Friday, September 28, 2007

Fears and Expectations

I'm a control freak. This is not anything new, but I have come to a new understanding about how my desire to control everything around me has formed and how it affects everything and everyone around me. Part of my control problem is exhibited by perfectionism. By perfectionism I don't mean the stereotypical "my house is perfect because I'm a perfectionist". My home is a mess physically. If I feel that I can't make something perfect, I don't do it at all.

This is shown by my housekeeping. When I get started cleaning something, I get down to the nitty gritty and scrub things down to the point where there's not a speck of dirt. If I clean one window, I have to clean them all. If I start sweeping, then I need to vacuum. If I vacuum one room I have to vacuum the whole apartment. If I clean the toilet I have to scrub the sinks, counters, shower, and tub to gleaming, then mop the floor. If I make the bed it has to be perfect, the sheets tucked in exactly. If I do laundry, every item of clothes must be hung the correct direction on the hanger or folded correctly, towels must be folded all the exact same way, and if it's not I feel like I'm going CRAZY.

This is why if you enter into my apartment, you see stuff laying around, the carpet hasn't been vacuumed in over a month, the clothes get washed then piled in a chair for days, and the bed is rarely made. I don't have the energy to put into cleaning the way I NEED to do it, therefore it doesn't get done. So I sit on the couch and watch TV. Or go shopping. Anything but clean.

I realize that my home doesn't have to be perfect, I can do laundry every couple of days (clothes don't have to be hung perfectly on the hangers), if I pick up as I go along there won't be that much stuff laying around, etc. But it's so hard to let my anal retentive tendencies go. I guess what I'm trying to get at here is that I'm afraid of this neurotic behavior being expressed towards my baby.

Children are messy. Children are disordered (in the context of organization). I know there's a balance that must be kept, I want my kid to put away his toys when he's done playing with them, I want him to learn to make his own bed and learn to be responsible for his belongings. I expect him to learn these things as he grows up so that he can become a responsible adult 20 years or so down the road. But I don't want him to freak out that his crayons aren't in a rainbow order in the box, or that his toys aren't lined up on the shelf exactly, or that he didn't separate his foods on his plate and eat each food separately in a specific order (yes, I do that). If there's anything I wish for this child it's that he's not as neurotic as I am.

The funny thing is, I wasn't raised to be like this. My mom didn't make me keep my bedroom perfect as a child, she'd mostly make sure that I cleaned up when guests stayed over. Otherwise I just had to make sure that there was a walkable path through my room and that my stuff didn't spill out into the rest of the house. Of course once every other month or so she'd nag me to clean my room. I had chores to do and did them, and so learned to be responsible.

So why do I do it? Perhaps it is a defense mechanism. I got teased and bullied a lot as a kid (I was the nerdy poor kid who always wore hand-me-downs and even though those facts didn't bother me, it did get a lot of unwanted attention), and perhaps I felt I had to control every aspect of my life that I could since so much of it seemed so far out of control.

I know that having a baby is going to throw a lot of my ability to control out the window. Infants (especially newborns) have their own schedule, and their needs are completely dependent on their parents. A bit more so for mothers, I think, since we are their nutrition source. Perhaps I'm writing this now because the reality that I'm going to be having a baby is really starting to sink in, and I'm starting to become afraid. With all of the advice I've been getting and the books I've been reading I feel like I'm supposed to know what to expect but I know I have no CLUE what to expect and all the advice in the world isn't going to really prepare me for what's coming.

I already love George and am excited that I can feel him moving around. I am looking forward to seeing him for the first time and holding him in my arms, but I'm scared I'll do something wrong. I wouldn't change this time in my life or wish that I hadn't conceived this new life for the world but that doesn't mean I'm not scared. I know billions of women throughout history have gone through the same experience of fears and doubts mixed with loving expectation but it doesn't make it any easier for me.

All I can do is pray.

Lord Jesus, I lovingly pray for this sweet hope
that I keep within my womb.
You have granted me the immense gift
of a tiny little life,
living in my own life,
and I humbly thank you for choosing me
as an instrument of your love.
In this sweet waiting,
help me to live in a constant attitude
of self-surrender to your will.

Grant me a motherly heart that is pure,
steadfast and generous.
I hand over to you my own concerns;
any anxious fears that may come,
my own wishes for the little person
that I still have no knowledge of.
Grant that it may be born healthy in body,
keep far from it every peril to its soul.

Mary, you have known
the ineffable joy of a holy motherhood;
give me a heart that can transmit an ardent, living faith.
Sanctify my waiting,
bless this joyful hope that is in me,
grant that the fruit of my womb
may open out in virtue
and in holiness through your working
with that of your divine Son.

Amen.

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