The mysterious case of Having It All

Pre-baby, I had a full time job, a mortgage, bills, a house to keep, food to buy, a husband to spend quality time with, family to visit, friends to entertain, you get the drift. In my job, I had always strived for perfection, I regularly gave myself a hard time about not being good enough, which actually helped I guess, it pushed me harder to achieve more and I certainly never became complacent. And achieve I did, by the time I fell pregnant, I was in full stride at work, loving every stressful, demanding minute of it, and, if I do say so myself (which I don’t often, so indulge me) I wasn’t too shoddy at it either.  I thought I had it all.

Being pregnant only spurred me on more, I refused to let my standards slip, not wanting people (or myself) to think I was shirking my responsibilities whilst simultaneously growing a human in my belly.  Multi-tasker, that’s me! As my belly (ankles, face, hands) got bigger, I did begin to concede by going home on time each night, which I hadn’t done for years (poor time keeping or undue pressure, mainly from myself?) and in the final weeks I worked from home once or twice a week, which to be honest was a bit of a pain as the systems were “sticky” but by the end it was better than traipsing to the City every day.  By then my commute was bordering on 2 hours each way, mainly because my 15 minute walk between the station and the office had become almost 30 minutes, although I think my belly arrived at our destination a few minutes before the rest of me, such was its size.  Still, I was producing good work, I was proud of myself.  I thought I had it all.

I finished work 3 weeks before my due date, with feelings so mixed I couldn’t quite make sense of them.  I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself, I was worried I would get bored, I didn’t know what to do without work – not in a workaholic kind of way, but honestly what do we have, 2 weeks at most off work at once?  This was a minimum of 9 months, how would I fill the time? During my first week, I busied myself with buying some plastic food containers and making batch after batch of bolognese and chicken curry for the freezer.  I had heard that newborns could be rather time consuming in the first few weeks, so this was my attempt to save some time.  Once that was done, I took every wine, beer, spirit and cocktail glass out of the dresser and washed and polished them (because the baby would really care about that!).  This felt fine, I could do this, it was just like being on holiday. At home.  On my own. The second week, I would continue to get up each morning with my husband at 6am.  Once he’d left at 7am, I would sit in bed and watch dvd’s. By 8am I was usually asleep. And so, for the second and third week off I would spend my days sleeping, watching dvd’s, and wondering whether to put a towel in my hospital bag (honestly, this bothered me for a couple of weeks!).  But I was close to the final hurdle, I had got through my pregnancy fairly unscathed, maintained a good job, great home, loving husband by my side.  I felt content and excited.  I thought I had it all.

By the Friday of the 3rd week, 2 days before my due date, I decided I would put a towel in the hospital bag.  The next day I went into labour, I think the baby knew that the towel dilemma was now resolved and it was time for the grand entrance. Debut appearance made, the baby took over our lives like nothing before.  The first two weeks were spent in special care, nothing life threatening, but not a great start to motherhood either.  It wasn’t how it was supposed to be and it was all out of my control.  For the first time in a long, long time in my life, I felt lost.  I’d had it all, and now it was being taken from me and whisked off to an incubator and hooked up to a machine and made to cry through relentless heel prick blood tests.  And there was absolutely nothing I could do. I had stolen moments, in between doctor visits and nurse checks. When I think back, I suppose that’s what made me so determined to breastfeed, which can be hard to begin with anyway, but harder when trying to negotiate your way around wires and tubes.  The whole thing felt like an out of body experience.  I didn’t have it all. There are some times in your life that you just can’t put a positive spin on.

But let’s not dwell, let’s jump ahead to motherdom at home. By the time baby was a few months old, routines set, social calendar, such as it was, in place, and I could see myself getting used to the suburban housewife life.  I wanted to be a Stepford wife (without the weirdness).  I just wanted to be the perfect wife and mother.  I’d researched just how to keep on top of the housework whilst raising a small baby, and I put routines in place for myself, which worked and made life so much easier.  I even started a blog to share my new adventures! I was so taken with my new lifestyle, I thought I had it all.

