9 tips to helping you manage the Mumlife juggle
No one Mother is supposed to do this alone. You are supposed to share your juggle
Years ago a well intended friend of mine made the comment “I would be so pissed if we had a baby and I went to work all day, then came home to a messy house. If (my partner) is home all day, I would expect it to be completely sorted”
Yes it easy to label this as male ignorance, but certainly he is not alone assuming all mum’s have endless time to be organised. Until they become parents.
I will in fact step in in full defense of this man's character, knowing him for some 20 years (flat mating with him and his partner a number of times). This man has always been the primary cleaner in the house and is incredibly aware and sensitive. His insensitive comment came more from the complete lack of awareness of just what it takes to get through the day with small babies or toddlers. And let's be honest, I think he is in pretty great company.
I know I certainly expected to juggle this mumlife in a far more organised and tidy manner than reality met me with. Certainly with little bubs where we need to do everything for them. AND they trail behind you curiously dumping out washing baskets, videos and CDS (ok, less of a problem today), but dumping drawers and finding drawing stuff to draw with…..in places that are not supposed to be drawn upon. Then there's the feeding chaos and the washing pile (in both the laundry and the kitchen sink). And the CAR!!!
I could go on, but you get my point. There are just not enough hours (or arms) in the day to juggle without dropping a few balls if we consistently juggle alone. All day. Every day! And yet still, there is often this modern expectation that mum should be able to manage baby AND all home duties now they are 'not working'. And then for some, you are back to work pretty soon too, and the expectation can stick. But WHY??
Let’s begin with matching up expectations with reality
Traditionally, in every culture, a Mother was supported by her village and helped immensely to find her feet. In our Mothers and grandmothers day in our fast evolving Western world, less so. The expection being a woman kept the house and children in check, and that expectation continued even as she was juggling a modern world where woman was beginning to stand up for equal rights, proving she can do all in work-life balance. And she can. But not ALL AT ONCE!! And so there were generations of women who were neglected the wisdoms of a new Mothers needs passed down from all cultures since time began.
The reality is that Motherhood is a time where she truly benefits from age old wisdon and practise. A new Mother derserves to be Mothered too. This is how she stays well, and how she finds her feet. And this has been forgotten for some generations in our busy Western world. But that, dear lady is a whole other blog post in the making and coming to you soon....discussing traditional care and the neglect of Mothering the Mother in our culture. Stay tuned!
For now, let's just remember that your primary job, far more important than any household chores, is keeping that tiny human alive, well, and feeling loved and secure. And the same for yourself. And that takes time dear Mama! LOTS of time. Which means somethings gotta give!! It should never be yours or your baby’s health. Not physical. Not mental. Not emotional. The reality is this triad, for both you and your children should always be your primary goal.
And so, as we continue to show we can do all in whatever we want to do, please remember you are only human, and the reality is you cannot do all at once all of the time. Motherhood is a time I encourage you to slow down and adopt the wisdoms of tradition, and find a way to share your load. You are not a camel!! We need to relearn. Re-educate. And change these expectations BACK to a Mother being Mothered. To others helping to carry her load. Let's consider how we can do this when the traditional village is not a part of our world.
9 things we can do to help manage the "Mama juggle" in our modern world?
1. Share the load with your partner
Remember what my well intended, but clueless friend said? And it is not his fault. We just do not really understand until we are in the thick of it and our society does not help to teach. If you are still pregnant, begin having conversations with your partner now about the reality of needing their help. If you are already postpartum, sit them down and have a chat. NOT a NAG, or a YELL. Pick your timing. For both of you. You are both tired and juggling a lot. Explain to them that you ‘not working’ does not equate to you “on holiday”. In fact your workload AND hours have (or are about to) massively increase, and you are both going to need to work together to make this work. You need to share the load. After all, you are both parents. It took two to make this baby, and if you share the same roof, the responsibility should be shared too. (But do not forget to also acknowledge with gratitude the extra loads they have taken on too)
This of course may look a little different from your relationship to the next couples, but you need to begin discussing how it can work to suit YOUR HOME and support BOTH OF YOU..
If however you do not share the same roof with the partner of your baby, do you live with someone else who you can appeal to for support? Or have them close by. My respect for single mums is insanely high. (Also for FIFO mums) Because if you do not have this in home support, even for a lot of the time, considering your other options to help you juggle these balls is even more important. (Although we can certainly all benefit from them).
2. Ask for help. And accept help offered
Yep. No matter how independant you are, if you have friends and family close by, LEAN IN! Ask for help. And when they offer it, do not politely say no. Say YES PLEASE!
Now I know for many, families are far away, and they may be new to an area and not have too many close friends yet. But this is why I encourage the Mama community. Not just for great company (although that is a big reason), but also because it is important to ask for help.
Of Course you are not going to put the call out to a first (or even 3rd time) catch up, but keep showing up. Somewhere along the line there is a shift and these women you share space with sense your need. Be they make you a meal, or show up help, or send over a hubby or even take the bub for a couple of hours to free up your hands?
3. Practise saying YES!
I just said it in the last pont, but let's focus on this one. It's important. When you do have visitors, you will find they often offer as they ring to come by “Is there anything you need?”! Particularly if your baby is new. The only ticket in the door is trade for useful help. Would you mind bringing morning tea/lunch, or perhaps a simple meal for dinner (if you know they are the cooking type).
4. Don’t clean up for visitors
LEAVE the pile of washing to be folded on the couch they might want to sit on. Comment on it. ASK if they would not mind to help you. Or to bring in or hang out the washing. Explain you are still very sore if newly postpartum, and not up for the physical bending and stretching.
5. Leave a big ‘TO DO’ list on the fridge
Clear the fridge door of all the other clutter so the list stands out boldly to all who enter your kitchen. At the top of the list write something on the lines of: “I need help and am not sure how to ask.”OR “If you wonder what needs doing, pick something from this list. It ALL needs doing!!”
6. Be okay with looking dishevelled for visitors
Seriously, OWN IT!. Open the door in your Pjs or grotty clothes all stained from baby vomit or toddler food or both or more. Let your hair be greasy. And then be okay with asking for them to watch the bub/toddler while you take a shower. AND TAKE YOUR TIME!! Wash your hair. Shave your legs. Soak in the steamy silence. TRust that even if bub is crying, bub IS safe. And it is a basic human right to feel clean and fresh.
7. If visitors are not expected, invite some over!!
The type you know will be ok with watching your kids. Hopefully while you are taking your long delicious shower they will notice your fridge list, and the wet washing will be hung, another load on, and the dry stuff be folded….or your sink will be clear. Your genuine hug of gratitude will be enough in thanks.
PS. Your partner doing this for you...watching the kids and crossing the list off, that is not a favour. That is just them sharing the parenting load.
Seriously, if you can do this, then DO THIS!! Unfortunately we cannot all afford to do this, but some can. And you should! Outsourcing can be a fabulous modern way to get the practical hands on 'village support' we should all have, and traditionally had. Because we all need and deserve this practical hands on village support, however we can make it happen.
Here are just a few things you could consider to help take a few balls off you
- A weekly or fortnightly cleaner
- Drop the car in to be cleaned and take a little time for you(or have someone come by to do it)
- Get your lawns mowed and the garden tidied
- Get the dog washed (A walk together will do you both good)
- Get your groceries delivered
- Did you know you can have your laundry done for you? Picked up dirty, returned cleaned and folded.
- Hire a hubby’ (home maintenance)
- Hire a nanny, a regular sitter for a few set hours a day or week, an au pair, a demi pair.
- There are mobile hairdressers/beauticians that can take the stress out of finding time, and help you feel better about you. Because you deserve to. You are amazing.
- regular massage is not a luxury. It is body care, repair and maintenance.
- A postpartum doula can come to you and help with a bit of a lot of the above...plus help you find your feet as mum and allow you the opportunity to talk freely.
- Home delivered meals (not takeaway, but perhaps something like Hello Fresh, or a local business near you that makes home cooked meals (or your doula could help you).
