From Maternity to Working Moms: 5 tips/tricks that got us through
As you know, it has been some time since we have created or uploaded any blog posts. And to tell you the truth, they may still be few and far between. But I hope you keep checking because we are doing our best and trying to turn a new leaf.
When we started Maples to Mountains we both had roughly a few months left of maternity leave before it was back to work, so we were able to spend our free time blogging and creating a solid foundation of posts. We both figured once we got back to work it would be no problem to write one post a week each. Little did we know what we were in for.
Being a non-permanent teacher, I (Ash) was still waiting to see if I would have a contract for September. But I was lucky to find out the week before that I would be starting a full-time contract the first day of school. EEK… For our fellow readers who are teachers, I’m sure you feel me when I say prep, prep, plan, repeat. Not only had I started my son a week prior in full-time daycare, now I would be getting us both ready and out the door for a set time. It was and has been more challenging than I thought. Especially those extra fantastic mornings when you’re dealing with a tiny human who is non-stop screaming at you for the hour and a half before you leave the house. Let’s just say REALITY check new mom. Luckily with my schedule I was home early enough to spend quite a bit of time with Robbie before bedtime.
But oh, the new reality sets in like a stagnant storm cloud. Gone were the days where I could throw a load of laundry in at any time, tidy up or clean during naptime or even catch up on a book I was trying to read. And here are the days of getting home, squeezing in everything that, for the past 14 months was done casually throughout the day, between 4:00pm and 8:00pm. Which for some non-parents, may not seem so bad. But don’t forget in the four hours dinner also has to be cooked, eaten and cleaned up after, as well as bath and bed routine. Let’s just say for the first few months our house was not guest friendly. In all truth, the majority of the time it looked like a war zone. Not to mention, with daycare comes the dreaded GERMS and SICKNESS. It was like a revolving door of Robbie being sick, up all night, running a fever, needing extra loving and more. Oh, and surprise! I’m pregnant and morning sickness kicked my butt for the first 4 months. Let’s just say that come Christmas holidays we were all DONE, and something needed to shift to make our lives more functional.
1. Time Management
I’m not saying that since Christmas I have got all my sh*t together, but, I am managing more effectively (or so I keep reassuring myself). I’ve learned much better time management for household chores (like doing a load of laundry every other night..GAH, or making sure that the house stays tidy because it’s easier and less time consuming to put one thing away when it’s out than it is to put 15 things away). I’m sorry for some who are more organized and thinking I already do this… I was like this (for the most part) pre-child tornado… And since then I have had to re-learn how to be like this with kid… I can only imagine what happens when our second child is added to the mix.
Also included in this time management is my planner/calendar. At school I am a Type A in all things, as well as some things at home. Or as Brian would like to tease, I can be a micromanager when it comes to some things. However, planning and using a planner/calendar was something that I wanted to be amazing at, but with long range plans and daily plans (required for teaching), taking the calendar home with me just didn’t seem necessary. HOWEVER, that has since changed. Everything goes in my cute day planner that I picked up from @ChaptersIndigo, or on my iCal. I chose this planner specifically as it has 17 months so it begins around the same time school started and ends into the following December. This way I have the first reminder of actually writing it down and then I receive reminders before the event and on the day of the event. This has been helpful with planning weekends, doctors’ appointments, ME time (ha ha ha. Let’s be real here right?), and other day to day activities that go on.
Um… Who has children and now hates grocery shopping as much as I do? So, I have never been the biggest fan of meal planning and going to the grocery store. I think it spawns from my mother making me go with her on Saturday mornings when I would have rather been doing anything else. Either way, it’s not my favourite thing. For those of you who know me on a more personal level, know that I really do enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. However, meal planning and shopping are my LEAST favourite of the entire routine.
So, up pops this new sign in the front of the store that talks about ordering your groceries online. I see it and don’t think too much of it as I stressfully push my full grocery cart with Robbie screaming because like me, he’s also had enough of the grocery store. However, after eyeing the sign several miserable grocery trips afterwards, and seeing my Doula Meg from Northern Mama rave about its efficiency I knew I had to give it a shot. Let’s face it, I am leery when it comes to new programs like these. Who has tried them? Who has had success? I need to hear these stories before you have my buy in because like I’ve already said, time is limited.
After trying it, I love it. There has been one or two times where the wait time has been longer than desired, but seriously, still less time than me running in and doing it myself. As long as you use the first tool – time management, then you have the foresight to order the night before within the 24hour window. Another huge pro for me is the inability to impulse buy, I actually have to make a list and I only get what I’ve included on that list, no more. Did I mention because it’s the Superstore you can also purchase pharmacy needs? Diapers? Toilet paper? Advil? ETC! Roll up to the parking spot, call, listen to music and wait (and have me time) while an employee pushes your groceries out and loads them into your car. AH-MAZING!
Um… So leave it to me to finally trust this click & collect, and then discover the next most amazing thing. Haha! And also leave it to me to be so unsure about click and collect but then jump right in for HelloFresh. As I’m sitting at work (first contract ended, new contract began), a few ladies from work are talking about how they are LOVING HelloFresh. With one of these ladies being one of my former teachers (who I enjoy), I trust what she’s saying. They rave about how meal planning is done, food shows up at your door, some meal prep even already done for you, you get the recipe and BAM. I mean the food doesn’t cook itself, but you’ve just eliminated my two most despised elements of the eating process: planning and shopping. It didn’t take much convincing to get my husband on board. But I knew I didn’t quite have his full buy in.