Then the countdown back to work went from months to weeks to days.  I am so lucky that I love my job.  The thought of leaving my baby was unbearable, I can’t even imagine what it must be like if you don’t actually like your work, or your colleagues! I have an amazingly supportive boss too.  I do not underestimate how lucky I am to be able to work from home 2 days a week, it has been a lifesaver in terms of my working hours and childcare.  If I had to go into the office everyday, I honestly don’t know how I would afford the additional childcare.  Once I was back at work, I settled in remarkably quickly, and knowing that baby was safe and sound at the childminders, and that the childminder is his Aunty, meant that I did not need to worry about how he was settling in.  Each morning is a well oiled routine between husband and I to get out the door (or logged on if I am working from home) by 7am.  Being back at work has been good for me, and apparently I am still good at what I do.  I push myself as hard, probably harder, than before.  I work 30 hours a week instead of 35 (45 if you include the no lunches and never leaving on time) and I don’t want anyone (myself) to think I am shirking my responsibilities just because I’ve got a baby (insecure much?).

When I am at home, I am Mum. Not a perfect Mum, but the best Mum I can be.  I have a part time job, a mortgage, bills, a house to keep, food to buy, a husband to spend quality time with, family to visit, friends to entertain, you get the drift.  In my job I strive for perfection.  In motherhood I strive to be a good role model.  I don’t think you need certain things to Have It All, I think it’s about appreciating what you’ve got at that moment of your life, and being the best you can be.  That’s all you can do, it’s certainly all I can do.  I am blessed, I know I am, but that’s because I choose to feel that way.  I could dwell on the things that haven’t turned out as I would like, and honestly there have been a few.  But I prefer to see the positives.  I choose to Have It All.

Have you chosen to Have It All?  What are your tips for balancing life’s demands?

 

It’s not easy being perfect…

Haha, how would I know? I’ve only been at this domestic goddess training lark for a few months and whilst I just about managed to keep on top of things during my maternity leave, the moment I went back to work it all started to slip away from me! I don’t know how the real domestic goddesses do it, I tip my hat to them.

So where did it all go wrong? I  managed to get in a good housework/domestic bliss routine in the mornings and evenings, a bit hit and miss with my daily chores, but generally my house was fit for a visit.  Maybe not a visit from the Queen, but she was probably busy with her new Grandson anyway, so I wasn’t expecting her to pop in.   I was so pleased with myself though, for being able to spend all day out and about with baby, but still have a nice, comfy home with minimal bio-hazards to return to.  I had also discovered the joys of online food shopping, so could make sure the cupboards and fridge were fully stocked in accordance with the weeks meal plan, leaving the weekends to spend quality time with husband and baby.  Totally Stepford.  Almost.  But then, rather inconveniently, I had to return to work. Sigh.

I felt very confident that I could keep on top of my newly attained domesticity and work almost full time.  And I could have done too, if it weren’t for that little flaw in the human body that scuppers many a well laid plan….tiredness! I got through the first couple of weeks and then it just hit me like a steam train, I was absolutely shattered! Not like the sleep deprivation of  caring for a newborn, that goes beyond tired, I don’t even know what that is.  No, this was just your average work week tiredness, mixed with the unpredictability of a sleeping baby in the next room, mixed with having had a year off work and the ability to nap during the day if absolutely necessary (not that it happened much, but knowing you can nap does help you power through).  It probably didn’t help that it became very hectic at work quite soon after I returned, and maybe in the New Year it will settle down, but it most likely won’t, and frankly I’d be bored if it did! No, I just need to adjust back to working life, keep fit and healthy to keep my energy levels up and do what Mum’s have been doing for all eternity……just get on with it.

My house is not the perfect haven I had wanted it to be, but it’s good enough.  It’s clean, it’s reasonably tidy, I generally cook healthy homemade meals, I usually have the shopping up to date, clothes are generally washed and dried for the next working week, and everyone is happy.  To be honest, it was good to have the whole domestic bliss thing as my project while I was on maternity leave, it gave me something to focus on in the home that did not involve nappies, milk or teething.  But really, as long as everyone is comfortable and happy, as long as I don’t want to cringe when the doorbell goes, that’s good enough.

