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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a planner. I like to be organised. I can’t function without to-do lists. I like to know what I’m doing ahead of time. I like to arrive on time and leave on time. The fact that I thought I’d be able to maintain my productivity and organisation levels with a newborn is now comical.
Prior to becoming a mum, I’d write my to-do lists (both personal and professional) on paper. I loved the feeling of literally crossing off tasks as I’d completed them. My husband tells people that I write down tasks that I’ve already completed just so I can cross them off. That only happened that one time…
I used to thrive off breaking my day into 30 minute – 1 hour time slots to complete tasks. I imagined I’d be able to do the same thing with a baby. I knew it wasn’t possible, but I thought I could at least aim for it...Ha! Setting this as an expectation for myself was simply setting me up to fail.
There’s no rhyme or reason to the first few months with a baby. The only thing that is routine is that there is no routine.
One of the greatest challenges I faced as a new mum was feeling like I had all the time in the world, but also having none at all. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced it what it’s like viewing time in terms of feeds and sleeps instead of the usual measurements of dates, days and hours. My baby has fed every 2 hours since day one, so by the time the feed is complete and he’s had a sleep, it’s pretty much time for a feed again – and poof, the day is gone!
My husband was coming home from work each day and asking how my day was. A recurring reply was that I felt like I hadn’t achieved anything. When we broke this down, it was easy to see that I had, but it’s just the expectations I’d set myself were not achievable. The number of tasks I was used to completing was no longer possible. Even though I had been productive, I viewed each achievement as null and void because I hadn’t done every single thing I wanted to.
This got me thinking. Perhaps instead of thinking about time in terms of increments, mums should think about time in broader terms. What if I stopped measuring productivity as being correlated to the number of tasks I complete and instead look at in terms of the values I tune into?
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been viewing my time in terms of the following values instead of in hours. It’s transformed my mindset.
Whether it’s a chapter of a book, a news article, a magazine or a blog post, I’ve been taking a few minutes somewhere in the day to read something I enjoy.
On top of this, I like to read at least one book to my baby each day.
This is where I get down on the floor with my baby, play with him and give him my full attention. I talk to him, sing to him and play with his toys with him.
We teach our babies things all day every day, but here my focus is on quality time without interruption.
Whether it’s from watching something, going somewhere new, having a conversation with a friend or family member or looking something up with the specific goal of learning, I like to finish the day knowing that I know something now that I didn’t know before.
Here the focus is on doing just one thing. Do the dishes, put a load of washing on, fold the laundry, clean the toilet, whatever!
If I get to more than one of these tasks, fantastic, but if not, that’s okay, no harm done.
Reflect on something positive
This is where I ask myself things like what worked well today? or what am I grateful for today?
I know that when I finish the day on a positive, I’m more likely to start the next day on a positive.
The five values just listed are the ones that have been working well for me. Think about what values matter to you the most. You might have a couple or a few, doesn’t matter. There’s no need to be rigid with them either – the values you want to tune into will change from day to day.
Thinking about our time in terms of our values makes us consciously tune into things are important to us and allows us to let some of the other stuff go.
And mums, remember that no matter how productive or unproductive you feel, your child adores you just as much.
I'm married to Sam and I'm a mother to Henry.