However, after our second meal I had my husband’s approval. He commented on how little food waste we would have, and how he enjoyed the recipes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s only our second week doing it, so it is a novelty. However, we have loved the recipes and loved the cost once we had broken everything down. Think of the food that you may be throwing out on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Maybe that last cucumber that you bought three of instead of two. Or that second tomato you planned to have in your salad. Or the 2 cups of spinach that just didn’t make it into your smoothie. It’s not a lot, but it adds up fast financially and environmentally. If you’re trying to reduce your environmental footprint, according to Global News Canada:
So, if you’re the average person, you’re wasting $121.33 per month. Imagine if you’re actually wasting more? Kudos to you if you make a conscientious effort to not waste anything. For us, it’s difficult. Maybe it has to do with the way I meal plan, or the quantity of what I buy. Who knows? All I know is I typically plan for a different meal every night, buy the required groceries but then things happen, the meal doesn’t get made because we were invited out or invited to our family’s house for dinner, or work ran late, and we picked something up on the way home. Either way, I’m sure we were easily meeting that average and it makes me sick. So, HelloFresh gives us exactly what and how much we need without going over. Yes, I still have to use click & collect to pick up odds and ends for our lunches and breakfasts. But, so far, it has helped us limit our food waste. AND! When you look at the average, if we don’t waste what the average family wastes, and we have next to no food waste, the cost of our food waste actually covers an entire week of HelloFresh. FABULOUS.
4. Hiring A Housecleaner
*Jasmine here, dropping in to add to Ash’s oh-so-wonderful post!* Hiring help for housework has always sounded to me like something far from reach, and honestly, it took me a long time before I had to actually ‘let go’ and ask for help. Like Ash has written, I too was struggling with the time management of work, family, appointments, dog, friends, and on top of all that keeping the house in good order. I had some friends mention housecleaning, and I didn’t think it would be an efficient use of our money, and I also felt like I was taking the easy way out by getting some extra help. After the first 4 months of being off at work, and having some time to reflect (and breathe!) over Christmas, I realized that we should at least give housecleaning a try. Once I started asking friends and colleagues about whether they could recommend anyone, I realized that a lot of people I know actually hire housecleaning help too. It made me feel better to know that I wasn’t ‘failing’ at managing ALL of the things - we are all fighting the same battle. We found a great gal as a recommendation from Joelle’s most wonderful daycare, and haven’t looked back since. It has been absolutely wonderful having the extra help and it has been worth every.single.penny. We go to work, come home, and our house is sparkling… it’s the simple things, folks.
If you are in the market for a present for someone…. Some housecleaning companies offer gift certificates now too… and I think that the gift of time (AKA someone cleaning your house for you) would be an excellent gift for a baby shower, birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, or ‘just because’.
5. Scheduled Me-Time, A.K.A. Self-Care
Yes, above I joke about how it’s a distant reality or a dream of busy moms everywhere, but this is seriously necessary to keep your Sh*t somewhat together. My sister is a counsellor and deals with mental health on a daily basis, and one of the most important things I have learned through correcting one of her millions of papers is SELF-CARE. Through reading her papers (haha usually I just read for grammar and spelling, but in her papers about self-care and client care, I HAVE payed attention), I have learned that you can’t support others without also taking care of yourself. I know that we/you barely have time as it is, YOU know I feel you, I’ve raved about it this entire post. But, there are those days when you’re drained, tapped, your ‘well’ of emotion and love is dry and empty. You need to take time for yourself to help re-fill that emptiness, so you have the emotional capacity and availability for your children and your spouse. Mom guilt aside, go get a coffee/tea, go for a run, take a bath (in the bathroom, alone, with no children present haha). Even if it’s 15-20 minutes a day where you have time to just ‘Woo-sa’ and calm, you will thank yourself for it. Everything else, well ALMOST everything else can wait. If you don't trust me, check out the TedTalk:
Yes, all of these things are helpful in saving time, and I think that sometimes we focus so much on the being busy and getting everything done that we can easily forget the importance of why we do this. Yes, we want everything to be done for our kids, our families, and our mom guilt. But sometimes I need a reminder and writing about it has even helped, we rush through so that we have more time. As much as our kids can drive us crazy, or our house can be a disaster, or dishes didn’t get done the night before, if it meant that you had an extra 20 minutes to sit on the floor and build a tower or read a book or play trains with your kid, that’s really all that matters. So yes, these tools help us keep our heads on and enable us to have more time. But let’s face it, nothing needs to be perfect and all that matters is having time with your child and spouse, and ENJOYING the time. Not rushing through everything because it needs to get done.
And I know that this is hard, especially being the TYPE A that I am, I’m so focused sometimes on checking everything off of my list that needs to get done that at the end of the day I feel like I didn’t really SEE my son. Sure, he was present and there with me while I cleaned, cooked, ate dinner or did laundry, but I wasn’t present. And for me, that is the worst waste of time.
So we hope that this post helps any struggling mamas out there trying to hold a million plates of responsibility at once that even just ONE of these things helps alleviate some stress and gives you more time to be PRESENT with your family. Let us know if you have any strategies that have worked for you that we didn’t mention. We would LOVE to check them out, especially if it gives us more time with our family.