Four hacks to balance 'baby and business' as a rookie first-time mom.
And I just say as 'a first-time mom' because I can only speak from the experience of being a rookie first-time mom while running a business. I got NUF respect for second-, third- and so on-time moms, but I've literally NO IDEA whatsoever how you do it!
And I must emphasise that these four things seem to do the trick in helping me get some kind of balance, they might not work for everyone. But in the event that they might help someone, I figured it was worth my while putting them out there. Now I'm assuming if you're reading this, you're a mom or to-be mom of sorts, and we both know how precious your time is, so I'm not gonna faff and I'll jump right in!
Hack No. 1: Getting that mundane, mind-numbing routine down.
It's mundane fo' sho', but I think it works if you want your mini-human to be as obliging as they have the capacity to be. I decided to give myself 12 weeks maternity leave. That's a lot for some people, and not a lot for others. But that meant I had a focus pretty early on that I wanted to get myself and my daughter into a routine as soon as I could as someone else would be helping me care for her (excluding the first few bonkers weeks obvs. They barely involved either of us getting out of our onesies). Granted, I was fortunate enough to have birthed a pretty chillaxed child that seemed to dig the routine I was establishing, but it was certainly coupled with some dogged determination on her more rebellious days (which still happen – and are currently happening. Damn teething). I'm talking feeds, sleeps, nappy-changes and baths at the. exact. same. time. every. freaking. day. Weekday or weekend. Holidays or at home. And that's still my life now nine months on tbh. Sure it can be restrictive, and it's one hell of an adjustment from the freedom of only really being responsible for myself for 35 years, but if your wee creation knows instinctively what they should be doing and when, it makes the rest of the time a fat load easier for you to manage. That's the pay-off for me and I think it's worth it.
Hack No. 2: Choosing the right childcare for your wee one.
This is an easier-said-than-done task I know. Firstly, feeling okay with leaving your helpless lil' creature with a complete stranger goes against everything your ovaries and instincts tell you. But unfortunately it's a harsh instinct you just have to ride out when you have to earn a living. When I try to shoehorn in work tasks on the days I have my daughter with me, it's no fun for either of us, barely anything gets done and neither of us feel good about it. So it's kinda key to look into what childcare is best for your child in relation to their personality and individual needs. For instance, after visiting some nurseries, I felt it was a bit too rough-and-tumble for her being so young. Plus she was so happy just relaxing on her own, I feared she'd be forgotten about and left to her own devices in favour of more demanding babies in the group. So I personally opted for a childminder as they can offer more one-to-one care. This isn't without its pitfalls though – for instance, not only do you have to drop everything when your wee one's poorly as you would with a nursery, but you also have to drop everything when your childminder or someone in their family is poorly. But that's just a part of parenting you have to adapt to quite quickly; there's a lot of the shots you just don't call anymore. But on the whole, knowing when my daughter is with her childminder she's happy and getting all the cuddles, sing-songs and attention she needs, helps me focus on my work so much more easily.
Hack No. 3. Getting real good at being economical with your time.
Never before has a to-do list been more laser-focused and needed! When you know you've only got an hour's-nap-window-of-time, you'll need to get your prioritisation and productivity skills honed to a tee to decide how you best use that hour. And this is where the joy of a routine comes into play too. When you know your cherub needs a sleep at a certain time, you're at action stations the second they close their eyes. You've firstly got to plan your day in terms of what's crucial, what's important, and what's non-essential for you. For me this usually comes in the form of time-sensitive tasks first (making up feeds, cooking baby meals, design project deadlines, packing orders, blog posts/email sends); important housekeeping tasks second (replenishing nappies/tush cream/baby wipes, site updates, social media strategy, email responding), and then non-essential tasks lastly (cleaning, washing clothes, researching, product development, brushing hair).
The harsh truth is, you also just need to find slots to hustle when you can. For me, that's a 5am start to give me an hour at the beginning of the day, and after the craziness of the daily 5-7pm routine (dinner/bath/bed), when I'm in-front of the TV, the laptop's on-my-lap again. I choose not to lie-in when I could do, and I choose not to waste all my sofa-time on naf TV shows. K, some TV shows make the cut. But my balance and pay-off though is that I get to give my daughter the quality time she deserves when she is awake. I do try to give myself most of the weekend as family-time (other than some blogging/emailing/social media bits and bobs), but I admittedly relent on some weekends, when I have to escape to the studio for order-packing and I can maximise the opportunity of having some extra pairs of hands. Essentially, you get better at it and this new kind of craziness becomes your new norm. Your priorities change but the bonus is, that the essential things become way more visible and faffing becomes way less possible.
Hack No. 4. Being as 100% present as you can, whether you're in work-mode or mom-mode.
This was an amazing nugget of advice given to me as a new mom and it's so damn valuable I just have to share it. It's so super-easy to slip into that mindset of feeling guilty being at work because you're not being a good mom being with your baby, and then feeling stressed or panicked being with your baby because you're not getting your work done and people might be hounding you. In both instances, you're not giving either role the attention it deserves, or doing a good job at either role. I think the trick to overcoming that is being fully in and committed to whichever place you're in. If you're at work, don't tap open your phone's photo album to wistfully daydream-swipe through baby pics and get side-tracked (although this does happen on occasion, she's too damn cute!), and if you're at home-with-baba, get stuck into her toys with her and don't be constantly checking your emails and business' social media accounts. Try and be present wherever you are. The added side-effect of this, is that when you do come to switch modes (from work to mama or vice-versa), you're so much more focused and happy to be there, that it makes both of your roles more meaningful and fulfilling. Win-win.
The key thing to remember above all of these hacks though, is that some days life just doesn't work, despite your best intentions. Some days [read: most days], things aren't and can't be perfect. Everything can't be how you want it, and THAT IS OKAY. You've by no means failed. You've a new human to keep alive besides yourself and life is simply never going to be as orderly as it was pre-parenthood. Perfectionism isn't going to help you here. But don't give up on trying to find that balance, because some days you'll totally boss it and feel freaking amazing. And a big part of striking that balance is accepting that some days you won't strike it. And won't even come close. These chaotic, needy times are both temporary and precious and I just know we'll look back on them so fondly when they don't need us so much anymore [already emoshe about that!]. So my advice would be to be in these times with everything you have. I'm pretty sure they'll be some of the best times of our beautifully-messy, imperfect life.
So what are your hacks to balancing baby and business? I'm all ears! Help a mother out! :)