Early Mommy Years
Sitting on the porch sipping coffee, enjoying a gentle breeze on a cool spring morning, a dear friend who had recently had her first child asked me the same question I had asked when my children were itty bitty. “How do you get everything done?!”
I could see the desire in her eyes to be proficient, coupled with worry that it all seemed overwhelming. The first years of motherhood are full of adventure. There is the delight of watching your beautiful little one discover their hands, a first smile, the first sounds uttered. Then, there is also the reality of dirty diapers, so much laundry, sleep deprivation, exhaustion…and there is always a dish to wash in the sink.
Looking back over twenty years, how did I do it? It took me a few minutes to recall those days. They seem like such a blur, but it all started coming back. Here’s the advice I offered this brave new momma. Perhaps it can help you.
I remember thinking I just HAD to be June Cleaver. Fresh baked pie on the table each night, a spotless house, baby all neatly tucked in by 8:00, etc. But the reality is that this stage of life is a major adjustment.
New priorities need to be set, and you must take time to talk to your husband and work together to figure out new family priorities. Does an afternoon walk trump dirty dishes, or are you both type A and the dishes have to be done first?
A lot of frustration happens when communication breaks down, and during these sleep deprived days, that happens easily. Take a moment and determine the five most important priorities for your family. Write them down and post them on the refrigerator!
Using a large wall calendar, I would write the basic three household chores I needed to accomplish each day at the bottom of the calendar: dishes, laundry and pick up. Then I would list the household chores I wanted to accomplish each day within the month. I didn’t go crazy with overcommitment; instead, I kept it simple and achievable. Each day, I planned about 15-20 minutes of thorough cleaning.
Here’s what my calendar looked like:
- Monday – clean the bathrooms
- Tuesday – vacuum the floor and sweep the kitchen
- Wednesday – change sheets
- Thursday – dust and clean windows
- Friday – clean out one space
I would then try the schedule for a week, making adjustments as needed. By the end of a few weeks, I typically had a good routine in place.
Most days, a new baby does a lot of sleeping. During this time, I would either sleep with the baby, preventing the Oscar the Grouch in me to come out, or I would utilize nap time to get the chores done.
I was young when I had my first child, and I just wanted a little me time when baby went down. I wanted to veg in front of the TV, dive into a hobby, or go shopping. But those days will return when little ones aren’t so little anymore. For now, my desires go to the back burner and utilizing my time efficiently brings peace to the home.
Life with a little one doesn’t have to be all cooped up trying to keep the home in perfect condition. In fact, the young mother years are when you most need to talk to and learn from other mothers, both old and young. Ask questions and glean from their years of experience.
If a girlfriend wanted to get together for coffee, and we scheduled it for Tuesday, then my Tuesday chores were either done later at night or assigned to another day. Knowing I could swap my routine around and still get it all done gave me a sense of freedom!
We all have different abilities and capabilities. If you find that the sleep deprivation is getting out of hand, baby gets colic, or the laundry becomes a mountain, ask for help. The community of Christ is just that — a community! There are older mothers with teens who can help hold a baby. Dad can step in and give you a night of sleep. There are grandmothers in the church who would love to feel needed.
The early years of motherhood are a blur, both because it goes by so quickly and because adequate self care is often lacking. With a little bit of communicating and planning, however, you can help make your day, your relationships, and your home all well planned!