Before I became a mom, I had extremely high expectations for my daily life.
Every day, I woke up bright and early. I’d hit the gym. Even on the weekends, I’d set my alarm for 6 or 7 AM for an early morning kickboxing or spin class. I always felt rested because I usually got an uninterrupted eight or nine hours of sleep per night.
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I spent hours on self care.
I’d spend a few hours at the gym, which included time spent getting ready in the locker room. I always meticulously dried and straightened my hair. I leisurely put on makeup. I kept my earbuds in both to be entertained by whatever was on the radio and to ward off any unwanted chatter from others.
If it was a workday, I’d dress in a business suit and smart accessories. However, even on non-work days, I completed my outfit with a fun blazer and a piece of statement jewelry. Either way, I usually spent at least half an hour planning and packing outfits the night before.
I’d then drive to the office ready to take on the world. I had an organized to do list that I carefully chronicled in a chic little notepad bought at Nordstrom. I made phone calls, sent e-mails, wrote legal briefs, attended depositions, co-chaired trials, and did all the tasks that accompanied work as a litigator.
I often packed my own lunches, each item intended to hit a certain macronutrient goal. Other times, I’d grab a healthy lunch with a colleague at one of our favorite downtown eateries.
Sometimes we’d dine at the private club where our firm had a membership. There, we’d sit and bask in the quiet high above the city as we dined on salads and fresh lemon water.
I usually left work at six or seven in the evening, but other times, especially on nights when my husband also worked late, I’d stay at the office until 9 or 10 PM.
Even when I had a lot going on, I always had time and room in my schedule to complete the tasks that needed to be completed.
Work spilled over into nights and weekends, but no plans were ever ruined since there was always more—more time, more day, and more night left to enjoy.
I had a pretty cushy life.
Today I am a mom of three. In a few months, my oldest son will turn four and my twin son and daughter will turn one.
My days are no longer perfectly orchestrated.
After a couple of years working a full-time flexible schedule after my oldest was born, I switched status with my firm.
I’m currently on maternity leave since having my twins earlier this year. However, when I do work, I now work from home, alternating between childcare and work tasks. The lines between my personal and professional lives quickly blur.
Instead of spending hours in a regular gym, I hit up the equipment in our garage gym.
Or, sometimes I workout in our living room, sharing my yoga mat and dumbbells with a preschooler who insists I make room for him. I run on the treadmill while my twin infants nap, knowing that any second a cry could end my run midstride.
I no longer plan my outfits the night before.
Sometimes I break out the blow-dryer and straightener, but other times, I slather on a product that says something about “beach waves” and let the air be my hairdryer.
I can’t wear earbuds anymore because I must always be on alert.
My fancy necklaces hang in my closet. Scarves and sweaters are worn in place of statement jewelry and blazers.
Mealtime is also a bit less glamorous.
Sometimes lunch is a healthy plate of power foods and other times it’s a giant burrito delivered by Uber Eats that I scarf down at 2 PM when my babies have finally gone down for a nap. My oldest doesn’t nap anymore, so any daily quiet time I might have had is a thing of the past.
Nighttime is patchwork of broken sleep, my husband and I alternating between the needs of three small children.
Time to be productive is limited and comes in minutes—sometimes only seconds.
If my former self got a glimpse into my current daily routine, she’d probably faint from shock. My days look much different than they used to. Over my nearly four years as a parent, I’ve had to continually adjust and adapt to new expectations, each changing with a new stage.
And, yes, that has meant lowering my expectations to some degree—something that would have sounded absurd to me pre-kids.
Back then, altering my standards would have sounded lazy or even indulgent.
What my pre-kid self did not know, however, is that, when a mom lowers her standards or expectations, it’s not because she’s decided to be lazy or stop making an effort.
Rather, it means she’s working harder: working harder to accomplish the things she needs to accomplish each day; working harder to meet the needs of her family; and working harder to meet the challenges motherhood throws her way.
She’s also working smarter as she understands that an overstressed, unhappy parent isn’t good for anyone.
I work harder now than I ever did before kids.
Though it might take days or even weeks to accomplish a task it once took minutes to complete, I give my all in a much more selfless way.
I know life will continue to change as my kids get older. The necklaces and blazers will once again replace spit-up stained sweaters and scarves. Eventually I’ll have the quiet I need to complete tasks with ease.
Some things will become harder as others become easier. Nevertheless, I will continue to adapt to whatever motherhood throws at me—even if it means altering my expectations.