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Habituation



(Old but classic photo of motherhood in the trenches. A baby playing with a plastic bag, a naked two-year-old putting on a bra, and a living room full of trash.)

HABITUATION! I heard this word for the first time in awhile and it really struck a chord.

Can you indulge the English major in me while I share a definition for it?

"Habituation is a form of learning in which an organism decreases or ceases its responses to a stimulus after repeated or prolonged presentations. Essentially, the organism learns to stop responding to a stimulus which is no longer biologically relevant. For example, organisms may habituate to repeated sudden loud noises when they learn these have no consequences."

I love that we are always changing, if we allow ourselves to be. When I was younger I thought my traits and qualities were fixed, but then I became a mother. I want to instill in my children the idea of the growth mindset, and as I do that, I've found that I've adopted it myself.

It is encouraging to see concrete examples of this in my life.

Any little peep that a child would make in the night used to cause my heart to pound out of my chest and I'd go flying into her room to see what was wrong. That rarely happens anymore because after repeated and prolonged presentations, I've learned that often, they have no consequences (like last night when Mimi was crying in her sleep, likely due to a dream, and quickly fell back asleep on her own without me going in).

Another example: I used to get really stressed about hosting. Everything needed to be perfect, I couldn't relax, I needed to plan the perfect menu, the house needed to be spotless, and the cleanup afterward would often deter me from hosting in the first place. I am a naturally introverted person, so I always assumed this is the way it is for me and I'm destined to live a quiet life.

Now I LOVE having a full house. I love visiting with people, love having little kids running around everywhere, love the commotion. I'm starting to think I wouldn't know what to do if it were too calm around here. After repeated years of practice, we have found our hosting stride, which has no room for fancy menus or a spotless home, and luckily most people don't care about those things anyway.

I'm learning that perfectionism is no longer biologically relevant. It may have served me in school and in my former editorial career, but in motherhood it creates all kinds of problems. Like in yoga when the instructor asks you to think about what no longer serves you and then let it go, I'm learning to let go of the perfectionism and striving and embrace the messiness and noise and joy of daily life. Some days push me to my breaking point, but that's how we grow.

Areas where I am still habituating (i.e. things that still drive me to drink): ALL THE NOISE. I hope before I get to heaven one day I can just lay in the ground for a little while and have some peace and quiet for crying out loud.

Is there anything in your life you've successfully habituated to? Anywhere you still need to do so?

#mothering

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