“You can do it all”
That was a strong belief of mine when I was pregnant at 44 years old. There were no doubts in my mind that I could continue my corporate job full-time and bring up another child. I obviously developed some sort of amnesia because I don’t remember bringing up child no.1 being so hard. It was actually easy; fun.
When baby hit the three-month mark I planned to go straight back to work and I was going to be this awesome go-get-it Mum who could do anything. Balance work and home life? Easy.
Of course, the real world hit me like a tonne of bricks. It never occurred to me that I would have to deal with sleep deprivation. Because who ever uttered the words, “Sleeping like a baby,” didn’t have a baby. Those little bundles of joy, aren't deep sleepers and certainly don’t sleep for long extended periods!
There are many hours you are awake trying to get them back to sleep. That becomes the game you play every night – “How long will it take me to get you to sleep?” mixed with the game of “Why aren't you going back to sleep, you are fed, watered, changed… what is the issue now?!” And after a few cycles, you realised you've had…maybe five hours total yourself. Circadian rhythm who?
Going back to work is something most of us have to do. Living expenses are high, after all. My daughter’s over a year old now, and while the situation changes while she grows, I've picked up on one or two things along the way.
1. You are going to be exhausted all the time
So plan accordingly – Organise your partner to let you sleep in on the weekends and nap when they nap if you can. Catching up on sleep is your new hobby.
2. There are a thousand and one reasons your baby / toddler won't sleep
So plan for it. Is there a bottle ready in the fridge? Dummy in an accessible place? Sleepy-time baby sensory videos on your youtube’s homepage? Make sure you’re ready for action, cause a little grizzle can turn into a full-on cry in a matter of seconds, and then everyone in the household is then awake.
3. Take multivitamins and look after yourself.
Plan some ME-time, and if you can get a weekend or a night away every month or 6 weeks, DO IT! You need to look after you! There is a reason safety procedures in aircraft tell parents to place their breathing mask on first before their child’s - if you're healthy and happy, baby is healthy and happy.
4. Talk to work about doing some remote hours.
This has been a godsend to have a few days at home working. Having the quiet at home with no one pulling for your attention is heaven. AND in your breaks, you can catch up on washing.
5. Putting your child in care means you are about to be inundated with sicknesses.
Something I had no idea about. Your baby will pick up every bug around. There will be days you will have to take off work to look after a sick baby, and you’ll usually get zero sleep during the whole ordeal. And the icing on the cake? You will no doubt get the bug after baby recovers. ‘Winter is coming’ has never sounded more sinister.
6. There is nothing wrong with spending some nights in another room.
Take turns with your partner to get up to baby. If hubby has a dangerous job like mine does, then make theirs Friday and Saturday nights. Anything you can do to get more of that sweet, sweet REM.
7. Make time to exercise.
Yeah, it is hard to do when you are exhausted but your body needs those post-workout endorphins that permeate throughout your whole week. This is especially important if you have a stationary job. Book your child into care for those extra hours so you can get to the gym before or after work. Your life is already slotted into baby’s routine, so throw this onto the bracket too!
8. Learn to say NO.
For the first 16 months at least, do not do anything for anyone. Your priority is you and your child. When you work full-time there just aren’t enough hours in the day. It takes time to adjust to your workload AND keep up with the millions of things you need to be on top of at home. Communicate this to friends and family.
9. Plan plan plan, plan your week's meals.
Be systematic and make life simple. Keep it the same until you get sick of it. Monday’s Taco night, Tuesday’s stir fry, etc etc. This saves you coming home exhausted, looking at the fridge and wondering what on earth you can do with sour cream and two carrots. Or take the guesswork out and get meals delivered like Hello Fresh if this is an option for you.
10. If you are working full time – hire a cleaner.
A few hours a week. It is worth the money. You do not want to spend a quarter of your weekend cleaning the house - the mess of baby, you, and everyone else under the roof. Oh, and there is nothing better than coming home after a long day, to a clean house.
The first few months are hard as you adjust to your new normal, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. Key is to be super organised, and prepare for the worst, so whether it's an oncoming plague in your household or baby is a grizzly sleeper, you can handle it and get what you need at the same time.
One of the best moments in a life-of-a-working-mum is picking up your child from daycare, and the absolutely huge smile they give you when they turn to see you. There is nothing better than those special hugs at the end of the day.