Becoming a mom is a wonderful thing, but it has some challenges, too. How can new moms be productive in the best sense and make the most of those early days with the new baby?
New moms and productive living
In this episode, we talk about productivity for new moms. It was inspired not only by questions raised in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group but also by some new moms I know personally. My newest daughter-in-law is due to have her first baby shortly after this episode is published, as is my assistant. Knowing these young women who are expecting got me reminiscing about my own life as a new mom and some of the experiences I’ve had.
So I thought I would share a few tips from my experience particularly for those early weeks as a new mom, but I’ll be defining “new mom” as a mom during that first year of the baby’s life.
Personally, I've given birth 5 times. The last two were born at home with the help of a midwife. For a few years before law school, when my kids were younger, I taught childbirth classes and labor assisted. So I’ve always loved being around pregnant women and new moms and helping them in their adjustment to that amazing stage of life.
Productivity challenges of new motherhood
Below are some of the productivity challenges of new motherhood that came to my mind. It’s worth thinking about addressing some of these so you can get through them and fully experience the joy of being a new mom.
- If you’ve given birth (as opposed to adopting), your body is recovering from childbirth. There are lots of hormonal changes in the early weeks.
- If you’re breastfeeding, that places special demands on your body and your time.
- Interrupted sleep: The fatigue and brain fog that comes from getting your sleep interrupted more than once during the night.
- Small babies usually sleep a lot, but they also need a lot of attention – frequent feedings, diaper changes, time they need to be cuddled and loved on – and this takes time away from the things you might’ve have been doing.
- You may have additional visitors.
- Adjusting to new routines and general changes in the family dynamic.
- If you have older children, they may need a little extra attention.
- You just want to spend time rocking, snuggling, and watching them sleep.
- So. Much. Stuff. New babies come with lots of diapers, tiny clothes and doodads, equipment, furniture, bags . . . the list can go on forever!
- If and when you go back to work, there’s an adjustment to be made, and often we feel torn and distracted. When we’re at work, we’re thinking about the baby; when we’re at home, we’re worrying about work.
Some tips for productivity in the first weeks and months
From one mom to another, I thought I’d share some general tips about making the most of that time to be productive in the sense of getting the things done that matter to you while making sure you're focused on the things that are most important to you.
1. Plan ahead.
What can you do before the baby comes to make life simpler and more peaceful after?
Most women have a surge of energy in the second trimester and also a nesting instinct towards the end of the third trimester.
Take advantage of that energy and instinct to prepare before the baby arrives.
- Declutter. Go through your home and get rid of things you don’t need that are taking up space and energy so you have less to deal with, clean, or maintain.
- Prep meals for the first few weeks.
- Cook & freeze things ahead in meal-size portions – taco meat, chicken breasts, soups, anything else your family likes.
- Go grocery shopping for staples to cook simple meals, healthy snacks for yourself and other kids, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.
- Don’t get so much stuff! Babies don’t actually need a lot of paraphernalia. The less you have, the less you have to clean up.
- Can you set aside money or reallocate from something else for a cleaning lady a few times after the baby comes?
2. Go for convenience
- Have a basket or bag or drawer at hand – near the spaces you might spend time with the baby – and stock it with essentials like some diapers, wipes, change of Onesies, & snacks for you
- Use delivery services – Instacart, pizza, anything else that can be delivered
- Even if you can’t (or don’t want to) keep up with the house, have one peaceful, restful area with a comfortable chair, a lamp, etc., that’s kept tidy and where you can’t see the mess while you sit with your baby.
3. Self-care is more important than ever.
Especially in the first few weeks, nothing is more important than taking care of yourself and your baby (and other kids if you have them). House cleaning, work, & entertaining can wait.
- Rest when the baby naps
- Get a shower and put on some comfy clothes – it’s about comfort more than fashion, but wear what makes you feel good
- Have a glass of water or something whenever you sit down to feed the baby
- Eat well
4. Accept help when it’s offered and ask for it when it’s not.
- House cleaning
- Playing with older kids
- Running errands
5. Don’t be afraid to say no.
This is always important, but even more so now.
6. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you need something.