I recently started watching the Desperate Housewives boxsets from the beginning.  I started to watch the pilot episode and it began to rekindle my domestic bliss quest. Oh how I longed to be perfectly groomed, to bake my own bread and pies, to have the perfect house, how wonderful it would all be.  Then one of the desperate housewives shot herself in the head and one was asked for a divorce from her husband because she was too perfect all the time.  This then reinforced to me that perhaps being good enough and happy was good enough for me.

Do you find yourself struggling for time to fit it all in?  Or have you found some strategies to help you cope?  Please share!

The work/life/mum balance

Oh crumbs (as a new mum, crumbs now covers all expletives), I haven’t written a post for a couple of months! On a completely different topic, I’ve been back at work now for a couple of months.  Oh!

It’s fair to say I wasn’t looking forward to going to back work. I wasn’t dreading it, I was in no way fearful of it, I love my job, I enjoy what I do, I get on with the people and, on the whole, they get on with me!  But I still wasn’t looking forward to going back as it meant having to leave my beautiful baby on a regular basis, and not just while he was asleep.  In my new mum head, it was scandalous to even consider leaving baby during his waking hours, for this meant that I would miss out on crucial developmental milestones and would also mean that he would love his childminder more than me! But, like most households these days, we couldn’t afford to go down to one wage permanently, so work I must.  Sigh.

So I did what any normal new mum does, I searched online baby forums for the answer, how could I work at home with my baby and still earn the money I needed to keep us in the Bank managers good books.  Now, I don’t like to give advice, I generally will speak from my own experience but believe that everyone needs to make their own way, learn from their own mistakes, what works for one does not necessarily work for another.  But in this instance I am going to give you a piece of advice that I believe to be most valuable.  When you find yourself in the same predicament as me, about to embark on a quest to find a job that you can do from home, that fits around the baby, that earns you the money you need to keep you where you need to be in life, my advice before you set sail on the internet highway is this: DON’T.  Honestly, just don’t. There are no jobs, there is no solution, you will not find the answer.  Yes, you will find jobs where you can be invited to other peoples homes and sell them things, or ring them and sell them things, or knock on their doors when they are out during the day anyway, in an attempt to sell them things.  But none of those are the answer I was looking for or, I suspect, the one you want either.

Instead, I got over it, and decided to come up with a fool proof work schedule.  3 versions in and I think I came up with a good one.  I am truly lucky to be able to work from home 2 days a week, and spend the afternoons with baby.  Then I work in the big smoke for 2 days a week, getting home just in time to give baby lots of cuddles, milk and a bedtime story. Then, I have a day off, during which time I pack as much fun in as a 12 month old can possibly handle, plus run a baby group (how did that happen?!).

Leading up to my return, I actually started to feel like I was ready to go back.  It’s a funny thing, but I think it was a self-coping mechanism.  I knew I had to go back, so my sub-conscious was convincing me it was the right time.  On my first day, I went into the office and was surprisingly upbeat about the whole thing! It was good to see my colleagues, it was amazing and predictable at the same time to hear that pretty much nothing had changed, and I just settled back in.  When I left the office to pop to the loo, it was almost refreshing to find that there was no one crawling along the floor following me!

Don’t get me wrong, if I didn’t have to work I wouldn’t.  I’d miss them all greatly, I’d even miss the work, but if I could spend all of my time with baby then I would.  But I have to admit, I am enjoying using my brain for things other than remembering feeds, nappy changes and figuring out what’s wrong with baby.  I think what has helped, and I can’t stress this enough, is that I know baby is happy at the childminders.  He enjoys it there, he has fun, he is safe and secure and loved.  I know this and therefore I don’t worry during the times I am away from him.  And I think it’s so much healthier for him to spend time with other children like he does now.

Yes, I know I just said I would spend all my time with him if I could, but that’s because I am a mum.  Really, if I didn’t have to work, I still probably should.  It’s good for him to become a little bit more independent and it’s good for me to mix with adults who haven’t just stepped off the baby mill.  I am tired, but not deliriously tired like the first few weeks of motherdom, so it’s more than bearable.  My house isn’t ship shape, but it’s no where near how it was when I was glued to the sofa under bubs. Husband has to do some of the cooking again, but he enjoys it and I generally have some batch cooked meals on standby in the freezer.  And the time I do spend with baby is somehow more appreciated, it’s full of fun and laughter and to a degree I think I am getting the best of both my worlds.