9. If your partner struggles to see your need for help, try making things a little clearer.
Let me be clear on this. This is a LAST RESORT tip!. I implore you to try open friendly communication first and suggest trialing some of the above ideas (or others that you think of) that might feel right for you. Communication is EVERYTHING in a relationship, especially now. BUT (and really really be sure you have exhausted all more positive options first) after you have tried gentle, firm, open communication to seek help with your partner's support, if they are still struggling to understand, to help you out or agree to outsource help, you may need to be a little more blunt. Begin by clearly and calmly explaining to them:
“It takes A LOT of hard work to maintain the house at the level of chaos that it is currently in.”
...and then actually show them. BY DOING NOTHING for a day or two.
Don’t get me wrong. This is going to be a a struggle for you too. Because you have to commit to DOING NOTHING! And what is also important is that you remain calm, clearly communicative, and try not nag, yell or be bitchy in the process. But do let them really see how bad things can get when you actually ‘do nothing’. I have done this twice over the past 10 years. Only twice. My partner’s a good egg, and if he does slip (we are all human….I slip lots too) It does not take long for the message to be made.
If you really want to up the ante (and remember this is a last resort, and you can still do it in a nice way), organise to go away for a few days (once bub is old enough to leave for at least 1 night). If not, at least a full day. Leave your partner to care for bub and any older kids. Now don’t make the mistake of going away and expecting things to happen. NOOooo. You must plan for this. Leave a list. A clear, instructive list.
Otherwise you are going to come home to all sorts of chaos that made your day to day look like a show home. You need to leave a ‘to do’ list outlining YOUR regular daily routine. Remind them about the dishwasher, the dirty laundry, the stuff needing hanging out, or bringing in, and needing folding. The rooms being tidied. Of course it will be ‘the day’ you change all the bed linen, wash, dry and fold it. Don't forget they may need to do the groceries and definitely cook dinner (perhaps leave a couple of recipe options). Maybe even cook a healthy snack for the week. Do your floors need a mop? Or vacuum?….. You see what I’m doing here right?
This tip I share with you after a good mum friend of mine (who was also trying to start a business from home) shared it with me. When her partner continued to comment on the house, and every time she left him for a couple of hours to manage things, it was so much more chaotic, and he did not perceive what he was doing at all. She was tired of the niggly comments and arguments.
So she left for the weekend. Left him with 13 month old and 3yro and a well detailed list. She came home to him, exhausted and passed out on the couch and the kids running freely. The list had a fair dint in it. He had tried hard….
She hid her smugness and instead praised him on his efforts as he expressed his awe in how she juggled this from day to day. And to be fair, she does juggle all of this from day to day, but if you need to resort to this, you might as well help them see your more ‘juggly of days’. Their communication was open again as his eyes were opened to reality. Shortly after they interviewed and welcomed their first Demi’pair into their home.
You see, you do not need to argue about it. Or nag. It does us all good to walk a day or two in another's shoes. To really appreciate where they are coming from. And if you all stay calm, and think about your words and actions in the process, communication can reopen that will help you explore what might help your family with the daily juggle.
It is up to you to NOT let it all be your responsibility!
Seriously, it is up to you to sit in with yourself, and consider which of these ideas you might able to adopt. You may be influenced by your proximity of ‘village’, or your budget, or hardest of all….your pride to ask for and accept help of any capacity. But you deserve it.
And imagine how much more you will enjoy your daily juggle when the stress is shared, and you find yourself with more time and energy to just ‘BE’ with your baby (and other children). Not to mention any strain you may have your relationship (it is pretty common with a new baby and young families), and available time and energy to reinvest in this a little. It is a win-win for everyone.
I cannot help you with ALL of these ideas (no one can), but certainly if you are interested in learning more about in-home postpartum support including light home duties, massage and/or cooking (to suit your specific needs), I can help you there. Click on the link below
I would love to hear which of these you begin to put into practise, or do you already? How does that change your Mama juggle? Comment below and encourage other mamas to lean in and share their juggle. Xx
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