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What I Learned from My Mom: Sometimes the Best Plan is No Plan

After your initiation into motherdom, you can’t help but see your own mother in a new light. For me, it involved pushing aside the initial obligatory questions of “How on earth did we get here/survive/turn out so normal/etc.”, and then marvel constantly and silently to myself about how on earth my mom raised a child. Three times. 10 years younger. With some pretty positive results.

My mom is the very definition of scatterbrained. That word aptly describes her because it’s literally as if someone took her brain, pulled it apart and like confetti, threw it all up in the air so the pieces floated gracefully around her. She is forgetful, disorganized, many times late and rarely plans ahead. Was she always like this? Or, as I am now fully aware of “mom brain” – was it the three kids that did this to her?

I, on the other hand, am a planner. I love to make to-do lists — mental and physical. I enjoy  anticipating and preparing. I’m not saying I am “Miss Got it Together Mom” but compared to my mother, I can safely be categorized as organized.  I managed to learn that leaving the house with a 15-month toddler requires all kinds of planning, including but not limited to: appropriate number of diapers, tasty but convenient on-the-go meals, weather appropriate (and somewhat fashion-conscious if possible) blowout backup outfit, and so on so forth.

Good planning can maximize your time and create less work for you later. Now who wouldn’t want that?  My mother, that’s who. It can be infuriatingly irritating. Maddening,even. But lately, perhaps in the spirit of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, I’ve been watching my mother. Through my hazy, frenetic and oft exhausted gaze of motherhood, I’ve concluded that, to a certain degree, she’s right.  Sometimes the best plan is…not to plan.  Here’s what I figured out:

th1. Relax.  You can’t anticipate everything, and you can drive yourself crazy trying to do so.  I’d rather be flexible and exist in the Land of the Unknown, than uber-organized and confined in the Land of the Known.  Isn’t that why we had children in the first place? To test and expand our comfort zones?

2. You can miss some pretty awesome things by staying on the straight and narrow.  My mother has met some pretty amazing people and experienced some pretty amazing things by way of her scatterbrainedness, including getting lost in Tokyo for 12 hours without a wallet (I don’t recommend but makes for a great story) and bumping into Mohammed Ali at the airport.

3. And finally, life is just plain old more fun not knowing what you’re going to do next.  You can’t really add “live life to its fullest” on your to-do list next to “get milk” and “order more wipes”.  Inviting an open worldview and not being so rigid in life certainly helps.

I’m not saying I’m going to start leaving the house without a diaper bag, forego 529 planning or disregard preschool applications. I’m also not going to plan every single weekend ahead of time and won’t get disheartened when the day-to-day or my child takes a detour I’m not prepared for.  It’s in these moments that life seems to really get started.

Talk about maximizing your time.  Thanks Mom.

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