How are you finding the work/life/mum balance?  Have you got any tips to share?

Domestic bliss starts with a sleeping baby!

I honestly don’t think I would remain sane if my baby didn’t sleep so well.  And I’m not bragging that I’ve got a good sleeper, it’s not always been like this I can assure you! I’ve mentioned before that when baby was around 8-12 weeks I started putting routines in place, well loosely anyway.

The first thing I did was put a bedtime routine in place when baby was 8 weeks old.  Now at 8 weeks old baby couldn’t tell the time (I know, shocking isn’t it!) so I decided that I would go down the path of a routine being a set order of things rather than a set time of things. This meant that I could decide when baby’s bedtime was, not baby, and this was the key to our success I think.  I decided to aim for a 7pm bedtime, but I knew that if things didn’t quite work out that way then I had a bit of wiggle room to work with and the world would not implode if I didn’t get him down until 7.30pm or 8pm.  As time has gone by we have naturally settled at around 7.30pm as we have had to fit dinner in now we are following baby led weaning.

This routine also meant that if we were not at home, visiting the grandparents for example, we could still follow the set order of things and baby would happily fall asleep in the car seat ready to be transported back home and to his cot.  It worked like a charm!

On a normal day the bedtime routine starts at 5.30pm and goes like this:

5.30pm – milk feed (i feed on demand but this feed was set by me.  So in the early days, I might have just fed him at 4pm for example, but I would still give him this feed as it marked the start of the bedtime routine.  We eventually progressed to just 3 feeds a day, so now this is his 3rd feed)

Somewhere between 6pm and 6.30pm – dinner

7pm – bath if bath night or a little bit of playtime if not

Around 7.15pm on non-bath night or 7.30pm on bath night – brush teeth, change into bedclothes, story, bed.  We used to have a bedtime bottle in there too but have recently dropped that and it’s made absolutely no difference to his sleep, so I’m guessing now he is eating more at dinner time he doesn’t need it.

This is our evolved routine at 10 months, but it’s not too dissimilar to the one we started with at 8 weeks, which involved no dinner and no teeth to brush!

So at 8 weeks we began this bedtime routine and by around 12 weeks we were taking him upstairs to his crib.  This started to give us the wind down time we needed in the evening once baby was asleep upstairs, as up until that point baby had been sleeping downstairs with us (on us) and we would transfer him to his crib when we went upstairs to bed ourselves.  To begin with we would sit in the room with him until he fell asleep, we did this for some time.  At 6 months we moved baby from the crib in our bedroom to the cot in his own room.  We again sat with him until he fell asleep but quickly realised we were actually disturbing him a little when we left the room, so we started to leave the room once we had put him in the cot.  Surprisingly (to us at least) he fell asleep! Without us being in the room! It’s at that point we wondered how long we had been staying in the room for our own comfort rather than his!!

What wasn’t working so well for us was the night waking.  It certainly decreased as baby got older, but at 7 months I found we were stuck on one final night time feed, at around 4.30 each morning!  I don’t even think I was tired anymore, partly because I had forgotten what uninterrupted sleep felt like and partly because sleeping until 4.30am was a lot better than the early days! But I did feel like I needed to do something, I had gone with the flow up until this point, in terms of feeding on demand, and don’t get me wrong, if he needed it I would surely feed him, but I felt a little like it was habit, probably for both of us.  He would wake, crying, I would go to his room and feed him, he would fall asleep feeding, I would transfer him back to his cot! You can’t really make rational decisions at 4.30am so I would just automatically feed him as I knew it worked!

I had a good browse online, mainly using the online community on Babycentre, as I do for most of my baby related quandaries, and the common theme I read was “is he really hungry?”. Hmm, I thought, of course he is hungry, he wakes up crying, I feed him and he falls asleep.  Is he really hungry though? I decided to find out.  The next morning around 4.30am, he woke , crying, I went to his room, picked him up, cuddled him, he snuggled into my neck, stopped crying, I put him back down.  He started crying again, but that tired cry they have, I picked him up, he snuggled into my neck, I put him back down.  He fell asleep. He fell asleep! No feed. I tried it again the next night, again it worked. I was amazed.  I didn’t try it the following night, because he didn’t wake up at 4.30am!!!!! He now sleeps from around 7.30pm to around 6.30am, and this works fine for me! I started to feel a lot more human during the day, a lot better than the zombie impression I seemed to be doing for the 7 months prior! We have our blips, there have been 5am wakings, but not very often, and always solved by a nappy change or a dummy in or a quick cuddle. Never a feed.