Whatever it is you need–rest, support, company–asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak or incompetent. It means you’re human, and allowing other people to help is a good thing. It’s good for them and good for you. It will make the adjustment to this new phase so much easier and better.
7. After the first week/months:
Ease back into things at your own pace and not anybody else’s! Just because one mom is out and about participating in certain activities a short while after giving birth doesn't mean you need to be doing the same thing. As you get adjusted to your new routine with the baby, add your usual activities back into your life at your own pace when you’re ready regardless of what other people are doing.
Use the productivity tools we talk about on the podcast to be efficient and effective in how you use your time.
- Create lists since it’s easy to forget things when you’re distracted or tired
- Develop routines – morning and evening; adjust as you need to, but keep the essentials.
- Make time for yourself, even if only a few minutes, to get your head right before the day starts
- Make time for your spouse and other children
- Spend a few minutes in the evening doing a quick pick-up: tidy the living areas, load the dishwasher, wipe the counters, tidy/wipe down the bathroom, start a load of laundry, set out your clothes (and the kids’) the night before so your next morning will go more smoothly
- There’s no reason you should be doing all of this yourself if you have another adult or older kids in the house. Get them involved, make it quick, but likely you’ll need to initiate it – you likely simply care more about it than they do, and that’s okay
- Keep priorities in mind – yours, not anybody else’s.
If you have the financial resources to do so, hire help. Can you find a cleaning lady, or a high schooler or college student to be a mother’s helper, run errands, do carpool, pick up the dry cleaning, pick up groceries etc? Also, check out delivery services like Amazon Prime, Amazon Fresh, and Instacart.
Automate/delegate/defer. Stay focused on what matters most to you. Don’t worry about what others do or think. What matters is that you’re content with the way things are done in your household.
Number one tip: Give yourself grace!
Don’t assume this should all come naturally or that there’s something wrong with you. It’s a huge adjustment, and unlike prior generations, today’s new moms likely didn’t grow up with babies around, learning by osmosis how to care for them.
Don’t expect to have a spotless home, a perfect post-baby body, happy kids, and a sane you. The only things that actually matter are the last two.
Don’t try to be a SuperMom. Nobody expects you to be (at least nobody worth having in your life), and it’s a recipe for burnout, depression, even physical illness. Be honest with yourself and others – acknowledge your limits, say no, and ask for help.
One important side note: Crying is normal for new moms, but if you feel like all of this is too much for you and you find yourself crying a lot, talk to someone about it. Postpartum depression is a real thing, and help is available. (See below for links to a couple of resources.) Surround yourself with people who will support and help you through this challenging adjustment. It’s a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t feel wonderful every minute of every day. If you don’t have a support system in your local community, send me an email and I’ll do what I can to help you through it!
I am long past the days of having babies, but I remember what it was like. You probably feel like you aren’t getting anything done and productivity seems like a dirty word. But be encouraged! Give yourself grace. You’re probably doing better than you think you are.
Remember that productivity is not just about checking things off a to-do list. It's not about getting all the stuff done. It’s about getting the right things done. When you’ve got a new baby, the right things are to take care of yourself and the baby, and to make the most of that time with the new baby. They grow up so fast!
What do you think?
What are your best tips for new moms to help them make the best of that first year of their baby’s life? What questions have I not answered? What resources can I gather to help you make this adjustment? Share your tips and your stories of life as a new mom. Please share them in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
A couple resources for those suffering from postpartum depression
Announcements & Reminders
Ask Me Anything! July is a big month for The Productive Woman! We are reaching our 4-year anniversary and publishing episode 200! We want to celebrate, but also thank those who listen and who’ve been part of the community these past years. I will be announcing a giveaway, so watch for that. In the coming weeks, I'll be doing some special episodes. One will be an “Ask Me Anything” episode. This is your chance to ask me any questions you might have for me: about productivity, about the podcast, about me, about the meaning of life. . . . Email your questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or click on the Voice Message button on the website to ask. I might play your question on the podcast, so keep it short: “Hi, this is Susie from San Antonio. My question is ____________.” I’ll answer as many of the questions as I can in the episode. Assembling the questions and prepping the episode will take a little time, so please be sure to get your questions to me by June 10, 2018.
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