Since becoming a mom, I’ve become amazing at picking up things with my feet. Child’s hat? Fork flung from the dinner table? Tri-folded job offer that fluttered from the envelope? They land on the floor when my arms are full of baby, so I improvise. This enviable life skill developed while as a new parent, I started obsessing over efficiency and committing only to that which could maximize my time: how could I do more with less?
This appealed to the MBA in me as well as the woman trying to manage a career and a household and a brand new life. I’d only say “yes” to opportunities that passed my efficiency test. Lunch play date with mom friends? Yes, I’ll eat, socialize, and spend time with my son. Happy hour with friends? Absolutely not, too indulgent. Bus commuting? Yes, it combines grading papers while getting to work. Bike commuting? Yes, working out and getting to work. Commuting by car? Oh, how I want to, but only if I also stop at the grocery store on the way home. During this efficiency mania, I read Anne Marie Slaughter’s Why Women Still Can’t Have it All in the Atlantic and it described a woman who…
“…organized her time so ruthlessly that she always keyed in 1:11 or 2:22 or 3:33 on the microwave rather than 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00, because hitting the same number three times took less time.”
“God, that’s brilliant,” I thought. “Why hadn’t I thought of that?”
Other than improved foot dexterity, this way of thinking about my time – I must do more, more, more – was a miserable way to live. I was never fully present in anything. My whole life was that feeling of trying to listen to a friend recount an important story while also fully aware that my toddler is crawling over to the electrical outlets with a bobby pin in hand. Part of my inspiration for The Discovery Year is to find a different way, to find happiness in inefficiency.
It’s been wonderful to talk to friends about The Discovery Year. Thank you all! In doing so, I realized one thing I’m searching for is my place in this world now that I’m a mom. Motherhood changed everything. A million mommy blogs couldn’t have explained it to me before it happened, but now I get it. It’s not the big shift, it’s all the tiny little shifts. The moment your child throws your favorite mug across the kitchen, on purpose, and it shatters into hundreds of dangerous little glass shards and you want to yell and scold and cry. Then you look at him and he’s wide-eyed and just about to crack a smile because it was such a tremendous sound and glorious sight and mom’s eyes look crazier than ever and, you stop. For just a second. You stop and understand. Tethered between anger, fear, love, and joy, as you watch the corners of your child’s mouth raise into a devious smile, aimed straight at your heart.
Part of discovery is leaving what we know and going to explore. On any journey, you can only pack so much; a prerequisite to discovery is giving something up. I’m willing to kick the efficiency obsession and not ask myself ‘What more can I do?’ Instead, I’m going to focus on the delight of exploring the world around me. Even if it’s indulgently inefficient.
What do you want to discover in 2015? What are you willing to give up for it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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