I was now able (and willing) to embark properly on my road to domestic bliss, or at least the road to having a tidy-ish house! I even had the brain power to figure out how to start a blog!! I always knew I loved sleep, but I never truly appreciated how good it is for you until now, and a baby’s sleep is even more precious!

Have you got any tips to help with sleep issues?  How have you managed to spur yourself on to domestic bliss?

I heart Baby Led Weaning (my story of being puree free!)

Well, I’ve just realised it’s been a month since my last post.  I had planned to post at least once a week, but time flies when you’re living from nap to nap (baby’s nap, not mine).  As I look back over the last month I am amazed by how much baby has developed.  When I last posted he could crawl backwards and in circles, and now he can successfully commando crawl his way (forward) around the house.  What has remained consistent is his love for food.  When baby was tinky tiny and I was looking ahead to all the wonderous developments we were about to go through together, the one thing I was slightly dreading was weaning, well as much as you would dread something that you generally only hear bad reviews about! At this point I should clarify that in the UK when we say weaning we mean weaning onto food, whereas I believe in some other countries, e.g. the US, weaning means to wean off of breastfeeding (I think I’ve got that bit right).

The thought of having to cook and puree tiny pot after tiny pot of food, only to have baby fling it across the dining room was clearly not something to look forward to with excitement!  But then something amazing happened.  I went to my post-natal group when baby was almost 4 months old and one of the weekly topics was weaning.  Baby Led Weaning.  Now I don’t know about you, but I always think I am quite lucky to be living in the age we live in, we have the technology that our ancestors couldn’t even have dreamed of, and sometimes, when my laptop freezes and I want to throw it out of the window, I do remind myself of the marvel of having a fully operational computer on my lap! So yes, we are lucky, there are things that still need to be developed, of course, but we’ve got it good (I do not apply this to childbirth, that is just a ridiculous way to get a baby out).  Never before have I thought myself to be so lucky to be where I am today, at this point in time, as when I sat in that post-natal class and was told I DID NOT HAVE TO PUREE.  No, we don’t do that anymore, that’s old school, you can do it if you want, but baby doesn’t need it. Baby does not need to be weaned until he is 6 months old and by then he can handle real food.  Not lumpy.  Real, actual food.  I could have cried with delight.  I believe I did squeal a bit.  I do feel I should point out at this stage though that these guidelines are for healthy babies, there are of course some situations where your health professional (e.g. health visitor, GP) advises you to wean before baby is 6 months, in which case you would still need to use purees.

The post-natal group leader recommended the book Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, which I immediately bought and began to read during naps (obviously not mine) and from the very start I was captivated.  The introduction made so much sense and sounded so easy to follow, like a self help book but with actual practical advice.  I am not here to sell the book, but I cannot recommend it enough! What I also loved about it was the history in the intro, which also made a whole lot of sense.  Puree-feeding babies is new (in the great scheme of things), it came about early last century when doctors took over the postnatal care and started to tell new mums to breastfeed their babies every 4 hours. The babies were getting hungry, why could that be?  The only possible solution, they reasoned, is that they must need food, so doctors told new mums to give them food at quite young ages.  Apparently it never occurred to the doctors that maybe the babies needed to be breastfed on demand rather than every 4 hours, or at least they couldn’t admit to that.

Some companies caught on to the need for this new niche in the market and started making baby food.  This went on for many, many years, and we were all puree fed. In the 1990’s new research said babies shouldn’t have food before 4 months as they couldn’t digest it, and the law made the baby food companies put on their products that it was only suitable from 4 months plus.  Then about ten or so years ago, the World Health Organisation advised that babies didn’t need anything but milk until 6 months, in fact their little tummies can’t digest food properly until around 6 months (which is also around the time that they can start to pick things up and put them in their mouths, coincidence?), but this time there was no law passed to get the food companies to change their labels, so they didn’t and a lot of them still say “from 4 months”.

