A Little Self Delusion Can Make For A Great Life

A little self delusion can make for a great life.

Someone said this to me recently and at first I was shaking my head.

No. Keeping your head in the clouds about looming realities is a terrible plan.

For the first few months of this pregnancy my husband and I talked about the tough times ahead. Our first baby was colicky and cried a lot and didn’t sleep well for a long, long time. Our first year as parents was both wonderful and stressful. I still look back on some of those nights and days and shudder. I had no idea I could function on so little sleep for so long.

As the weeks ticked by the conversation about impending change turned positive.

We’re going to have a quiet winter here on the island. I’m expecting to spend a lot of time in flannel pajamas. My husband is taking two weeks off work, my mother will be visiting for a week and we’re going to get some housekeeping help for at least the first six weeks.

Is it ridiculous that I’ve added ‘download classic novels to Kindle to read while nursing’ to my ‘get done before baby arrives’ list? I keep having this vision of myself with a sleeping baby on me as I read Jane Eyre. I see Henry playing peacefully with his train set, or flipping through a book, his sibling snoozing in a rocker, as I take a cat nap on the couch.

A bit of delusion can be a good thing.

A touch of it. Enough to keep your spirits up in the face of something daunting. Enough to quell fears and create a positive vision for the future even if that vision is unlikely to happen.

I’m using this same technique to stay positive when people tell me:

Once your son is in school he’ll be begging for all the toys his friends have.

When your child is older you’ll have to get a car to go to football(soccer) practice and such.

It won’t be practical to live in an apartment with older children.

Maybe all of those things are true. Maybe we’ll be in a big house with two cars and my son will have a cell phone when he’s eight. Maybe.

Maybe I’m kidding myself if I think I can keep these low/no gift birthday parties up.

But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe a touch of delusion is why I haven’t given up on living with less stuff.

I can see I’m delusional about a few more things. I’m entering my fourth year of being out of the traditional work force.

Yet, I still think that if I need to or want to in the future I’ll be able to find a job that I like and that was at least equal in pay, skill required and seniority to the one I left when I had my son.

So I’m not shaking my head now. I’m nodding.

Yes, a little self delusion can make for a great life.

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  • I completely understand what you mean. It’s important to have a vision of the future to work towards. In my case, I have a vision of my husband and I building a tiny house for our family to live in. There is a specific model that I fell in love with.

    I understand that building a home is a complicated process, especially if you are not building in a development, and I understand that in certain geographical areas tiny houses are not even legal (some cities require that a house be at least 1000 square feet–the model we like is around 800). But that doesn’t mean I will stop dreaming about that kind of dwelling for our future. Maybe it will happen. Or maybe we will end up finding an existing small home that fits our family’s goals of living a pared down existence with a small mortgage. Either way, knowing we can have the kind of life we want is what’s important, even if the details on how to achieve that change.

  • As someone with a toddler (21 months) and a 3 month old, I feel confident saying it will be great. There are times when its chaos and everyone needs something but for the most part it’s fine. And sometimes I can even get them to nap at the same time to I can too! :)

  • I agree wholeheartedly. Well-said. I kept envisioning the word “hope” instead of “delusion,” though! I feel hopeful and positive about the ways I can navigate the road ahead. Someday I may very well (I will! I will!) live in that 300-square foot house I long for …

  • If it makes you feel any better, my first was a very high needs baby. I was prepared for that with my second, but it definitely hasn’t been the case. Sure, she’s not happy and smiling 100% of the time, but what baby is? Life has still been rough with two, but honestly it’s mostly been on the older sibling getting used to life changing, rather than younger sibling keeping me up all night and what not.

    • Thanks, Claire. Hoping this one is not another high needs baby but if it is, we are prepared. Having a good carrier/wrap really helped with Henry so I’ll be pulling out the Moby and Ergo again.

  • we can’t know the future with any certainty. naysayers are only useful in helping us prepare ourselves for possible change but letting them get us down is pointless. it isn’t delusion. you’re doing great.

