I recently went to work after time off for having a baby. I can’t call it “Mat Leave” since I’m a contractor and we don’t get “Mat Leave.”
My daughter was 10 months old at the time. I would have liked to wait until she was a year old, but I’d already been sitting out for over a year and when you’ve been out that long and someone offers you work, you take it.
The countdown to going back and being out of the house four days a week was incredibly stressful. How was I going to manage my time? Get everything done? Spend time with my baby?
I wasn’t sure it was even possible, even though millions of women all over the world do it all the time.
Well, it is possible. But it’s also very, very difficult.
Here are a few things I have discovered that can make it easier.
You will have a million things to do and you will forget all of them. Write it down or use an app (I know apps are supposed to be the way to go here but I actually prefer handwritten lists).
Keep a to-do list, or several to do lists – home, work, errands, miscellaneous tasks – keep a grocery list, an “other shopping” list, a list of people you need to call or message, and a list of lists you need to keep.
Give In To The Mess
If you can’t afford a fulltime domestic staff, and you’re not one of those annoying people who manages to keep things effortlessly neat, your house is going to be a mess.
Just surrender to it and make peace. Clean the bathroom and kitchen, so you don’t get roaches or diseases. But clothes and books and crap is going to pile up. Let it.
Delegate And Outsource Whatever You Can
If you can afford to bring in someone to clean, once a week, once every two weeks, once a month – whatever – do it.
If you can pay someone to walk the dog, or shovel the snow, do it. Ask your partner to do more if he/she can.
Don’t force yourself to do everything if you don’t have to. If a friend or your mom offers to take the kid for a few hours at the weekend so you can run errands, let them.
You know you can buy everything you need without leaving the house, right?
I don’t like to buy clothes or shoes online unless I know the specific item and can be certain of how it will fit.
But everything else, from groceries to books to toys, household items and gifts, I buy online.
Don’t waste precious kid time shopping.
A couple of tips: know when you will need things and order in advance. And get your produce from an organic delivery company – or do go out and buy that one thing at the store – because the grocery delivery services don’t necessarily pick the items as carefully for freshness as you would yourself.
Sleep When You Can
Yes, it’s very tempting to fart around on Facebook or watch movies after the kid goes to sleep, but if that kid isn’t going to sleep straight through for 12 hours – and la di dah to those of you with kids who do – you should skip it and just go to bed.
Otherwise, you’re going to be sooooo tired you’ll wonder if you can die from lack of sleep.
Also, because you’re overtired, your defenses against illness are down. Eat as well as you can and at least take a multivitamin.
Accept That Some Things Have To Go
You can’t have everything right now. There just isn’t enough time. At the end of the day and at weekends, you’ll want to spend time with the little one(s).
The most obvious thing to let go of will be your social life (and social media!)
Your friends should understand that you have less time for them right now. If they don’t, just explain that this is where you are in your life right now, and if they give you a hard time, f*#k ’em.
Be As Present As You Possibly Can
This is the most important thing, I think. We’re so busy splitting our attention between our real lives, our families, our jobs, our phones, our computers and whatever else that we miss a lot of what’s actually happening right now.
But you know how that first 12 months went so fast, and you can’t believe your little one is already a year old?
Well, it’s not going to get any slower. It’s going to speed up, because you’re only there for part of it now. Pay attention and breathe in every moment.
If this is something you have trouble with, take up mindfulness meditation and sit, even if it’s just for ten minutes every couple of days, to get some practice being present.
Don’t waste time feeling guilty about the time you’re not there and don’t beat yourself up for not being on top of everything. Just be.
These are precious times. Don’t miss them.