Modern Parent
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Modern Parent

A Whole New Normal: How Motherhood Taught Me Flexibility and Adaptability in the Face of Change

Photo: Deborah McNamara (Stillwater River, Montana)

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~ Alan Watts, Author of The Way of Zen

Raising young children brings with it the widest spectrum of experience and emotion. There are the highs and sweet joys. Then there are the challenges, riding on the heels of some of the most poignant moments of connection and love. I often felt the motherhood journey was akin to a marathon, with the endurance test feeling never-ending at times. Just when I thought I’d crossed a hurdle, mastered a lesson, or entered the realm of sleeping through the night again, I was thrown a curveball. Instead of catching it head-on, I often tried to duck the ball with an internal dialogue of “no…really…this can’t be happening again!” My partner and I made a habit of laughing as we imitated being stuck in a boxing ring with punches thrown. Like a comedy of errors we flung through our days, pans clanking, dishwasher running, laundry resembling a mountain, hours spent tending what needed tending.

The juggling was mind-boggling. I remember one summer day when I was carrying the stroller down the stairs from our apartment. My oldest son was a toddler and had missed a step. I somehow managed to catch him while he was falling head first, even while holding the stroller in my other arm. That same week there was the moment when the full grocery cart careened towards the car and off the curb, and I somehow grabbed it before it crashed and sent food flying. Each time I’d been trying to balance keeping a little one safe while also just going about the business of an ordinary day. These are tiny wonders, and I’ve seen so many other parents participating in their own small daily wonders as well.

A whole world of appreciation has opened now that I am on the motherhood journey. How did I never notice it before? I’ve taken to marveling that any parent can somehow hobble through a day with any degree of sanity, patience, and grace with young children in tow. The other balls to juggle don’t stop flying at us either, and meanwhile, we have to be sure our children aren’t running into the street or flinging all the boxes of cereal bars off the shelves. When caring for another human being, life becomes a more defined mélange of joys and hardships, the peaks and valleys of a day so unpredictable that I am forever alert and on my toes.

A Balancing Act

Identifying the abundance of my life was essential during those days of chasing and juggling. I often heard myself lamenting about being tired or feeling pressed for time. It often felt like there was always something else to be done. The required vigilance took its toll. I often reflected on how doing the balancing act of parenting and working can create a scarcity outlook. Seeing life from this perspective, it’s easy to think: “There isn’t enough time! There’s no food in the house! There is no time to clean! There is no time for exercise! What about me? There is no time for self-care…”

Without being mindful of these tendencies, suddenly five years can pass, and we’ve missed soaking in the treasures of this phase of life. We can root ourselves in scarcity mentality and let this be our compass (which only bogs us down), or we can count our blessings over and over again and look around with fresh eyes. Yes, some things have to go on the back burner: like sanity, as I knew it before, like a pain-free back, a finished conversation with a friend, a slow cup of tea in the mornings, or an easy trip to the grocery store. And so it is! Make way for a beautiful kicking newborn, the adventure of a toddler turning the living room into an obstacle course, and ultimately a whole new “normal!”

It can be a slow process of letting go of what is. On most days, I tried to integrate downtime and quiet time into my time with the kids. During an attempted yoga moment, my oldest son Rowan crashed a plastic tow truck into my foot. He often reminded me not to take myself too seriously. Yes, my needs matter, but there was also something to be said for the etching away of my attachments to “rest,” “exercise,” “alone time,” and all the other things I was pining for outside of the realm of my motherhood responsibilities. It isn’t that these things aren’t important or shouldn’t be a priority in their own right. But now, there is the opportunity to discern what is most important and work to make time for those things. In the balancing act, we have to give up certain things. We get to try out what it is like to live without some of the things we thought we couldn’t do without (like sleep, for one!).

The result? Parenting can make us more malleable, more flexible, and less bent on attachments to particular outcomes. After becoming a parent, things pass through me differently. At times I’ve interpreted it as aging, heaviness, a weight of continual responsibility. There were times when the air alone seemed to offer resistance for me to work through. Other times I feel I’m being set free into an unchartered territory of lightness. My body and patience, thresholds, and norms are stretched, pulled, and worked on in this experience. The result is I feel my unavoidable, liberating, eventual transformation into something new and unimaginable.

The wonder of a “new normal” was indeed upon me. Turning a brilliant corner, I could choose to set myself free into the profound rite of passage journey that children offer up. With screws coming loose, a new doorway opens, and a marvelous view prevails.

The Invitation

Parenting can make us more malleable, more flexible, and less bent on attachments to particular outcomes. Are there areas of your life where you could become more flexible?

Consider your current attachments. Where might you be holding on too tightly?

Whatever phase of life you are in, consider a “new normal.” Name at least three things you are grateful for.

As if your screws were indeed coming loose, opening a new doorway, what new view in life wants to prevail?

Deborah is the author of The Invitation of Motherhood: Uncovering the Spiritual Lessons of Parenting, from which the above is excerpted. Learn more at

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Deborah McNamara

Sustainability & Climate Activist. Yoga Teacher. Author, Invitation of Motherhood: Uncovering the Spiritual Lessons of Parenting. More: