From the moment I brought my daughter home from the hospital, the clock never stopped ticking. Suddenly, my life went from having time for myself to working my life around my baby’s. This was a huge adjustment for me. I was a new mama and had no idea how little time to myself I would have once I got home. To start, I never understood the demands of a newborn baby. While she was the greatest gift I have ever been given, my life went from “mine” to “ours” in a split second. And I was on point from that moment forward. I still am. Once you’re a mom to a newborn, you hear a clock in your head that never stops ticking.
New Mama Deck Advice
I can remember advice people gave me when I first became a mom. “Don’t forget,” they would say, “take time for yourself.” In theory, that’s a great idea. In reality, not so much. This was like telling me to run a marathon while standing on my head. The two could not coexist. How many times did I go days without showering? How many days did I go without brushing my teeth? The transition from pregnant to motherhood is a reality check. It was a hard transition from being pregnant and nurturing myself (and being nurtured by others) to the reality of not a second in my day left for me.
While this sounds like an over exaggeration, it is not. I lived far from my family, and the minute we brought our daughter home from the hospital, I was on. Of course, my husband helped as much as he could, but in those days, there was nothing called paternity leave. This was 1988. A father could use his vacation days to stay home with a newborn, but nothing more than that.
It was not until 1993 that the United States passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While the United States currently doesn't have a national paid family leave policy that covers paternity leave (or maternity leave, for that matter), some states and private companies offer paid leave, and partners who qualify for the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can take unpaid time off. In other words, I was home alone most of the time, caring for our tiny daughter.
Sleep When Baby Sleeps
Trying to follow the advice of other women to “sleep when your baby sleeps” I soon realized that unless I took care of my life while our daughter slept, I would have a pile of clothes sitting in the corner of the room, bottles that needed to be washed, sheets that needed to be changed, and food that needed to be cooked waiting for me when I woke up. Whoever said this, “sleep when your baby sleeps” statement forgot that there is a lot to do that doesn’t get done unless you do it in the random minutes when you get a moment to yourself. I had thank you notes to write for gifts and birth announcements that I wanted to send, too. So, on top of everything for baby, I felt the need to keep up my old life. In retrospect, I should have learned to take a little break. But in those days, I was trying to keep my old “normal” life, while simultaneously taking care of a newborn. The two didn’t equate.
The Gift of a Newborn Baby
Don’t get me wrong, I was in heaven. I had wanted a child for as long as I could remember. While this is not the case for every new mother, I was immediately bonded to our daughter. I’d look into her eyes and feel that I had known her my entire life. It was a magical feeling that I’ll never forget, and those first few months of bonding time have connected us for the past thirty plus years. I would never trade that for the world.
Self-Care After Bringing Baby Home – Really?
But still, having a newborn is hard. And, as I said, there is very little “me” time left in the equation. I was born to a 1950’s housewife mom, and she had her opinions about how to get my “me” time back. Her advice was to “put her on a schedule.” That’s right. In the 1950’s, things like feeding and naps and everything else a baby’s life demanded were scheduled. At least that’s what my mother taught me. None of this “feed on demand” stuff, she’d say. In her day, babies ate when you were ready to feed them, no sooner, no later. They slept on a schedule. No sitting on the couch, hugging your baby for days on end. When it was nap time, you put your baby down and if he or she cried, so be it. It was a different way of doing things.
To my mom, I looked like a freak of nature because I breast fed (albeit not for long because my body didn’t cooperate) and let my baby dictate her own schedule. I fed on demand, she slept when she fell sleep, and I tried to fit my life in around hers. My husband came home later in the day, I was exhausted, and we tried to figure out what to eat for dinner. And the next day, it started all over again.
Dad Helps Out on Weekends
While I’m writing this blog, I’m thinking how different it is now. Dads participate. They learn the routines and the schedules. My husband, I must say, was a natural dad. He got it right away. Although a little overwhelmed at first, he immediately bonded to our daughter, and they have been extremely close ever since. He brings out a side of her that no one else can. That’s the beauty of having a father-daughter relationship. It’s a very special connection and their connection gave me a few hours to myself.
On the weekends, I was finally able to have a little “me” time. I could sleep a little bit more, catch up on a few things, and take a shower. Yet, that clock ticked. I heard it loud and clear. It said, “do things as fast as you can, get more done in five minutes than is humanly possible, run around like a chicken with your head cut off, and don’t sit down. Ever. If you do, then you’ll miss those few minutes when you have two hands available.” Plain and simple.
Fast Forward to Today
Apparently, I wasn’t the only woman who heard that clock ticking in her head. My dearest friend said to me the other day that her husband recently asked her why she can’t just sit down. Why, he asked, can’t she just sit instead of simultaneously folding laundry and watching a television program with him? Why is she always jumping up? Why is she unable to do anything but multitask. And, the answer she gave me, “Because she hears that clock in her head.” Ticking. And, her kids are in their thirties, just like mine.
I have a lot of accomplished friends, and she is one of them. While she worked at a high level corporate job for years, she was never able to turn off the clock. It ticked from the minute she got home from work until she left for work the following day. I think it’s a refrain a lot of moms hear because they are always listening for the sound of crying, the signal that says you have about ten more seconds before you’re “on” again. You’re listening for that signal, always, even though your baby is no longer a baby. In fact, they’re all grown with a baby of their own.
How Do You Get it All Done?
Pick up a deck of New Mama prompt cards and learn a few tips and tricks that will help you get more time back for yourself. This deck of 52 cards gives you the opportunity to learn some life hacks that will make being a New Mama that much easier.
Sold by life Hack Decks™, it includes ideas for self-care that will go a long way during those first few months when the transition to motherhood happens. Give the deck as a gift to a new mom. It’s one of the best ideas to help a new mom without giving her direct advice. And, let’s face it, advice isn’t exactly what it’s cracked up to be.