Hacks for postpartum work routine and life balance
January 10, 2017 4:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to develop a perfect system for my week, barring illness and other sorts of temporary changes. Routine soothes me. Exercise soothes me. I am still breastfeeding around the clock and I work two jobs out of necessity. I want to fit it all in somehow. Help?

Please help me find ways to maximize my time and "have it all" as a first time mom to a 3 month old. Here is a current breakdown of the schedule.

6:30 wake
6:30-7:30 nurse, prepare lunch/breakfast/etc (with 30 minutes of snoozing frequently in winter months)
8-4 job 1 with a 30 minute nursing/ lunch break*

4-6 my two hour window to go home, process mail, nurse, take baby duty if needed for spouse to handle things, prep for my second job

6:00-9:00 work-from-home gig, varying hours, sometimes all 3 hours totally full with zero breaks. Usually there are 30-60 minute breaks here and there which I use to eat and nurse.

9-12 bathe, play around on social media, netflix etc, get ready to do it all again.

I also need to fit in a weekly counseling session and would like to exercise 3x per week. Home is not conducive to that as I tend to take on the sluggishness of my spouse, or see cleaning that needs doing, etc.

Spouse is meant to do most of the cleaning. Some cooking for the week happens on weekends and we share responsibility for the rest of it.

Baby just started sleeping more, but not all the way through consistently yet. Hard to see leaving any earlier for the gym because baby isn't taking a bottle well.

I'm a big routine person. Sometimes my evening schedule is different and I can squeeze in a workout but I would love to hack my day so I can get the same 3 days per week, roughly the same time of day.

posted by crunchy potato to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Can you do work on a treadmill? Use a stability ball? Transition at 9 pm from second job (stop the social media/netflix) and do a workout?
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:21 PM on January 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

You are doing a superhuman amount already, it's hard to imagine how much more efficient your schedule could get. This is about as much all as most parents of young infants get without grandparents coming over every day or full time staff - you and your spouse are doing a ton.

Counseling appointments for a parent or parents of a 3 month old kid should allow you to bring and if necessary nurse the baby. Your counselor should not expect you to schedule around that.

Can you work through pumping/nurse while working you WFH job? It depends on what your tasks and work environment are, but that can save a tiny bit of time.

Can spouse do less cleaning and more feeding you? There's a reason cleaning is what everyone recommends ignoring for the first few months with a baby. If you need the gym for a break, that should take priority over a clean house - can spouse handle breakfast and lunch making while you exercise? Otherwise, can you take advantage of the loaf of bread stage and run/walk or do at home exercise for the next couple of months?
posted by sputzie at 4:45 PM on January 10, 2017 [11 favorites]

I suggest a run with the pram, or do an exercise video. You can tickle the baby intermittently to make it fun. I would also persevere getting them used to the bottle if you want that part of your life. My friend waited too long and her son would never take one and it was difficult for her. I'm sure there are tips. I have a 6 month old that didn't fancy a pacifier but my midwife said to give it to him for a few seconds intermittently while feeding and eventually he took it- also our doctor told us to wean around 4 months and that has made our baby much happier- I don't think he could have waited- my point is that it might give you a chance to hand a bit more feeding to your husband.
posted by catspajammies at 9:33 PM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can some of the hours for the WFH gig be done on the weekend while your spouse handles babycare?
posted by samthemander at 10:02 PM on January 10, 2017

Your schedule sounds really intense and only allows 6.5 hours of sleep in a best-case scenario. Can you cut something out? Or get help with meal prep? This would exhaust me and I don't have a tiny baby.
posted by spraypaint at 10:58 PM on January 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

I have lots of opinions on this but firstly, I wonder if you are aware that Metafilter has its own very new Facebook group for mothers called More Inside? There is a recent metatalk post outlining it if you'd like to know more. Just another avenue if you'd like some support.
posted by Jubey at 12:57 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Please help me find ways to maximize my time and "have it all" as a first time mom to a 3 month old.

I don't want to say that you can't have it all, because I feel that the entire notion of "having it all", which only ever applies to women, is an oppressive construct of a patriarchal society that sets women up to see satisfaction as a luxury. But, I do want to say that you are doing a lot right now, a really really exhausting amount. Having it all might not look like cramming yet more Things To Do into what already looks like a very tight and tiring schedule.

The way I handle it is to view time like money, in terms of budgeting it. I can only spend each minute once; I do not have an unlimited number of minutes. Therefore, when I say "I need to exercise", what that means is "I need to devote [a chunk of, 30, whatever] minutes to exercising, and that means I can't spend them doing something else," and what that practically looks like is "the kitchen needs cleaning but I have blocked out this time for a run and I want to stick to that, so oh well, kitchen will just have to be a mess today." Or: "I had planned on running today, but I am so physically and mentally tired that I can't manage that right now, so instead I am going to spend that time watching TV on the sofa to recharge." What I don't do is tell myself that if I just work hard enough, I can do the cleaning and the running and the TV all before I go to bed, because that way lies burnout and tears.

