Preparing for a major all-changing life event
May 20, 2013 3:28 AM   Subscribe

What should I remember to do when preparing for a life event that will take all my time and energy?

The specific event is becoming a parent (I'm expecting my first child in the next few weeks) but I don't want to exclude non-parents from answering - I've found various threads on bulk cooking helpful, for example.

Things I've done so far:
buy stuff for the baby
cook some large meals for the freezer so we don't have to cook much in the first few weeks
change ISP to one with unlimited downloads to allow for new at-home lifestyle
make efforts to sort out household paperwork and finances
stock up on toilet paper, cat food, dishwasher tablets

People who have been new parents or have been through a time when you needed to be organised and ahead of things - what ideas have helped you in these times? What might I be forgetting? Specific recipes, ideas, pointers are very welcome. I currently have plenty of time (assuming the baby stays in there for a while) and varying levels of energy.
posted by altolinguistic to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Go away for a weekend trip now with your partner (if you have a partner) or another close person if you don't. And get a lot of sleep now and get up late on days you don't have to be at work early.
This too is a kind of stocking up.
posted by third rail at 3:43 AM on May 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

Shift as many things to paperless billing and online payments as possible. I pay all of the following online: electricity, phone, internet, gas, car registration, insurance, credit card payments, gym membership and rent. If possible, also set these up to be paid automatically by direct debit when they fall due.

Get car/s serviced.

Deep clean and/or de-clutter your house. Throw away as much crap as possible. This helps immensely when you have to get, and stay, organized.
posted by Salamander at 3:50 AM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Line up help. Talk to your family, friends, religious organizations you're part of - whatever you have available. Find out who you can call, and who will bring you dinner at odd hours or help you run errands when you just need to sleep.
posted by Lady Li at 4:04 AM on May 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

The cooking in bulk is good, and also considering buying some other things in bulk like tins of tomatoes, bread if you have room to freeze it, so you can make simple meals when you don't have time to go out. Stock up on things that comfort you - light novels, magazines, DVD box sets * ** knitting wool, whatever you like, for those times when you need a little "me" time but you'll only have a scrap of time. Regarding the help, make specific people responsible for specific things, so when it's all a blur you'll remember you can call on Carol for cakes, Sue for soups, Laurie for a lift, etc.

No children but these all helped when I had to prepare for some medical treatment that was going to knock me for six for a good couple of months.

* OK so I didn't watch the box set I bought
** My thing made me super emotional. I believe childbirth / small children around does too. Don't buy anything that might make you weep and weep. Like the Olympics DVD you'd wanted for ages, just as an example!
posted by LyzzyBee at 4:22 AM on May 20, 2013

Put relaxation & doing fun stuff above all else. The stores will still be open after you give birth (even better, Amazon Prime for quick home delivery), and you can always call a cleaning service and a pizza place.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:37 AM on May 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

Something I tend to forget is that major events are rarely the way I anticipate them being. When surprising or unexpected things happen, it throws me for a loop and creates anxiety because things aren't going "right". Something I try to carry with me is the reminder that, although things aren't the way I thought they were, that doesn't mean that it's wrong or that I'm doing a bad job or whatever. I think parenting especially is something that you can't really be fully prepared for, and that's ok. Even if things don't go the way you expected or hoped or would prefer, it doesn't mean you are doing a bad job. Feel free to step back from anyone's expectations, including your own.
posted by windykites at 5:17 AM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Remember that you will still be able to go out and buy things even after the baby is born. It's a baby, not a city destroying hurricane.

We over prepared like crazy. Stocking up on food for the first couple of weeks was a good idea (though people also brought us tons of food, so some of it was wasted effort); after that we found ourselves making up excuses to go buy things just to get out of the house.

Oh, but do find a really absorbing TV series that you don't need a fully functioning brain to watch, so you'll have something to do during those first few weeks other than eat and feed.
posted by ook at 5:50 AM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Clean your house well and purge superfluous belongings.
Improve your camera/video recorder technique.
Set up the car seat and have it checked to ensure you did it correctly.
Stock up on pet food and supplies, including treats and maybe some new toys.

posted by carmicha at 5:53 AM on May 20, 2013

First, congrats on your coming Baby Altolinguistic!

