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Photo: Miira Dawson
Mother’s situation: Out of control!
Before my baby was born I had a full-time job and although I had a busy schedule and often felt I didn’t have sufficient time to fit everything in that I wanted to do, I knew where I stood. Since having a baby and leaving my office job to stay home with my daughter (who is now four months) I feel my life is upside down. I am incapable of setting and keeping to any routine that will accommodate both my baby’s and my own needs. When my husband gets home from work and asks me how I have spent the day, I struggle to tell him. I feel as though I have achieved nothing apart from having breastfed my daughter. How do other mothers who stay home best organize their time?
The responsibility of caring for a baby 24 hours a day can be overwhelming. The pace of life when you are home with your baby instead of out at work is much slower. In an office job you are meeting given deadlines but you can leave it all behind each evening. At home with a baby, there is often nothing tangible to show after you have spent all day nursing, apart from dirty laundry and unwashed dishes! And nighttimes are sometimes stressful. Keeping up with a growing baby is hard work but it pays rewards when you see your baby thriving on your milk and loving care.
As you adjust to motherhood, you and your baby will fall into gentle rhythms that suit you both so that you can manage the essential tasks more easily. I found that joining my local La Leche League group, where I was able to chat with other moms about problems and feelings helped me realize that I wasn’t the only one who felt I wasn’t coping, and the contact with moms provided a practical way to explore options and develop new coping strategies.
You are important too so look after yourself by eating properly and taking daily exercise. Ask for help when you need it because it’s not always obvious to others that you do or what you need. Depression in new mothers is not uncommon. If negative feelings intensify and you feel overwhelmed, be sure to seek medical help.
Rosie Burton, Manhattan, KS, USA
Life with our new babies often feels chaotic. We can reflect on our experiences during long nursing sessions and chat with other breastfeeding mothers, who often share uncomfortable feelings about managing life with new babies.
Your daughter is developing rapidly. Already, you have met her needs through growth spurts; you meet her need for love and security, offering her a responsive relationship for life; you probably get a little sleep yourself, make a meal, wash yourself, and do laundry. Although each of these little things only takes a few minutes, they can feel endless and fill up a whole day. As busy mothers, we learn to give ourselves credit for these important accomplishments that contribute to our family’s wellbeing and quality of our relationships.
My learning focus with my firstborn was so intense I was often unaware of the passage of time. I would wake at 6 am to nurse, then change a diaper, then feed him again, and cuddle him to sleep. Then I noticed it was 11 am and I’d not had breakfast nor washed and dressed myself; fortunately, my husband had kindly brought me a milky coffee earlier. As the weeks and months went by, I learned more about meeting my baby’s needs and my own. I changed my expectations about task completion.
Before children, I could start a phone call, cooking, or cleaning task and see it through to the end. With babies and small children, I learned to make use of a few minutes to initiate a task, abandon it, and return to it later for completion. Big blocks of time for meeting my own needs disappeared as well. I learned to make use of the odd five minutes throughout the day for much needed physical exercise or relaxation.
Mothers learn to live differently than they did prior to motherhood. One of my first learned shortcuts was not to wear make-up on a daily basis, only for special outings. If my baby needed an unexpected nap with me, the homemade scones and soup planned for lunch would be replaced by store cupboard items such as oatcakes, cheese, and fruit that needed little preparation. Shopping and social outings were also challenging. No longer could I manage a week’s shop in one go; my baby liked to feed frequently, little, and often, so my shopping trips became little and often, too. I learned to breastfeed before leaving the house, in the car park before entering the shop, and again in the car park before returning home where a couple of hours (even days!) might pass before the shopping was all put away.
As babies develop quickly, capacity for doing other things becomes more manageable and mothers can be fabulously creative. The main thing is to give ourselves credit for what we do all day for our families, it is worthwhile and pays off in years to come.
Nina Robertson, Scotland, UK
I’ve found it very helpful to organize tasks according to days of the week. I’m big on alliteration, so Tuesdays I wash towels, Wednesdays whites, Thursdays colors, and Saturdays sheets. The other three days I don’t even think about laundry.