  • I think I have a vision of my house where absolutely everything in it has a use, there is no excess, there are some empty cupboards, and I can list every single item I/we own. Also I’d have reduced my yarn stash and number of knitting projects, and finished lots of other little things. The house would be so easy to keep clean that it would never look dirty.
    My actual, non-fantasy house is getting there, and when I read a blog post or see a picture that reminds me of this vision, it motivates me to make more little changes :)

  • Yep, I agree! It also keeps me motivated to continue working towards our goals. We enrolled our four-year-old in soccer this fall, and managed to do the whole season without using our car. The games and practices were at a field about two miles from our house. We had eight practices and six games, and we were able to bike or walk to all of them. Everybody else drove, but that didn’t mean we had to as well. Our car is only for trips out of our town, which happens about once a week. So most days, it stays in the garage. soccer practice didn’t change that (since the games were in our town), it just meant we had a few more scheduled bike rides and walks this fall. :-)

  • I agree with hope being essential to our happiness (which some may label delusion : ). I especially think it can help us to set things up so our hopes come true. To use your example of the baby sleeping in the rocker while Henry plays quietly nearby and you sleep, train him to play quietly on a blanket or rug now. Then when the baby comes it won’t be something new and different and hard for him. I had all my kids trained this way by 2 (number 8 is due in Feb). I was able to take naps (still do) as needed because they have all been trained to play quietly. I could take them all to the Dr’s office and they would sit quietly while I talked to the Dr – nurses were always surprised at how many kids were in the room because it was so quiet.
    So I say, keep the hope and set things up to work in the direction of your hope as much as possible!

    Love your blog by the way!! I’ve been reading for quite awhile, first time to post. I’ve even read almost all of your back posts. Thanks for helping me on our journey to minimalism (even though it looks different for a family of almost 10 : ).

  • I had the same thought when I heard that line but now you’re reminding me of the ‘dare to dream big’. If you don’t aim high, you will settle for low. Something in the middle is usually what is needed and wanted.
    Great post.

  • Instead of thinking of yourself as “delusional,” I think you should consider yourself a rational person with “goals” and “values.” 😉 Delusion implies acting without thought or consideration. Having dreams of a good life defined by yourself and your spouse (and not by society) do not a delusional person make!

    And don’t worry about complicating your lifestyle as the kids get older – it truly does get easier as they grow. Birthday parties in the elementary years are more likely to have a handful of good friends than the entire class of kids. I had a nice discussion yesterday with my oldest when he mentioned it would be nice to live in a lower-density neighbourhood so that he could go trick-or-treating at houses. I mentioned how he likely wouldn’t get to do all the fun things the city had to offer if he was living in a different community, and he agreed. He also commented that he liked sharing a room with his little brother and wouldn’t want to move to a bigger house just to change that. So sweet! I know it might not be forever living in a small home with kids, but we have to give our kids credit for their inherent flexibility and positivity!

  • I had a similar situation with my first baby, and if I’m being honest with myself, I’d call this sort of thinking “delusion” too. But to echo what others have said already, I have a friend whose natural inclination is to expect a positive outcome to any situation, and I have a feeling she’d call it “optimism” (and because of that, it would probably all turn out just as she’d envisioned). I’m thinking I should take a page from her book – delusion or optimism, there’s not much use in stressing out about something that hasn’t even happened yet.

  • You can only prepare for the worst and hope for the best, after that you have to just accept what comes your way and move on… no point focusing on the negative, it will only bring you down.

    Hope all is well, I have been reading just not much time to comment…

  • I heard the “you’re kids will want all sorts of toys when they start school” a lot. Now with both my kids in school I can happily tell you (and them) it simply isn’t true. We don’t have cable TV and I think that makes all the difference. There is no “manufactured want” created by commercials. Sure when my eldest returned from a recent birthday party and she turned to me and asked “Mom, have you ever heard of a place called Toys R Us?”. She didn’t ask to go but wanted to make sure I was aware : ). Sometimes they do say they like something they’ve seen at school or ask it they can get one/it. Usually a review of what they do have or a discussion about choices and why that might not be a good choice (inappropriate for age, already have something similar, too much packaging etc) goes a long way. I’ve also found surrounding our family with like minded people helpful. they go to just as many parties where a donation to charity is asked for or no presents are given….stay true to that voice that is telling you what is right for you and your family…