Like most new parents, its likely you'll be having lots of family coming to visit; try to set up some sort of schedule now, so they don't all descend on you at once. The usual is for one set of the new grandparents to come for a week to ten days, then the other set of grandparents for the week to ten days after that. Try to get others --- siblings, aunts and uncles and so on --- to give you a break, and come a couple months later.
posted by easily confused at 5:53 AM on May 20, 2013

We adopted a baby last fall with less than a 24 hour notice. It's amazing how quickly everything can be pulled together. Friends brought over some hand-me-downs (car seat, stroller), then I did a big baby box store run before we left town (diapers, formula, bottles, baby carrier, etc.).

To my surprise, a few weeks later, I returned a big bulk of what I'd bought. Turns out, we didn't like that model of sling, the baby was lactose-sensitive, so we switched formula (can't return formula, though!), newborn diapers only fit for 5 minutes, and we liked my husband's Timbuktu better than the store-bought diaper bag. In the months since, we've figured out what works for this baby, for our house, for our rhythm and style. It's been nice to problem-solve once we know the specifics of the situation, rather than guess at them ahead of time.

FWIW Amazon Prime and are fantastic, quick, and easy with returns. And, actually, it was really, really nice to get away from a fussy baby for a half hour to run to the box store and make a choice about pacifiers.

Things that helped immensely:

1) we lined up several weeks of rotating grandmothers to come stay with us. And I was so glad that we were already set up well for long-term guests. Also, I wrote down where the dry cleaner was located, where the grocery stores were, the pet-store, etc -- then we delegated those regular errands to my mother or mother-in-law.

2) Auto-bill pay was already in effect for everything, so banking just went on auto-pilot for several months.

3) We splurged on a dog walker those first few weeks, because we had zero energy for (or interest in, quite frankly) the dog. That kept him happy and made me feel a wave of relief every time I watched him come home so jolly and exhausted from a big romp.

4) We decided that my mother and MIL's job was to take care of us and the house, so we could take care of the baby. They cooked and cleaned while we rocked and diapered and fed the baby, until we needed a break -- then they took over while we got a nap. Our support team was incredible.

5) I gave myself permission to let stuff slide: emails went unanswered, thank you notes were very late, nobody got birthday cards, there was no Christmas tree, etc. All of that stuff can come later, but the newborn phase is so intense and sweet and draining and amazing and fleeting and delirious that nothing else could come close to mattering as much as this time with my baby.

What I wish I'd done to prepare:

1) Line up childcare ahead of time: both regular and occasional. That's hard to do when you're in the midst of it and just need somebody to come sit with a sleeping baby while you go to a required work thing.

2) Taken more breaks and time to take care of myself. Gotten a pedicure. Bought some new clothes that made me feel awesome (and that don't show spit-up). Gotten my hair done (my roots showed for a month until I finally had a chance to make up that appointment I cancelled when he was a week old).

I have hardly had one small stretch of time to myself in the last six months, so while diapers can be ordered, it would be really, really nice to have an afternoon to myself to go shopping.
posted by mmmcmmm at 6:04 AM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Definitely: relax. Any preparations that you need or wish to do, do not feel stressy or pressured while doing them. Kids are (kid-sourced interruption - #2 morning wake-up; return to computer/web 10 minutes later) just one of those things where you have to learn to deal with a constant stream of multitasking for the next handful of years, until school, then it turns into a different set of challenges. Remember that a lot of stuff goes from being proactive and well-planned to reactive and full of mayhem.

That being said, being prepared is a great thing. Dirty diapers are a fact of life, right? A Playtex Diaper Genie in the nursery, a large supply of the current-size and next-sized diapers in the closet, and diaper wipes by the case help reduce diaper changing stress at home. But have a large diaper bag in the car, including a huge supply of diapers, two small packs of wipes, warm day and cool day changes of clothes, and then a large stockpile of things like infant Tylenol and Benadryl, some small band-aids (which you won't need for about a year), etc. Walk the baby aisles at Target to see what you might reasonably need while out and about, and if it's something you might need and it could reasonably go in the bag, do it. Toss the bag in the car and forget about it. Then go and get yourself a *small* bag for everyday use. I happened to find that an iPad bag for $10 worked great as a mini diaper bag to carry bare essentials, and if need be, could always return to the car for almost anything else. And beyond that? There's a store nearby.