Confused?  You won’t be the only one, I’ve looked on a few baby led weaning forums and lots of people are quite rightly confused because of these labels.  On the one hand you’ve got your health professional (and the World Health Organisation) telling you to wait until 6 months until you wean and that baby won’t need purees, then on the other you’ve got supermarket shelves full of pureed baby food with labels saying it’s ok for your baby to have from 4 months. Frankly, I’m going to listen to the health professionals on this one, and not the ones making millions (billions?) out of it.

And if you’re wondering what new mums did before the doctors took over, basically baby led weaning, although the term had not then been coined, it was probably just called weaning!

I can’t stress enough though, and I apologise in advance for the use of capitals, but if you haven’t already, READ THE BABY-LED WEANING BOOK BY GILL RAPLEY & TRACEY MURKETT. It goes into so much more detail than I ever could on here, it is easy to read, informative, and really has answered all of my questions. Details about the book, both the UK version and international, can be found on Gill Rapley’s website http://www.rapleyweaning.com/ along with other useful information.  Alternatively, find someone who has read the book and whose baby is about the same age as yours and follow their lead – that’s what one of my new mummy friends did with me and her baby is getting on great with baby led weaning!

A big plus for baby led weaning is that baby feeds himself, so he decides what he eats and how much, with the theory being that putting him in control in this way avoids future fussiness and food issues, which is generally where the weaning (and beyond) horror stories generate from. When he is done, he is done, we do not make food a big deal, it is the meal that is the occasion, so he is learning social and table manners too.  It is also supposed to help with hand/eye co-ordination and speech development, by the very movement of picking up the food and then moving it around the mouth.  Almost 4 months in and it is going well so far.

We did buy 2 pouches of pureed baby food.  It was just before that beloved post natal group, baby was about 3 months old and the labels said 4 months so we thought we should! We put them in the cupboard and then when I found out about baby led weaning we wondered what to do with them.  Luckily we had bought the ones where they only have the actual vegetables in them and nothing else, so I felt ok to use them as a pasta sauce for baby one day when husband and I fancied a takeaway!

I started this post thinking I would write about my baby’s first meals, just to give you an idea, and progress from there, but it turned out quite differently.  Hopefully still helpful!  What I will say though, is that baby is almost ten months old and we have never spoon fed him, not one thing.  He feeds himself completely, using his hands as nature intended, and it’s really not as messy as you would think.  We do load a spoon with yoghurt and he takes it and feeds himself with it, as the baby led weaning book kindly recommended, but we have not put one piece of food in his mouth.  Or drink actually, he feeds himself his water after meals with his own open cup.  That is baby led weaning, and we (me, husband and baby) love it.  We eat our meals together, baby has not (yet) thrown any food at the walls, eating out is easier than I could ever have imagined (baby just eats some of our food), and I just cook one dinner for all of us, with no need to puree tiny pot after tiny pot.

I’m not afraid to have guests round anymore…..

Up until a couple of months ago, if the doorbell went and I wasn’t expecting anyone I would cringe a little.  Actually, even if I was expecting someone there would still be a little bit of cringeability. There were several reasons for this, none to do with my lack of social etiquette or wanting to be a hermit, or at least that’s what I tell myself. No, my “problem” was my house.  It was a tip.  Ok, so actually it wasn’t a tip, there were no black sacks lying around or seagulls hovering, it just wasn’t how I wanted it to be and that made me feel uneasy.

People wouldn’t have (shouldn’t have) cared what it was like, but I did, and that’s a good thing I think, it meant I hadn’t completely given up!  What also bothered me was that someone would always come round just before I tidied too! If I decided in the morning that I would give the living room a vacuum and dust in the afternoon, you could put money on someone coming round by lunchtime. And I didn’t have a lot of visitors so you can imagine how spooky that was!

My problem areas were probably the same as most new mums – vacuuming and dusting, washing up, washing and the bathroom. They don’t take long to fix if you keep on top of them, but you need the time, energy and motivation to get on with them regularly or it just all mounts up quickly.

