I just put the baby to sleep thinking I would finally get some time to take a sip in peace and quiet and maybe catch up on reading that second page of the book that I left half read, some 3 days back! Well, that is all I could read in all those days. Every time I grab a cup of coffee or my favorite ginger tea, I have to keep it back on the table. It’s either the baby cries for no reason or needs a diaper change or suddenly becomes hungry. Either way I have always felt that he smells the soothing fragrance of my ginger tea. And then I have to put him back to sleep. And then as I grab my tea mug again, he needs feeding again! So I feed him but only he wouldn’t let go. Probably because he soothes himself more than I would think. 10 minutes past, I thought that maybe I won’t have to blow into my tea but will savor it. 15 minutes past, I thought that maybe it will stay warm, if not hot. 20 minutes later, there I am microwaving my tea again. Oh, did I mention for the 3rd time? (Recommended: The Messy Bun)
That’s pretty much how I had been struggling to do anything with my baby. And this used to be disheartening to me sometimes. It becomes really exhausting to do so many things. But it is even more daunting when you know what is on your to do list for the day and you end up with nothing done. I then realized that maybe I need to up my game. Find some ways to steal few minutes here and there and get some tasks done. And a few months into motherhood, my number one goal became keeping some ‘me’ time, anytime in the day (or at night). It was important for my sanity. I discovered a few tricks that I keep up in my sleeve, ready to draw one after the other.
The truth is, whether working or staying at home, we forget the real purpose of our newly found mom life. After we become a mom, our number one priority is the baby. So if we have taken care of him well, done the bathing, and dressing up, done the feeding and naps, done all that we need to do for the baby, we actually have achieved everything for the day. I realized that I need to calm down a little, take things slow, maybe one at a time and plan according to my baby. I had to do exactly the opposite of what I was doing. I had to work my routine around baby’s schedule and not the other way round. It has helped me immensely and here’s some of the tips that worked for me:
Planning your day well: I start my day with just one thought in my mind. Every task related to my baby is important, rest everything can be done when I have time. Nap times are best to get things done. The routine tasks remain the same each day and you will probably work it out better than the unusual ones. But if you know you have something else to do, plan it before hand. For example, if there is an important phone call to make, do it right after the baby sleeps because you never know how long he will nap. Plan on doing maybe just one thing in one nap time if it is a small nap. If you are left with more time, then do what you can. This way you are completing the priority tasks first. However, I keep at least one nap time free of any tasks so I can also catch up on sleep and if not, I can just watch a little TV or do something that is not called ‘work’. The tasks that I can complete later in the day I keep them for evening or late evening as my husband is home to watch the baby. These tasks includes cleaning as well. Cleaning is something I am not comfortable doing when I am alone with my baby because there are too many distractions and breaks that I have to take otherwise.
Keep the baby close when awake: This gives me a real peace of mind. I can keep an eye on him and get lot of work done while he plays. I used rocker or swing and bumbo seat a lot when he was small. I used his play gym when he wasn’t mobile. Now that he crawls and walks holding furniture, I usually put him in play pen. Now that he is mobile he doesn’t really like sitting in his bumbo seat but when I put it out he plays with it like a toy. He will pull the belts and the cover, turn it upside down, throw it, pull it, climb over it and it is such a fun sight to watch. These activities keep him busy and most importantly safe. And since he is close to me, I can talk with him which is important for his language skills. When he was smaller I used to wear him a lot in a baby carrier. That way he used to be close to me, we had a bonding time while I was working and I would finish tasks like folding laundry or just keeping things away.
Do small things at a time: Some days are harder than others. If you are having a tough time getting anything done, just divide one big task into many small ones. For example, if you want to cook a meal and don’t have time, just divide it into smaller tasks like washing the vegetables or chopping them, and get your meal ready eventually.
