Lately, I have been thinking about how underprepared and overwhelmed I felt when I became a full-time mama and homemaker.
This overwhelm surprised me because I thought I knew what I was getting myself into as a new mama. When I was growing up, my mom was home with us full-time until my youngest sister entered kindergarten. Even then, my mom worked part-time as a teacher and she was home before and after school with us.
My mom was a chore-assigning wizard. We cleaned bathrooms, dusted and helped with meals from a very young age. Basic homemaking skills were deeply engrained in me. I knew what it looked like to be a mom and keep a household running and I reaped the benefits through out my childhood.
Fast-forward 20+ years
I had been married for three years and was pregnant with our first son. My husband and I shared all of the household tasks, did our grocery shopping on the weekends and tried to keep our household running but it was haphazard as we navigated the first three years of marriage while working full-time.
When our son was born, I left my job as a teacher to stay home with him full-time and I felt like a fish out of water (correction - it felt more like a fish out of water, on a different planet where no one spoke my language).
I couldn't get it together.
I knew how to complete household tasks. I was a capable cook. I loved our new little baby so much. But I couldn't figure out how to synthesize all of the things.
There were resources out there and I found other mamas to ask for guidance but still, it was difficult to own it all for myself. I had homemaking skills but I found it difficult to translate these skills to life at home full-time with a newborn baby. I didn't know what to tackle first because the baby seemed all-consuming and when I had a free second, I had no idea where to turn.
On-the-job training minus the training
We spend 13 years (kindergarten - senior year of high school) learning how to become well-formed human beings. Then, we may jump right into the work force (where we are trained to do something by people who know what they're doing) or we may serve in the military (with intensive training) or we may go to college for 4+ years where we study all of the things and hopefully graduate ready for gainful employment.
However, when we become mamas, it's like on-the-job training minus the training. Of course, we can ask other women we respect for insight. We can read all of the blog posts and books published on these topics but all I know is that for mamas, the learning curve is steep and the burnout rate is high.
After a lot of trial and error, I found that by following the four steps listed below during times of transition or difficulty, I am less likely to become overwhelmed and burned out. I wish I had found a list like this years ago so I am posting it here. I hope it helps another mama along the way!
If you are in over your head with a newborn baby for the first time OR if the wheels are totally coming off the bus many years into this gig, the following steps may help you gain order and routine in your days:
Step 1: Tackle the task at hand
This includes (but is not limited to): taking out the trash, brushing your teeth, putting the clothes in the hamper and assembling dinner and putting it in the crockpot.
Do the thing that is staring you in the face. Then, move on to the next thing that presents itself. It is super simple but ensures that you will get something done even if you only have a couple free minutes.
Now is not the time to try to decorate that room or paint your dresser. Keep things simple until you get a handle on life.
As you tackle the tasks at hand, you will continue taking care of your child(ren) so the amount of tasks you get done will totally depend on their needs, independence, etc.
Step 2: Figure out your meals
Create a meal plan you can follow for the next few days. Then, create a grocery list. Go to the grocery store and then stick to the meal plan.
It is likely that this will take you time to navigate as you continue to care for your child(ren) and the tasks that arise. This is not the time to revamp your work-out plan or laundry routine. Just keep on, keeping on in all other areas until you know what you’re having for dinner and have the ingredients on hand.
Step 3: Get laundry under control
There are many systems to follow. Just choose one and stick with it. Try it out for a few weeks and make adjustments as you go.
Again, this will take a while but now you are focusing on your child(ren), the task at hand, meals and laundry. A system is developing...
Step 4: Consider what’s going on within you personally
Are you chugging along, staying on top of things? Awesome. Keep rocking it.
However, if you continue to avoid what you’re supposed to be doing due to distractions/procrastination/exhaustion, perhaps you need a shift in your mindset.
Below you will find links to posts I have written where I share how shifting my mindset has been a total game changer:
Lack of productivity? Maybe you're not convicted the tasks are worthwhile. (Spoiler alert - this was my number one issue and I continue to re-visit this topic regularly.)
This is not an all-encompassing guide but targets the areas I found most difficult within motherhood and homemaking as I made this transition myself. I hope it is helpful for you!
We are in this together -