It’s due date month for me, so naturally my energy and my efforts are focused on prepping myself, my home, and my family for “new baby mode.” Such an exciting and busy time of life!
Two weeks ago Jennifer Fulwiler of the blog “Conversion Diary” wrote a piece entitled 21 Tips for Survival Mode. I thought her advice was fantastic, and it gave me much food for thought as I began preparing for my own postpartum survival mode.
Yesterday I finally wrote out my thoughts on how I best cope during the postpartum phase of motherhood. Every woman is different, thus every woman copes with postpartum differently. My “type A” personality and combination of choleric/melancholic temperament desperately needs to feel like I am not falling apart…even if/when I actually am falling apart. Ha! So my survival checklist accommodates my need for order and stability in the midst of chaos .
Below is my checklist of 12 Tips for Postpartum Survival Mode. I would love to hear from other moms, too: what are the ways you have learned to cope, survive, and even thrive while welcoming a new baby into your family?
1. Make a Daily Task List of Things I Can Accomplish
I’m a list maker and box checker. I like to look at a piece of paper and see the items checked and crossed off that I had hoped to complete in my day. Even if the list consists of nothing more than “1) Shower 2) Load of Laundry 3) Fold and Put Away Laundry 4) Read Books to Kids 5) Make Dinner” it still helps me feel productive to write those things down and cross them off a list. I keep my “To Do List” pad and a pen in my kitchen and make my list each morning while I drink my
not counting what number cup of coffee.
2. Quick Clean My House + Daily Load of Laundry
If my house is a disastrously dirty mess and the laundry is piled high in my laundry room, I feel like I’m personally falling apart. And I feel like a failure. Some women can handle the messiness with calm and grace, and I highly respect them for that ability. But I cannot. A dirty house drives my postpartum hormones crazy and makes me want to cry.
So, here’s how I handle my OCD-ness when it comes to cleaning. First, I’ve worked hard to make sure my home is “deep cleaned” before the baby arrives. It’s pretty well scrubbed and polished. Things have a place to be put away (it doesn’t mean they’re quite IN those places…but there is a place for them), and I have established a “quick cleaning” routine that works for me.
Every morning after breakfast and kitchen clean up, I take about 15-20 minutes and set my whole house, upstairs and downstairs, in order. I’ve found that right after breakfast my 3 year old and 1 year old are in their best moods of the day: their bellies are full, they are “rediscovering” the toys they haven’t played with since yesterday, and they aren’t tired or cranky (thus less chance of fights or tantrums). So it’s my best chance to get some quickie work done.
My quick clean routine includes: making the beds, quick cleaning the bathrooms by wiping them down with Clorox wipes and Windex wipes, and putting one load of laundry in the washer. I do one load every single day except for Sunday, and for my family, that keeps up with our dirty clothes, towels, and sheets for the week. On Monday and Friday I add an extra task to my list, such as vacuuming the house, changing the sheets on the beds, dusting, or Windexing my downstairs glass doors and windows.
In an ideal world, I’d like to be using “green” cleaning products and in fact making my own, but this is “survival mode” and that means I’m using the Clorox wipes out of a can. Toxic or not, it keeps my bathrooms clean in less than 5 minutes a day.
3. Quick Clean ME
I’ve found that during those groggy, sleep deprived postpartum days, getting dressed and putting on makeup and a spritz of body spray or perfume becomes MORE necessary in my life: it makes me look and feel normal. Even if “getting dressed” consists of nothing more than changing out of PJs into my favorite yoga pants and tank top, it still qualifies as “getting dressed” in my book, and makes me feel human. A bit of basic makeup (with extra under eye concealer of course) and a spritz of something that smells good makes me almost forget how many days it’s been since a normal shower. (Related note: I also try my hardest to keep my toenails painted and my eyebrows groomed postpartum. I know this probably sounds super silly to some of y’all, but again, it’s a little thing that helps me feel like I’m not falling apart).
4. Teach Toddlers to Pick Up
A few months ago I would’ve thought that a 36-month old and a 20-month old were “too young” to help me pick up around the house and yard. But I’ve recently learned this is NOT the case. Even a 3 and 1 year old will pick up if bribed well enough.