Don’t beat yourself up for not getting things done:Sometimes at the end of the day it may become upsetting that everything you planned and tried and did, was nothing but a failure to get anything done. Remember these days are hard but are a part of your baby’s childhood memories, their littleness will never come back. So think of all the good moments you got to spend with your baby instead. Treat yourself with something nice at the end of the day like a dessert or watching a movie or some extra nap time. Remind yourself of all the hard work you did all day long to make sure your little one is fine. Do what it takes to make yourself feel better. But don’t stress. Things can wait. You did what was most needed of you.
Set lower expectations: Initially I used to plan so much for the day that at the end of the day, no matter how hard I worked, I would end up disappointed. I realized setting lower expectations help a lot. I have a list of my routine tasks and they are easier to manage because it’s like doing the same thing every day unless baby’s needs messes that up. In those days, I lower my expectations even more. If I didn’t get to cook, I don’t stress, I just buy a to go and be okay with that. If I have a task other than the routine ones, I either buy in more time some how or I substitute a routine task for it. For example, doctor’s appointments are always a pizza night!
Ask for help: This is big. If friends or family are willing to spend some time with the baby or even babysit for a few hours, let them. I know as Moms we tend to worry much but just try to relax. It is important for your baby to socialize and get to know the people in your life. He needs some bonding time with others as well. Just ask for help and if offered take it. If you have an older child, involve him/ her. Older siblings are great for baby’s development as well and can be a huge support. Not everybody has this support though, like me. In that case, take whatever help you can from baby’s father. My husband works during the day and comes back in evening and plays with the baby. Great for them to bond and spend some time together. For me, I get to do some of the tasks that I could not with the baby or sometimes I just take that time to myself. There are also some assigned tasks that my husband helps me with. If you have too many household chores to do, hire a maid to help, if possible. If you can’t do it Mamas, just stop and ask for help!
Use feeding times for things that can be done sitting at one place: Nobody would imagine how productive Mamas get when there is so much to do. I usually keep feeding times for checking my emails, responding to them, social media, go through pictures for my blog, texts, calls, make a grocery list, make appointments, look for recipes, amazon shopping (oh yeah!) and so much more. There is so much that can be done in this time.
Have a set routine: This helps me immensely. My baby doesn’t wake up at the same time in the morning every day. And that is okay because I work around his schedule. But the basic routine remains the same. I take a shower, prepare breakfast, lunch, some cleaning or dish washer before he wakes up. However sometimes he wakes up before some of these can be done. So I just leave my tasks and attend to him. Because mornings are a start to the day, he gets really busy with his toys. So I finish the leftover tasks in this time. That’s how my morning tasks are kept the same, and I just adjust them around his schedule. His bathing time, eating time, and nap time are usually around same as I try to keep it that way. It helps me plan my schedule. And it’s great for babies as they get used to a time table and then the night sleep training becomes easier.
Use distractions: You can find safe things around the house that can distract the baby for couple of minutes at least so you can get something done. Any toy that keeps him engaged for longer time. You can also hide a few toys and hand them to him for such steal minutes. You can use things other than toys keeping safety in mind. When I am working in kitchen, I just give him a steel or plastic bowl or a small plate (any utensil with soft edges and safe for him) to play with. Steel utensils make sounds on tile floor (more like noise to my ears) that excites him. It keeps him busy for a few minutes. It also gives him an opportunity to discover things around him and play with something other than toys. Now that he is practicing his sippy cup, he finds drinking from it fun, so I hand it over to him and I get about 10 minutes to do some tasks while he plays with it. Sometimes I sit him on the high chair and give him cheerios. Just find safe distractions that will engage your baby and steal those extra minutes here and there to get your tasks done.
Let baby free and work: Usually tasks like folding laundry can be done when baby is just playing, crawling or doing whatever he wants to do. Babies tend to stay closer when you are around their play area. For me, it is the living room where he plays with his toys. If I have to fold laundry I just keep all the clothes on the couch to fold and put them away later. I also get to finish some of my work on laptop. I get to talk with him so he gets my attention, I am around him and I get my work done. Win- win right there! Sometimes he likes to come to me and hug and go back to playing. I love those small moments and I love being around him!