(I don't plan for multitasking. If it happens, it happens, and that's free bonus time. But I don't count on it.)

Another thing I do is to put a bit more thought into exactly what I need most out of a particular time category at any given time. So, taking exercise again, sometimes I need that because I just need the physical exercise - and that could look like going to the gym or going for a run. Sometimes I need to be out in the fresh air - and that could look like going for a run, or going for a walk with husband and kid. I am never going to be able to get all the time I want for exercising, so I am very strategic about exactly how I spend the time I have.

But probably, the most important thing I've found is that I need to build in slack time, for my mental and physical health. What looks like slobbing around on the sofa is actually vitally necessary for building up my capacity to cope. If you devote every minute to getting more and more and more Important Things done, the smallest thing can tip you over the edge, and leave you sobbing at a bus stop about corporate finance systems. (Ask me how I know!)

Be kind to yourself.
posted by Catseye at 2:27 AM on January 11, 2017 [18 favorites]

You may also want to consider that the amount of sleeping that baby does now is unlikely to be consistent- if you're not aware of the 4 month sleep regression as a possibility, it's somewhat sad (though not definitive) news!

I found the lack of structure quite frustrating with my first and sought to create that structure in various ways. In retrospect I feel that I probably spent a lot of energy trying to make that happen too soon, in that within 6 months the baby became a lot easier. Of course this might not be your experience, but just something to consider.
posted by jojobobo at 2:53 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Home is not conducive to that as I tend to take on the sluggishness of my spouse, or see cleaning that needs doing, etc.
Spouse is meant to do most of the cleaning.

These two statements stood out to me. You need more support from your spouse to make this work, and I get the sense that either you aren't getting that support, or you feel like you aren't. They need to help you make this routine a reality, and you need to be able to trust that they will do this.

Also, I've got an 18-month old toddler at home and even now I am just not capable of "having it all." Every few months there's a developmental leap or sleep regression or growth spurt and everything changes. Just be prepared for the routine to take a hit on a monthly basis, and to need regular adjustments.
posted by cabingirl at 5:14 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Like everyone said about, you are doing SO, so much already. At three months, I had a super supportive partner / co-parent doing everything - cooking, cleaning, laundry, household management; my exercise was taking a walk around the block once a day when it wasn't below freezing out or trudging to the drug store to buy diapers; I wasn't working - and I was still utterly exhausted all the time. I know it feels like there is more you want to do but please be kind to yourself with your expectations! You literally GREW A PERSON AND ARE CONTINUING TO SUSTAIN ITS NOURISHMENT EXCLUSIVELY FROM YOUR BODY.

The biggest thing for me when I was a new mom was learning -- really more coming to terms with -- the way that a Productivity Mindset - that being productive and efficient is both 1) intrinsic to who I am / responsible for my successes up til this moment and 2) my primary means of achieving calm and internal equilibrium - was maybe not going to be a paradigm that worked for me for a good long while with a baby. I was going to have to be comfortable sort of floating and existing in ambiguity and chaos.

I was struck recently by an article that I think came up here recently, about how "The quest for increased personal productivity – for making the best possible use of your limited time – is a dominant motif of our age" - and by this in particular:
"And yet the truth is that more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay. The better you get at managing time, the less of it you feel that you have... The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness."
Parenting in today's modern world is also, remarkably, notable for its limitlessness. It never, ever ends and expands to whatever space it is allowed. Thinking that you can manage the sh*t out of time and all will be well? This kind of thinking leads to suffering, mama. At least that's what I learned. Some stuff's gonna slide and we'll all just have to be a little sloppy and fat and messy and unproductive to make it through the long run. Hugs to you.
posted by sestaaak at 6:02 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've noticed that most moms seem to work out at home for the first while, for convenience (so they can fit it in as/when they have time and energy), and not usually for a good few months after birth, I want to say I've seen six months or so talked about a lot.

That said, this sounds like it's really about a need for self-care and space/time for that.

I think sleep is probably the thing to prioritize right now, though, otherwise your workouts will likely add to stress and fatigue, rather than relieve it.

Maybe get a membership at a gym *extremely close* to your house (5-10 minutes away, max), and go on evenings when you do have energy. Aim for three sessions a week if you want, but maybe try to be ok with just one, if that's all you can do.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:45 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

All I can say is wow I can't believe how much you're fitting in already!
posted by stevedawg at 8:14 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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