As a child I used to love riding the roller coaster. It scared me but at the same time it was also quite exhilarating and I felt brave doing so. I think having a baby can feel much the same way.
The waiting and anticipation, the peaks and falls, the physical toll on our appearance but at the end we always come out smiling.
That’s how I feel now, having experienced and learnt and even loved the demands of the first year with a baby.
I didn’t always think that and in fact, in the midst of it all I remember only the lack of sleep and second guessing of decisions. More so the first months and also after each new challenge like teething, growth spurts or when they’re sick.
It’s easy to second guess when another life is entirely dependent on us to live, grow and learn and naturally we all want the best for our child.
But that same tension also caused me to find out ways I could overcome it. So I asked a lot of mums and I’ve collated their advice that has helped me get my groove back after having a baby. I hope you find any of the 7 or all, useful too.
1. Take the time to enjoy the experience of being a mother.
You cannot get these days back. The ‘baby’ scent in their hair only lasts for a mere moment. Baby will not always wake up every hour. Tiptoeing into bed in the middle of the night is just a phase. Firsts only come once. Their gums soon sprout teeth. Their cries soon become words. Their tantrums can make funny stories.”
-adapted from diaperdaisies.blogspot.com
I know we all know this already and it’s so easy to forget when there’s 100 things to do; but if and when we can, let’s set aside the worry and doing of chores and embrace the moments with our babies.
Write down our thoughts and milestones whatever we wish, because these moments pass all too quickly.
2. Find a mothering mentor/s. Share ideas. Find what works for you.
As with most things in life, I find it helps talking to others with more experience. Mums can provide a new perspective or a different approach to balancing all the demands.
- Some mums make the decision to hire a cleaner so that they could spend more time caring for the baby and less on the house.
- Other mums have an arrangement with the grandparents to care for the baby one night a week to allow both parents at least one full night of restful sleep.
- I know other mums who’ve arranged it with dad to attend to the ‘morning shift’ of breakfast, changing nappies and dressing for the day before he heads off to work and the ‘night shift’ with bathing and reading time.
Not all set ups will work for everyone for financial or practical reasons so it’s worth asking what works for others so we can pick and choose what will work for ourselves.
3. Step up to take the prize or look at paying the price.
A wise mother of 3 adult children who has an incredibly successful career gave me this reality. As part of the preparation with returning to work, be mindful that you will be making a choice.
There are certain expectations when it comes to working at a corporate job; doing our job well, networking and developing quality relationships with our colleagues requires time and presence.
I won’t list them all but you probably know what your company culture is like when it comes to working mothers. There are trade-offs to make, the prize is how you define it but the price is the same for everyone. Time. Money. Health. Family.
My working mother mentor showed me having a successful family and career could be done as long as we step into it with our eyes open by accepting that there will be trade-offs.
Accepting that we will feel guilty as it’s a natural reaction to wanting only the best for our child. Accepting that the guilt won’t be helpful.
Instead let’s promise ourselves to be mindful and create quality time when we are with baby and partner. It’s easy to say and hard to do. I know. I’m trying as well.
4. Lowering our expectations does not mean lowering our standards.
Lowering our expectations on when things can be achieved will help reduce the pressure we place on ourselves. Prioritising the demands of caring for our baby means less time available keeping a house clean at the end of every day.
It’s too tiring. So let’s make it a goal for every 3rd day or 5th day, whatever you feel works for you.
I immediately thought of a clean house for this part but I think it can be useful thinking of it for other situations such as negotiating the time frame for deliverables at work. As an example, if you’re asked to send something by 5pm which happens to be the same time you have to leave to do the child care pick up.
Depending on your boss and how urgent it is it may be helpful to negotiate sending it in the morning. It will give you some breathing space to achieve what you’d set out to do that day and pick up the rest when baby is in bed later that night.
Not ideal but that’s the trade-off.
5. Don’t be afraid to experiment
Not all families are the same. Not all babies are the same. That’s the limitation of parenting books – the experts write with the ‘average’ baby or ‘normal’ situations in mind.
It can also be a tad confusing when we read in a book that it’s perfectly fine to introduce solids at 4 months while another suggests to wait until 9 months when digestive system is more developed.
On the flipside, that’s the beauty of having all this information at hand, we can always experiment and work out what’s best for baby.
6. Just do it
In the beginning it’s easy to get lost in the books and blogs and Google and wallow in the fear of doing ‘the wrong thing’.
It can make us risk averse to anything that might upset a routine, like taking a family holiday with a young baby or even accepting dinner invitations, particularly if baby is not the greatest sleeper.
That’s ok. It’s better to get two feet steady before we take the leap. And like I said at the beginning about my love and fear of roller coasters, we can do it despite the fear of not looking or feeling brave. Go on, book that holiday.
7. Trust our instincts, embrace the moments and above all, let’s have fun.
Getting our groove back or getting the confidence back comes when we find our own mothering rhythm. It’s natural to be unsure because no one can prepare us for it and babies don’t come with a manual, but we will all find our way there.
Trust that it will happen; it did when we were growing into our bodies during our teen years and it did when we working out who we wanted to be in our 20’s.
The days can feel too long and yet the years fly by too quickly and what we remember in the end are the fun, the laughter, the love. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had just a little of each every day?