My wife grew up in a '60's mindset where the idea of putting the baby in the car and going anywhere - even just to the store - was a totally alien concept. She had this subconscious idea that the kid was some sort of soap bubble. So I made sure to take her out - with the newborn - the first week we were home. Then a few days later we went "for a little drive" (turned out to be ~150 miles) to prove that the baby wasn't going to explode or anything. Then a week or two later I said "We're going to ${city} for the weekend" (about 300 miles). Except I kind-of lied. We kept going, for more than a week, drove out west, saw the sights, eventually she got the message and learned to relax about it all.

By the way, that's an awesome way to establish some memories that you'll remember and cherish the rest of your life. I remember changing a diaper on the side of a deserted road in Wyoming, on the trunk of the car...
posted by jgreco at 6:05 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the ideas so far - keep them coming, from parents and non-parents! (LyzzyBee, this does feel quite similar to preparing for serious surgery a few years ago, that I knew would keep me out of action for a while). I have finished work and am relaxing quite a lot :-)

Spouse and I are in the UK and I'm not sure the Amazon Prime for new mothers thing works here (does anyone know?), and if we drive 300 miles we fall off the edge. But I do appreciate all advice.
posted by altolinguistic at 6:24 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

First of all if anyone offers you ANYTHING that will let you get the maximum amount of sleep in those first weeks--take it!

When you are in the hospital and the nurse comes by and asks if you want baby to go to the nursery, say yes!

I got a phone call on a Saturday afternoon asking if I could come watch the baby while a new mom slept. I dropped everything and ran over there. Don't wait to become exhaused and frazzled, set up some friends to do some baby watching while you sleep in those first days. You won't be sorry.

When packing your bag for the hospital, tuck in some Benedryl for your partner and anyone else who is going to be in the labor room with you during labor and delivery (and after). When my girlfriend's daughter gave birth, the new Grandma, her brother and the new father were sacked out in the room on mattresses. They weren't sleeping well. A bit of Benedryl and it was much, much better. (this was a 36 hour labor).

Have friends bring you nice food to the hospital during labor. Our hospital has a McDonalds, but really, yuk. The Mexican food I brought (and the 40 of Corona) was right on time.

When people ask what they can do for you, tell them:

Can you come by and help with laundry?
Please go to the store and bring me some grape juice and salad?

Here's something that I learned here, that turned out to be an enormous help. Get a package of adult diapers for yourself. The mesh panties and enormopads are uncomfortable and not reliable. A big pad and Depends will keep you from having to launder your bedding. (Sorry, gross but true)

Also, it turns out on even a 5.8 oz baby that the newborn diapers were a complete waste.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:24 AM on May 20, 2013

Get some aquaphor and lanolin, in case you need it. You don't want to wake up in pain and not have the lotion available. I also agree with mmmcmmm about the pedicure. My feet felt totally gross and I wish I had pampered them beforehand.

I rented a bunch of classic silent movies for the first few weeks of breastfeeding. It was nice because it was quiet and didn't overstimulate the baby, and I got to see a bunch of classic films I had always wanted to watch.
posted by Malla at 7:26 AM on May 20, 2013

Get Amazon Prime if you haven't already, you can buy pretty much anything you'll need on it and being able to just click and know the stuff you are getting low on will arrive will take a lot of stress of having to go out and shop off of you. Having said that, don't be worried about going out the house with the baby, if the weather is nice it isn't as hard as you imagine and can be a life saver, try to go out to do things other than errands. Short walks with the baby, go visit family and friends, go to a coffee shop. It's very easy to get int a hunker down and ride it out mentality.

