidy house”? No. I’m not judging you if you have a tidy house. I am secretly jealous of your tidy house. I am just saying we have to make choices, and right now this is mine. I want them to say, “Our house was a happy house. We were always loved and looked after, and we were taught how to love and look after each other.”
I think about the women I want my girls to become—kind and generous, big-hearted and curious, adventurous and brave, knowing themselves and free to choose their path—and then I look to myself and ask if I am modeling all of these things. Sometimes yes, but often, no. I am working on being able to say yes to that more.
“Don’t worry. It won’t last,” they say. But that’s also the sad thing, and the reason for seeking the gift amongst it all. Because it won’t last. They will soon be interested in different things, different people. They won’t want to hold my hand, snuggle in close, play for hours, stroke my hair, chatter with me all day long. And so now, while it lasts, I’m going to treasure it.
Mess births beauty. Chaos is progress, and there is energy in it. In learning, as in life. Now I’m only tidying up once a day, choosing instead to spend my time hand in tiny hand, scattering kisses, in the game rather than outside it. And by focusing on one thing at a time, by really being with my children when I’m with them, I find the tangle in my head is gently unraveling, too.
If you come round to my house, you will still sometimes find me stressed or snappy or juggling too many things. That’s the nature of life with a cocktail of small children, your own business, and lots of big dreams. But I hope you’d see me catch myself when I’m in it these days, more often than not stopping to join in the teddy bears’ tea party, and taking a moment to breathe deeply and smile at the wonder of it all.