I distinctly remember my need to “nest” before each of my son’s births; it was an instinct that my body just couldn’t fight. From washing onesies to perfectly folding burp clothes, from picking out birth announcements to printing labels for said announcements, from arranging the temporary changing station in the family room to setting up the night time one in the nursery, I did anything and everything I could to prepare for the arrival of my son. I know there is real research about why moms-to-be nest; I don’t know exactly what it says, I just know that for me, nesting brought me calm.
Nesting made my mind feel an ounce of being prepared when the rest of my mind knew that it wasn’t even remotely emotionally or physically prepared for the joys and challenges motherhood would bring. As excited as I was to be a mom, I was also so incredibly nervous about breastfeeding, lack of sleep, crying fits and about whether or not I would have an ounce of a clue as of what to do! Somehow hanging clothes told me that none of those worries mattered; as long as the cute clothes were hung in size order and by color, I would be okay. I nested intensely for every single son, each time with a different focus.
For my first son, nesting was all about the nursery and basic baby necessities as those were the things that I thought mattered the most. For my second, I knew better. Sure I did those things but I focused on getting organized in a new town, finding doctors and friends to ask for help, as I knew from my first that a support network is more important than folded burp clothes. For my third son’s arrival my focus was all about getting all my nagging house and personal to-do’s done because I knew for certain that once my third child came that my time to do anything for me would be gone. I was accurate to that accord (mostly.) Yes, nesting for #3 included a 142 item to do list, color coded by priorities and arranged into a schedule. Such items: birthday invites for #1, Christmas card, baby book for #2, etc. It was a bit obsessive but again, it eased my fears and nerves about how crazy life would be with three because I knew there were no “to-do’s” hanging over my head. Oh did that list keep me calm. And oh did I ever kick that to-do list’s butt; 142 items done. I still look back and smile at that accomplishment!!!
And then there was nesting for #4. We literally finished construction and moved into our rooms again at week 37. I had been having the urge to nest for weeks and it was driving me crazy that I couldn’t “get ready.” I had theoretically three weeks to unpack every box and get every room and the nursery organized. Every night I talked to the little man and said, “Dude, you can’t come until the house is ready. I need the house to be ready so I can be relaxed for you? Kay? Please just wait.” He listened quite well and arrived on the same day as I unpacked the last box and the handyman installed the last doorknob. I felt such gratitude that I got all my “need to nest” urges done before #4 arrived because I knew that being organized before my life got completely disorganized would be one thing that could keep me sane. And it did. Oh did it.
And right now “parental nesting” is keeping me sane. Parental nesting is keeping me from yelling by keeping me calm. Parental nesting is making my mind feel an ounce of being prepared for what will start out as an incredibly difficult school year. This year will be filled with three different schools, four different children’s schedules, mommy going back to work part-time, and other personal challenges that are working overtime.
Yes, parental nesting is helping me find an ounce of calm when the rest of my mind knows that it isn’t even remotely emotionally or physically prepared for the joys and challenges that the year will bring. As excited as I am for the year: for my youngest to keep on learning to talk, for #3 to start soccer, for #2 to start reading and #1 to continue blossoming in his confidence, I am also nervous. I am nervous about the growing demands of four children. I am nervous about finding the balance between letting go so my kids can cherish their moments and holding on so that I can cherish the fleeting moments. I am nervous about working part-time, about feeling guilty even though it is something I wanted and continue to want. I am nervous about the complexity of it all. Because unlike when I prepared for my first son to be born and I truly had NO idea what to expect, I kind of have a clue here.
I know there will be days that within the same hour I am going to drive two kids two different places and then the other two will drive me to a frustrated place.
I know there will days that one son will come home from school crying because his teacher is bossy and the other will come home proud that he learned to read and I will end up crying.
I know there will be days when I throw up my hands in the air and say “I just want summer back when I didn’t have a schedule” and then moments later “I am so incredibly grateful for the routine!”
I know there will be days when I watch all four boys eat breakfast on time and together without putting a fork in each other’s arms for sh*ts and giggles and I feel grateful I have a large family and then there will be a time when the chaos and demands of four kids will make me think I was crazy to have a large family.
And I know there will be days when I feel confident about my parenting and days when I feel absolutely lousy and lost.
And I know that all of these mixed emotions that the school year and motherhood bring will make me stressed and on the edge of losing it vis a vis unnecessary yelling at my kiddos.
So, I nest. I have finally put a bath mat in the kids bathroom so that morning fights about the water on the floor aren’t an issue. I bought a toothbrush holder for the bathroom so that toothpaste doesn’t also cause an issue. I installed a huge calendar and bulletin board on the wall with each kids daily schedule printed out so they they, and I, know who needs to be where, when. I bought bedside table lights so that I read before bed instead of surfing the net which inhibits my sleeping.
Yep, I have been nesting for the school year for the last two weeks. It’s interesting to me that when pregnant, nesting was a natural instinct. My body knew that nesting would calm me; that it would give me something to focus on other than my nerves. My body knew that getting organized would give me confidence that I was ready to handle the upcoming challenge. Yes, nesting before mamahood was natural. But afterwords? Not at all. It seems that my body didn’t know what to do to calm down in order to prepare for a challenge.
It took me until The Orange Rhino Challenge to figure out what I needed to do to calm my nerves and gain confidence that I could handle a tough situation. In labeling my triggers, I forced myself to figure out how to stay calm so that my stress wouldn’t push me to yell. I figured out preventative measures for most triggers, but one of the big ones has continued to remain: the stress and “overwhelmingness” of managing four kids different schedules, different needs and different personal challenges. Lately, this has taken over my life. This has made me want to yell on a daily, no hourly basis because the stress is immense. This, has led me to nest because I know how to nest. I nest well. Really, really well.
Before The Orange Rhino Challenge I wouldn’t have allowed myself to nest. I wouldn’t have allowed myself to take comfort in getting organized or doing small, seemingly inconsequential to-do’s. Shoot, six months into The Challenge I wouldn’t have. But now, now I know that it is necessary. It is necessary to do what I need to do to stay calm.
And so, again, I nest. And I will keep nesting until I feel settled enough to fully tackle the challenges and joys this year brings me. Although part of me really wishes it had been a natural instinct to nest last year and the year before to relieve some of my stress, I am just grateful that at least now I know that I need to. I am just grateful that it is become a natural instinct to parentally nest because it does prevent me from yelling which we all know I am grateful for as well!
Do you know what you need to do to “nest” to ease the stresses of parenting and life? Do you let yourself do so?