Get some comfy clothes that you can just chuck in the washer and dryer for you (and baby) if you haven't already, if you have some then get some more. Not only the baby will need multiple changes of clothes through the day, you won't believe where poop and vomit can end up. Also more clothes mean you can do a few big washes instead of futzing with lots of little loads of laundry. If you have family or friends asking to help, laundry is a great job for them to do. Oh and if you are co sleeping or whatever it is called buy more sheets for your bed too, also towels and washcloths if you don't have many as they are super handy to grab to wipe things up or wipe off baby and work so much better than those wet wipe things.
posted by wwax at 8:17 AM on May 20, 2013

Autopay for everything. Autopay autopay autopay. And also an app into which you can plug your paychecks and your autopay dates and amounts so you don't have to balance your checkbook. I used to be so good at paying bills until the baby came along. Now, if I don't have something on autopay, it's a miracle if it is paid on or before the due date.

Learning about various household hacks is also great for preparing for life after baby. Throw dirty stuff into the washer instead of a hamper, so all you have to do is turn it on when it gets full. Get a bunch of washcloths and just do a quick wipedown of all surfaces with a wet washcloth every evening so you can go longer between real cleanings. Get a crockpot, throw all the stuff that's about to expire in your fridge into it in the morning, eat a meal in the evening with no extra effort and also there's leftovers. Learn to make 10 meals that take less than 10 minutes prep time. If you have a smartphone, the Grocery IQ app is great for building shopping lists as you become aware you need certain things, so when you find yourself at the store, you don't have to try and remember what you needed. A wall calendar on which you write everyone in the family's obligations so you can quickly check what needs to be done in a given day (get a big one, this is also excellent for writing down milestones, baby's first words, etc. and you can throw the calendars in a box for happy reminiscing in years to come). Etc.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:41 AM on May 20, 2013

Are both your wills current? Advanced medical directives? Emergency contacts updated?
posted by Sophont at 11:16 AM on May 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Interview some house cleaners and set them up now. Have one clean ahead of time, and then once or twice a month for the next 6 months.
posted by barnone at 11:46 AM on May 20, 2013

A big paper calendar in the kitchen for appointments, notes, etc.

Someone showed me, where you set up a free calendar with specific needs (meals, rides to appointments, errands, etc.) and then invite friends to sign up. You would want to delegate running this to someone. Which reminds me...

DELEGATE STUFF. If it doesn't require your personal attention, and you won't derive happiness from it, then delegate it to someone who shows up asking how they can help? Laundry? Groceries? Recycling? Let them help!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:14 PM on May 20, 2013

Go! Go anywhere on the fly! You'll never be able to do this again. From now on every trip or even run to the store will envolve planning. Go out to eat, go to the grocery store and shop slowly and uninterrupted, go to the movies, anywhere.
Also kid-proof your home. Put chemicals away, way up high, and put pots/pans, tupperware type things in all the cabinets from the waist down. The kiddo will be creeping sooner than you think. I kid-proofed my house 25 years ago and the second grandbaby has now discovered the joys of the tupperware cabinet, and I don't have to worry.
posted by PJMoore at 12:48 PM on May 20, 2013

Deep clean the house, you won't be doing that again any time soon.

Charge any batteries you might have, or chargeable cameras and the like.

Lay down on your stomach in every corner of every room. Be amazed at the grime you will see, and can easily clean now. If you don't, you'll find out about it when your baby is eating it.

Do any big projects you were planning around the house, such as new dishwasher, painting a room, etc.
posted by markblasco at 2:16 PM on May 20, 2013

Know what? I didn't feel that becoming a parent was "a major all-changing life event." One day I was highly pregnant, a few days later I was home again with a newborn, but I was still me, Mr Corpse was still himself, we were still in the same apartment, we were still the same people.

When our first kid was born our reaction wasn't "OH MY GOD EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED! NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME!" but instead "There you are! Yay! What took you so long?" and life just continued.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:45 PM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, four days in (baby was two weeks late) and I did some of the above and not other stuff, and it's otherwise as the corpse in the library describes. "Oh, it's you!". I still feel more organised than I was before, though, so thanks to everyone :)
posted by altolinguistic at 12:50 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

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