I Don’t Know How She Does It

As a new mom, I question myself constantly.  I’m always worried that I’m not doing enough to help my daughter grow and learn, or that I don’t keep our home as clean as I’d like it to be. If I’m not careful, I get pretty bogged down with comparing myself to other moms who just seem to have everything together.  Am I missing out on something here?  How is that so many other moms have impeccably dressed children who are always clean and only eat fresh organic produce and local, farm-raised meats while never making a single mess?

Yeah, I’ll never be that mom. From the outside, maybe it does look like I’m one of the elite…a supermom.  If so, then I certainly have some people fooled.  But even with my faults (which mostly all have to do with cleaning), I think I’m a damn good mom.  If you’re wondering how I do it, well I really don’t know.  But here’s a peak at some of the ways I do and don’t have it together as a mom.

1. What’s your work schedule?

Before I had a baby, I had a list and schedule for anything.  That habit flew right out the door, along with my modesty, the day my daughter was born.  I worked full-time for a few months, and it was a mad rush to get anything accomplished in the two or three hours between arriving home and baby’s bedtime.  Now that I’m home full-time, I certainly have more time to get things done, but there are also more things to do because we’re home all day making messes.  For now, my schedule pretty much revolves around Harlow’s.  Fortunately, my girl likes her naps and I’m usually able to get quite a bit accomplished while she’s sleeping.  The challenging part is finding a balance between household chores and other tasks like paying bills and managing my Etsy store, My Sweet Harlow.  I can always tell when the balance is off because I either end up feeling like a slave to the kitchen or the apartment is a disaster!

2. How do you handle childcare?

When I worked, Harlow went to daycare full-time.  It was hard for me to imagine her being comforted and cared for by anyone but me.  It was even harder to imagine her having a wonderful time without me to share it.  But I was fortunate that my work schedule allowed me to make daily visits at lunch time to nurse and play.  There is no better way to spend your lunch break than playing with sweet little babies!  And it was reassuring to know that Harlow was having such a positive experience.

When I left my job, it had been six months since I’d been home with an infant all day.  Those first few weeks was a challenge for both of us!  But it didn’t take us long to fall into a routine.  The hard part has been not having any family around to watch Harlow for us when mom and dad need a break.  It would be so nice to be able to just call Grandma and have her come watch her for an hour or two while we go to dinner.  But I really think not having that crutch has helped us become better parents, and it has made us really value the times we do get to spend alone together…because it’s so few and far between!

3. Where do you work during the day?

Right now I work in the dining room…ha!  I dream about one day having a whole room dedicated to my projects, a place where I can sew and write and create in peace and quiet.  *Sigh…*  But for now I get to share the space with the rest of the family.  It leads to lots of distractions, but that can be a good or a bad thing, depending on my mood. =)

4. What do you like best about your current set-up?

I like the closeness we all have in our tiny apartment.  There isn’t a lot of space for us to separate ourselves from each other, which means we end up spending a lot of time together.  It’s also kind of nice being able to cook and work on sewing projects at the same time…though I have to be careful about keeping things clean.

5. What do you find so-so/tricky/hilariously bad about your current set-up? What would you change if you had a magic wand?

The proximity to the rest of the house is nice but it can definitely be a challenge not having anywhere private to go.  Sometimes a girl just needs a little quiet to let her mind work, you know?  That’s not really going to happen when there are two adults and an infant in a one-bedroom apartment.  Space is a huge issue, too.  Maybe “huge” isn’t the right word.  All of my materials are crammed into the corner of a shared space.  It’s hard keeping things neat and tidy when you don’t really have a lot of room to put things.  Oh, and I’m literally being interrupted RIGHT NOW by my husband wanting me to move over and my daughter screaming that she’s out of pasta.  So, there you go.

6. Do you have any time for yourself?

Here is where my husband and I tend to disagree.  I think I need more time to myself.  He seems to think that naptime qualifies as “alone time” and therefore I’m blessed with around 3-4 hours of time to myself each day.  I suppose that is true in a way, but as most moms who stay home full time know, naptime does not necessarily equal “me time.”  I got sh*t to do, y’all.  Naps are filled with cleaning up after mealtime, preparing for the next meal, sweeping and mopping, paying bills, and managing other household tasks.  That doesn’t leave a lot of room for bubble baths and Mad Men marathons.

Perhaps others (ahem…husband) would argue that I should take a break from some of those tasks and give myself a rest.  But that would result in me freaking out because dinner hasn’t been made and breakfast is still caked to the table, which would most likely negate the relaxing effects of that luxurious bath I had.

In fairness, I do go out for drinks occasionally with my book club the other AMB contributors.  But I definitely need to get better about asking for real time to myself.  Maybe a trip to the grocery store without another human attached my chest?  Sounds dreamy, right??

7. How do you and your husband fit your marriage into the balance?

Introducing a new person to our relationship has definitely been a hard pill to swallow for both of us.  As amazing as Harlow is, she was certainly not what we meant when we said we wanted to try something new.  Harlow was born just a couple of months before our third anniversary, and neither of us was ready to say good-bye to the all of the time we spent together with just us.  But honestly, what couple is ever prepared for the change babies bring to their relationship?

It was so easy to spend time together before there was an infant to care for.  When we were first married and living in Austin, we could just hop on our scooter and go to dinner whenever we wanted.  Now we have to plan our dates, which is something we haven’t done since we first met more than 7 years ago.  But the time we spend together is much more precious now, and we have become closer because we’ve had to choose to focus on one another instead of just letting it happen.

8. Do you ever wonder how other women manage the juggle? Have you talked to other women about it?

All. The. Time.  You’ve heard of Pinterest, right?

To be honest, I’m actually pretty impressed by some of the things I manage to get accomplished throughout the day.  And I feel like I do a pretty good job keeping Harlow entertained with things that are stimulating and educational.  We swim.  We go to story-time and yoga.  I’ve made a number of sensory toys for her.  And we incorporate music into our day as much as possible.

But sometimes I get sucked into the unreality of blogs and social media, where it’s so easy to only see the good in someone else’s life.  Those perfect pictures of sunny playmates and huge smiles and freshly-baked cookies and home-sewn dresses are all so inspiring and crushing at the same time.  “How will I ever be as good at that?”  I know I’m not the only mom who feels the pressure.  When I’m feeling that envious sting that creeps up from spending too much time looking at carefully selected pieces of other people’s lives, I just repeat my mother’s mantra: “You are the perfect mother for this child.”  Sometimes we just need a reminder, right?

9. What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?

Just relax.  I know…I know.  That is WAY easier said than done.  It is certainly not easy for me to take a dose of my own medicine.  But I find that when I just get completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of items on my to-do list, and all Harlow seems to want to do is nurse and be held (while standing, of course), I take a few deep breaths and let my body relax.  Sometimes it doesn’t work and I still feel stressed, but most of the time it does.

It is important for us moms to learn to relax and let things go because we are teaching our children how to handle stress.  If I am always focused on what I haven’t been able to get accomplished, then what am I teaching my daughter about how to value herself?  Instead I try to focus on prioritizing, and that means letting go of my negative emotions about the dirty dishes in the sink or the last time I showered (which was a long time ago).  After all, this sweet little baby that is always whining at my knees to pick her up won’t be little very long, and she won’t always need me in the way she does now.  We better enjoy it while it lasts, mama!

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