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I’m a rule follower.

As a child, I only ever got in trouble at school for talking too much (go figure.) – unless you count that one Saturday school my sophomore year for too many tardies (again. go figure.). I’ve been known to make the extremely persuasive argument, “Rules are there for a reason!” way too many times to count.

And if I see you walking in the out door at the grocery store, well, you can bet my friendly Midwestern passing-a-stranger smile will dim a bit. (A bit. Because while I’m a rule follower, I also have manners, okay? Which…big surprise, given that manners are pretty much rules for being polite. Consistency, people: I have it.)

But these days I feel like all I do is break rules. (Not at the grocery store entrance. I am civilized, thank you very much.)

Never wake a sleeping baby.
Don’t let your baby sleep too much during the day.
You can’t sleep train a newborn.
Start sleep training now.

Breast is best.
Formula is fine.
As long as you feed your baby, who the heck cares?

Keep lights dim at night and avoid interacting with her.
Babies don’t care about lights.
Why on earth wouldn’t you interact with your baby?
DON’T YOU LOVE YOUR BABY?

Sleep when the baby sleeps.
Trim her fingernails when she sleeps.
No abdominal exercises for six weeks.

Okay, well, let’s be real. That last one I can handle – and then some. Though the sight of my post-baby belly makes me cringe (or cry, depending on the level of still-surging hormones I’ve got going on at the time), this lady is not counting down the days until I can break out an Abs of Steel video.

But the rest of it? Yikes. If there is one thing new motherhood has reminded me, it’s that there are simply no rules for some things – and motherhood is one of them.

We try so hard to box ourselves in with rules and checklists and 15 Ways to Be the Perfect Mother, don’t we? And if it’s not motherhood we’re trying to define with parameters and deadlines and expectations out the wazoo, it’s marriage or career paths or self-improvement or jeans size.

It’s as if, by giving ourselves rules to follow, we believe we can control things just a bit more. As if we can rule-follow our way into knowing what we’re doing, into accepting ourselves, into loving our lives as they are.

AS IF.

I really like rules. They help me figure out what to do and, when I follow them, prove that I’m doing the right thing, that I’m on track, that I’m good and smart and doggone it…

But rules don’t really help when life flies off the rails into uncharted or un-rule-able territory. (See what I did there? I made up a new word. THAT is not following the rules, now, is it?!)

Rules might make me feel good when it comes to being a grammar queen or grocery store protocol stickler, but when facing a four-week-old who refuses to sleep between 9pm and 2am? Or a niece with cancer? Or a job that’s been terminated? Or a house that’s flooded? Or a million other things THAT JUST HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE?

Well, then I say, RULES SCHMULES. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to wake up my baby, feed her a bottle of formula (gasp!) and hope it makes her sleep tonight.

What rules need to be broken in your life?

{Photo by Biking Nikon SFO}

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