Think twice before labelling someone a control freak, Kinderling Conversation radio host Shevonne Hunt explains there’s a very good reason behind all that planning.
At my wedding, the best man joked about the amount of Excel spreadsheets I created in the lead up to the special day.
It was planned within an inch of its life. There were timelines, contact numbers and every other detail you could think of (and some you couldn’t!).
As manic as that sounds, it never struck me as strange. All my life I’ve been a planner, preparing for what’s to come as best I can, knowing that it will make life easier when I get there.
But since I’ve become a mum, and gone back to work, it’s kicked into over drive. And if I take a good hard look at what I’m doing, my actions cloak a number of other things that are going on deep down inside.
Ground floor: life doesn’t happen without a bit of planning
The ground floor is all about the practicalities of life. It’s about managing all the ‘things’ like a gigantic Tetris game.
It’s drop-offs, pick-ups, grocery shopping, school activities (athletics carnivals, book weeks, mufti days, homework etc), birthdays (friends and family), clean clothes and laundry, work commitments (including extra projects and events) keeping up with friends and family and doing exercise.
I get commended when I’ve done my Christmas shopping by September, but in reality if I don’t start early it won’t ever get done.
I bought my husband’s birthday present in May (his birthday is in July) and I have about three different calendars where I write down everything that is meant to happen because if I don’t, it will seep out my ear and onto the floor and never happen at all.
But then, sometimes I wonder. Would it really be the end of the world if life didn’t go to plan?
The basement: what does it say about me if I drop all the balls?
If I unpick why I make such a huge effort to be organised, it’s not always about keeping the wheels of this family turning. It’s a psychological and emotional choice as well.
Most mornings I’m running late for drop-offs. If I didn’t clean up the kitchen before I left or throw the laundry up on the line the world wouldn’t fall apart. But part of me feels like that’s what a responsible mum and wife does. If I didn’t do that, I’d be letting the team down.
If I forgot to do the homework with my daughter, I’d be contributing to her demise at school. I’d be that slack parent (who feels slack enough already because this daughter doesn’t do dancing, violin or learn Mandarin).
If I didn’t plan birthday parties and presents well in advance I’d be crushing their little hearts. And what does that make me? I’m their mum, their anchor and their safe haven. Birthdays are special events. The thought of making them sad on their special day breaks my heart.
Which brings me to the final, deepest level that explains why I am a control freak mum.
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Hold onto your hats people, because this is going to get existential.
I was thinking about why I need to have everything so organised and planned. It doesn’t make me feel calm, I don’t even feel in control. After all, as soon as I plan one thing, something else comes up that needs to be done. But I know it’s about control, so what is it I’m trying to control?
The simple answer is life.
In the initial weeks and months after my daughter’s birth I was acutely aware of the responsibility of raising a child. I still am, though the flotsam and jetsam of life can sometimes obscure that startling reality.
My children are my responsibility in a way nothing else ever will be. It’s not just about keeping a roof over their head or making sure they’re eating their vegetables. It’s not just about nurturing their mind and soul so that they will survive well in this world.
It’s responsibility coupled with love. Loving them is as much a part of me as my nose, my toes or the birth mark on my tummy. I can’t stop loving them, even if I wanted to.
And that – coupled with responsibility – is a truly terrifying feeling.
Because I know that I can’t control the world. I can’t completely protect my children. I can’t stop them being hurt – emotionally or physically. Not really.
I can’t control the uncontrollable, and so I concentrate on the little things
That unpredictability of life – that’s the true basis of my control-freak tendencies.
I can control whether they will have blue balloons at their birthday party and a fantastic Ninja cake.
I can control whether their notes for the excursion are signed and sent to the teacher or that they sleep in clean sheets.
And I grip onto those things with the tenacity of a bull dog. I might be a control freak, but it’s how I manage the deeper, complex feeling of loving someone more than you love life itself. And in the process, I’m also getting shit done.
I’ll talk to my counsellor about the rest of it later.