Monday I keep an eye on surfaces; Tuesday on toilets and tubs; Wednesday on walls and windows; Thursday on guts (insides of the fridge, cabinets, and the like); Friday, floors. Not that I vacuum all the carpets every Friday but when I get five or ten minutes here or there, I know what to start on. Today was Wednesday so I got our glass-door crystal clear and wiped down some of the cabinets in the kitchen. Baby steps. It never all gets done but this way I make steady progress.
Laura Danner, CT, USA
I too like to get things done. I have six children and, although I’ve learned to relax my standards, I’ve also learned how to feel like I’m getting things done, even with babies and toddlers around.
I make a realistic to-do list with the basics—meal making, laundry, grocery store, doctor’s appointments. Don’t leave out the mundane. When you can check something off your list, it lets you know that you are getting things done.
Next, schedule tasks in the times that make the most sense. Dinner preparation is often best done during my baby’s first nap. This is because it is one of the priorities that can’t be done easily with my baby awake. I schedule outings for times when my baby is usually awake, since they are fun and usually keep her occupied. Get used to carrying your baby in a hands-free baby carrier, and make a mental note of the tasks that this enables. Walking is my preferred form of exercise since the children and I can enjoy it together. Keep in mind your partner’s schedule. If he comes home early some nights, those might be the best for more complicated meals, or for getting some quick cleaning done.
Keep things simple. If your standards for the house are too high, it leaves you with the feeling that you are never doing enough. We have very few knick-knacks (dust collectors), no clothes that need a lot of care, and we wash clothes and linens when they are dirty, rather than every time they are worn or used. Stay flexible; the baby’s needs come first, but other basic tasks can be fit around the baby’s needs on most days.
Expect some fussy days when nothing gets done. Those days are great for walks in the park, catching up on phone calls, or just doing some planning in your head while rocking your baby.
Michele Call, San Diego, CA, USA
Keep things simple. If your standards for the house are too high, it leaves you with the feeling that you are never doing enough.
Any of us who have ever stayed home all day with a breastfeeding baby feel your pain. My neighbor said it best: before she had children, she wrote to do lists. After having children, she wrote “I have done” lists. When my son was your baby’s age, my lists went something like this, “Nursed Quinn. Got halfway dressed. Changed diaper. Nursed Quinn. Ate half of breakfast. Nursed Quinn. Tried to put Quinn down to go to the bathroom. Nursed Quinn in bathroom. Finished getting dressed while nursing Quinn. Nursed Quinn. Nursed Quinn. Nursed Quinn.”
Nursing a baby is time consuming! My mom tells me that way back when, all the grandmas and aunts would swoop in for the first two months to take care of the day-to-day household management so the new mom and baby could get acquainted and nurse.
It is completely normal to feel like you’ve gotten nothing done, when in fact you’ve accomplished a great deal. You have met the needs of your baby. You are nurturing and providing nutrition toward his future.
Be gentle with yourself. If there are things you really want to get done, set tiny goals. If there is a grandmother or someone else who can come for an hour or two every week, that might help. My mom and my stepmom-in-law came once a week and they would typically take my son for a walk in his stroller so I could shower/write/do laundry/ go to the bathroom by myself.
Be patient with yourself. Eventually, you will be so efficient you will surprise yourself. Becoming a mom is the ultimate lesson in multitasking.
In the meantime, don’t worry too much about getting things done or getting them done efficiently. Your main priority is your baby, and it sounds like you’re doing a fabulous job of that!
Jeanette Hurt, Milwaukee, WI, USA
Mother’s new situation: Can I get pregnant while breastfeeding?
I have an 18-month-old son, who has always breastfed enthusiastically and still nurses frequently. My menstrual periods have only just returned and I’d like to try for another baby. However, I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to conceive with such a keen nursling! Is it likely that I will be able to get pregnant without weaning my son? He’s really not ready to give up breastfeeding and I don’t want to rush him.