  • Reading your article, I thought of one of my favorite quotes by George Bernard Shaw (not sure it is really relevant though) but being unreasonable is not always a bad thing:

    The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

  • A little unsolicited advice, chiropractor care does wonders for stopping colic. My daughter is 6 months old and our chiropractor has been invaluable at keeping her from tummy problems and ear infections. Don’t know if you can find a chiropractor there, but thought the info would be worth having in your pocket. :)

  • I cannot predict the future. But… In my experience baby number 2 is a whole different world. I wouldn’t say you’re delusional at all. I read successfully whilst nursing second born. In fact when the midwife came to visit me I answered the door with baby cradled in my arm an apron on and midway through baking with first born. This was 9am. The same midwife would have visited first time around – she probably did but my mind was such a blur with newly acquired sleep deprivation that I can’t remember the actual visit. I do know however I wouldn’t have been crafting cupcakes! Hope all going well!

  • You know, I just don’t listen to naysayers anymore.

    While not everything works out as I imagine, I discover that nearly everything works out as planned. This is true in my business, true in my relationship, and true in my parenting.

    Throughout it all, people have criticized me — telling me it can’t be done, it’s unrealistic, i’ll change my mind, i’ll ‘see’ when i get there what it’s really like.

    What I discovered is that these people are justifying what they are doing, because much of what they did was not sticking to their values (and in many cases, those weren’t even defined), and they do actually feel embarrassed, etc by the outcomes in their lives that they are less than pleased with.

    This is also why, when you share a success in your life, they feel “judged.” They aren’t happy with their own lives at some level.

    As such, I just continue to go my own way. And that way works.

  • This speaks to me a lot …
    My mom is a very pessimistic person, and smug about it (“That way, I’m never disappointed!”) and I tend to be, too (pessimistic, not smug – I hope). Plus, I happen to be very observant and imaginative, and all this make for a very bad mix that triggers a lot of useless anxiety. I envy people that can put on pink glasses and just hope for the best, because things often end up OK anyway, and they spared themselves a lot of bellyache in the mean time.

    Right now, I face a big challenge and I will have to work hard for that. My cold, realistic self tells me I’m not up to it, because I’m not A or B, and in the past I failed X and Y. I have to force myself to shrug it off and I really need a fair bit of delusion … So thank you !

  • You sound prepared. And because you are prepared (getting help, baby carrier, mental prepration) you will most likely have a wonderfully happy and sleepy baby :)

    I think having children is one of those things that if we really knew how hard it would be, our species would never reproduce. At the same time, if we would try to describe the love we feel for those children to someone, words would fail.

  • You must know some pretty clever people. Such wisdom ;).

    I love reading your blog. It seems to help me stay centered or grounded. I can’t decide which. Keep up the good work.

  • Hi Rachel,
    I don’t think you’re deluded at all. Since we moved to Whistler, I’ve met may families living small with older children (ie. 2 bedrooms, 3 children) because the real estate costs and rents are so high. Believe me, they are not suffering unless you consider learning to get along, spending lots of time outside, and enjoying a very active community suffering.
    The Europeans think we’re crazy with our emphasis on enormous (sometimes) isolated houses.
    I agree with Kelli above re: cable and like-minded families. We left our two enormous TV’s and our Xbox at home when we moved here. Our youngest actually sobbed, but forgot about it completely in a couple of weeks.
    Eliminating TV and eating healthy are part of the school culture at the Waldorf school the kids attend. They actually send unhealthy food home – yay! And, they have a “screen free” week twice a year that we didn’t have to change one thing for. My kids have adapted 100% and are MUCH better for it. Having like-minded families has made ALL the difference.
    I wish you all the best, and look forward to hearing about your new little one.
    By the way, I just rejoined the work force after 10 years out and stepped into a flexible part time job making more money than I did before. Motherhood (and blogging) strengthen your skills. Fortunately, my boss understands this!

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