Remember those idyllic days of people-watching at cafes and late-night partying? All that will change when your first child arrives. What you initially imagine to be a picturesque, Instagrammable first year of bonding with your cute, cuddly bundle of joy becomes a never-ending juggling act.
It is not uncommon for new mothers to be frustrated, dissatisfied or even depressed about how their lives have spiralled out of control. But with an adjustment of expectations, patience, and prioritising, motherhood need not be a constant race against time. Here’s what I (and some of my new mum friends) did to save time and stay sane as a new mum.
1. Prepare, Prioritise, Delegate
Clara Kuo, a mother of two, keeps this mantra close to her heart. She advocates preparing for the next day by planning bottles and meals. She stores her breast pump and supplies in the car overnight so she doesn’t forget to bring them to work the next day.
She finds people to do the things that she can’t. “If there are things you can’t do on your own or that you would rather not do, find someone else do it. Whether it’s help from your mom, mother-in-law, or husband, do what you need to do to take a load off.” Clara prepares, prioritises, and delegates. As the Internet meme would suggest, be like Clara.
If you are used to your minimalist home looking like the picture-perfect cover of an interior décor magazine, be prepared for a “charmingly messy” home once Baby arrives. Even a simple task like vacuuming may prove impossible if your baby is sensitive to loud noises. Let it go.
3. Set Small Goals
Instead of trying to complete the housework in a day, break your tasks into bite-sized portions. For example, you could tidy one room a day, or do different chores throughout the week so you have a clean house by the end of the week. Even then, be mentally prepared that you may not be able to complete every single task on your list.
4. Adjust Expectations
Not everything has to be done in one sitting. Vivien Wong, mother of one, admits that she has extended her tolerance level to the term “messy/cluttered”. “I remind myself that I’m not a Pinterest mom, but the perfect imperfect mom to my children.”
Pick your battles. If what bothers you most is a sticky kitchen floor, then simply address that and cut yourself some slack on the others. Why not use a disinfectant wipe to give your floor a quick swipe if you don’t have the time to bring out the mop and bucket? Work smart and be prepared to take short cuts on less important tasks.
When it comes to cooking, prepare simple meals that meet your nutritional needs. Some mothers use freezer meals to cut down their time spent in the kitchen (see Getting Started with Homemade Freezer Meals), while others choose methods like slow baking over time-intensive cooking techniques.
Nicole Collette, a mother of two girls and a 16-month-old boy, recommends using the crock pot to save cooking time. “Meal prepping on the weekends and scheduling meals for the month helps me to be more efficient,” she says.
It is easy to neglect friendships when your world revolves around a helpless bundle who needs to be fed, clothed, and pacified around the clock. Because relationships are formed around mutual interests, you may find that you no longer have so much in common with your single friends. In fact, you may even start feeling resentful towards their carefree attitude or lack of interest in your newborn.
Some new mothers join online parenting groups to seek out other mothers for support, while others find opportunities to make friends at the playground. But it is still possible and necessary to maintain your old friendships. Introduce your child to your single friends but be mindful that they may not want to hear you gripe about your baby’s sleep cycle during the entire meeting.
Many women focus too much on Baby after giving birth. If your spouse feels neglected, it is important to address the issue now before it impacts your marriage negatively. Whether it is asking your in-laws to look after the baby while the two of you go out for dinner or a walk together, taking extra care to cultivate your marriage will ensure that it remains strong and loving.
When you are the primary caretaker of your baby, even little pleasures like taking a long bath may cause irrational feelings of guilt. The first month is especially hard because you are still recovering physically from the stress of pregnancy and delivery. You may also experience strong mood swings and crying episodes due to the hormonal changes in your body.
If you are having postpartum blues, try to keep things in perspective. Enlist the help of your spouse and family so you can free yourself up for some postnatal pampering at the spa, or to do the things you enjoy, like yoga or reading. If you are the creative type, even 30 minutes of uninterrupted scrapbooking time can be a good outlet for those pent-up emotions.
Can you turn a stroller walk (see our favourite stylish strollers!) into an exercise regime? Or carve out some rest for yourself by napping alongside your baby?
Collette, an avid reader, tells us how she manages to retain her hobby despite the demands of motherhood. “I don’t have time to really read books right now, so I just play an audiobook during my commute, while working out, or when cleaning the kitchen,” she says. “This has saved me!
As a new mother, you often find yourself being pulled in different directions. Your less understanding colleagues at work may be texting you with requests, or you could be inundated by well-wishers who want to visit your baby at inconvenient times.
As much as you feel obligated to please everyone, your priority is with your baby now. It is okay to say no or to let others know that you will only be able to get back to them after you come back from maternity leave. Saying no does not mean that you are less than perfect.