So, before my kids are offered a snack or a juice popsicle or a little DVD show or some other treat they are begging for, I ask them for a “five minute pickup” and GEE WHIZ – it’s amazing what kids will do for something they really want! I’ve placed a toy basket in each of the four places they normally play: their bedroom, our family room, the office/playroom, and our screened porch. When they ask me for a treat, I ask them for a “5 minute pickup”, and they zoom through those four locations and pile their
junk toys into the baskets I’ve designated. Win-win: happy OCD mama, happily rewarded kids.
5. Stock Up on Good DVDs for Toddlers
I’ve been making my list of toddler DVDs to put on hold at the library down the street, because especially in the first few weeks postpartum, I have absolutely no guilt about letting my kids watch shows while I feed and care for baby or myself or the house. This is called a survival mode list after all!
6. Rest When They Rest
I’ve trained my toddlers to nap together during the same time each afternoon. If my new baby will feel the peer pressure and join the club, then I’m planning to join them too…even if it’s just for a short time each afternoon, some quiet time and a rest helps my coping ability SO much.
7. Vitamin D, Especially the Natural Variety
I don’t know if it’s the fact I’m a native
sun-worshipper Floridian or if it’s just the way God made me, but natural sunlight, lots of vitamin D, and good vitamins help my rocky postpartum hormones more than I can describe. After my last baby was born and I was struggling significantly with the postpartum hormones, I found that 20 minutes of full-on natural sunlight made an enormous difference in my mood. So I’ll be keeping up with lots of vitamins, minerals, probiotics, fish oil, and in particular vitamin D during survival mode.
8. Quick But Powerful Devotional Time
Early morning prayer/quiet/devotional time is super hard during postpartum survival. I don’t usually wake up before my children on postpartum mornings when I’ve been up multiple times through the night for feedings. So I wake when they wake, and try to fit in as much of a quality morning devotional time as I can before the day kicks into high gear. This usually consists of me reading the daily Magnificat readings while I drink my morning coffee (before I start the breakfast routine). Usually (not always) I can get the whole morning devotional section read before my kids start itching for food. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. And it helps!
9. Workout…Daily if Possible
I’ve written a 4-part blog series on how I do Crossfit from home as a busy stay-at-home mom. [Read it here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four]. As soon as my doc gives me the postpartum green light, I’ll be re-starting my Crossfit regimen from my living room each morning. It’s a workout routine I can do in less than 20 minutes a day, and the positive effects on my body, my emotions, my hormones, everything is so valuable to my postpartum healing process.
10. Have a Few Places I Can Go with Three Babies
Yes, I’m talking about which establishments have the biggest shopping carts to accommodate my family circus. Read: we’ll be going to Costco and Target for our version of “family field trips” quite frequently.
The kids and I will need to get out of the house. Even if it’s just for an hour of strolling through the toy and book aisles, kids tearing stuff off the shelves and driving store clerks crazy while I drink my nonfat latte. It helps to have a change of scenery, to see other human beings, to chat with a friendly adult or even just the barista or checkout clerk.
11. Purge the Sugar and Bad Carbs
When I’m stressed, hormonal, PMSing, or postpartum, it’s a powerful temptation for me to turn to food (read: sweets and bad-for-you white and useless carbs) for comfort. The result is my body craves more of the same and feels lethargic, bloated, and heavy. The only solution for me is to make sure my house is purged of sugar and bad carbs during postpartum survival mode.
It really helps to have a supportive husband in this need to sugar-purge. My Hubs helps hold my feet to the fire by not running to Harris Teeter for another container of Breyers when I start craving it late at night. Instead, we fill the house with healthy snacks: fruit, nuts, seeds, Greek yogurt, protein bars, etc. If they are all I have to turn to for food cravings, then that’s what I’ll end up eating. And I’ll feel so much better than I would downing something that would give me a sugar rush and crash.
12. In Home Date Nights
Feeling connected and staying connected with my first love (aka The Hubs) is all the more important during the postpartum survival stage when the demands of kids are so high and our time together feels so diminished. A girlfriend of mine has the practice of a “nightly date night” with her husband from 8:00-9:00pm...every single night. She and her hubby make sure their kids (all preschool age and younger) are in bed (or at least their rooms) by 8pm, and then they spend an hour chatting, reading, watching a favorite TV show, etc.
My Hubs and I have a similar routine, we’ve just never given it a name or kept to a strict time for our nightly downtime together. But even those precious 60 minutes of uninterrupted us-time makes such a big difference in our sense of connectedness during an extra-stressful period of life.
Okay Mamas: those are my tips for survival. Now the real question: WHAT ARE YOURS?!
I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections, experiences, and comments below.