Once the pressure of having a newborn eased off (which, incidentally, seemed to be a long time after baby was considered to be a newborn!) and I had gotten him into his EASY routine and me into my “make the bed and get dressed routine” (I will need to think of an acronym for that), I decided I needed a housework routine, or rather, just a morning and evening routine, to help keep things under control.  It sounded like hard work, but I knew I couldn’t live in a house where I didn’t want anyone to follow me into the kitchen when I offered them a cuppa or, having drunk said cuppa, need to use the bathroom!  As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, my cleaning regime before baby was unplanned and haphazard at best, which was manageable, but now with baby in situ, I needed to have a plan or literally nothing would get done.  Also, I didn’t want to leave it all until the weekend for a mammoth clean up campaign, our weekends were even more precious now we had baby.

I was already cleaning my cooker each morning, sometimes making dinner if I had time and could think of something to cook, generally leaving the dishes til the morning, rushing to get my things together to get out the door each morning and doing batches of washing when I remembered or ran out of clean tops.  Baby was just about to start weaning so I knew I had to make time to sit down to eat breakfast and lunch with him too, as well as get dinner ready for sensible o’clock.  I honestly did not know where I was going to find the time to do any of this. So I went to my go-to de-stresser. The thing that calms me and keeps my thoughts, and in this case my hormone fuelled emotions, under control.  I wrote a list.

Oh, I do love a list.  They are marvellous things, and you can write one about pretty much anything for an instant de-stress. Planning a party and it’s all getting a bit too much? Write a list.  Holiday packing out of control? Write a list.  Having a baby and need to know what clothes to buy in each size? Write a list (I particularly loved writing that list).

I actually wrote two lists, one with tasks for the morning and one for the evening. They are so simple I do feel a little bit silly for even putting them on here, but they got me out of a pickle.  You could honestly come round at any time during the day or evening and not only will I actually be presentable, but I wouldn’t mind you following me into the kitchen or asking to use the loo. That’s not an invitation though, I still have my social etiquette and hermit issues to deal with! If you want to go for an early morning swim with me, I’ll be up and ready, helped by the fact that my changing bag is always restocked and ready to go, and I will have packed mine and baby’s swim things the night before.

I’ve been following these routines for about 3 months now and, bizarrely, I feel so much more relaxed by doing them.  I’m a lot quicker at it too now, so still manage to fit in my morning routine even if I am out early. I then know that I will be returning to a lovely tidy home, which is a much nicer feeling than returning to a pile of dishes! I ended up writing a meal plan too, which I’ve posted about before, and that really helped me to get prepared for dinner and shopping.

Here are my two routines:

Morning routine (begins when I get out of bed):

Make bed

Dressed and make up

Quick clean of toilet and sink

Empty dishwasher

Have breakfast

Check washing to be done / put dry clothes away

Plan lunch (in my head)

Prep and cook dinner

Evening routine (begins straight after dinner):

Clean dining room ready for breakfast

Load dishwasher and put on before bed

Washing up

Clean cooker

Clear sink and worktops

Tidy living room (of toys really)

Check calendar and prepare for next day

Update change bag

Plan breakfast (in my head)

Check meal plan for next days dinner (get meat out of freezer if needed)

After a couple of weeks of following these routines, I started to try and fit in some of the bigger stuff too, like dusting and vacuuming, and found that they were also less of a chore now that I had the basics down.  I found a lovely site called Flylady, which recommends having a set day for each task, rather than one or two days of housework, with the weekend for fun.  That sounded like something that would fit in well for me and my little family, so I wrote another list (more fun for me!) and attempt to do the following:

Monday – vacuum

Tuesday – clean door windows and mirrors and water plants

Wednesday – dust

Thursday – vacuum

Friday – catch up or redo any area’s that need it.  or rest!

Saturday and Sunday – Vacuum. Check meal plan for the coming week and write shopping list (another list!). Do shopping.

Now I say attempt to do that because in reality I am not a domestic goddess, I am merely in training, and if I don’t dust on Wednesday that’s just fine, I’ll do it when I remember. In between vacuums I do sweep the carpet (I bought a carpet sweeper to help with the constant battle with cat fur) and sweep the hard floors with an amazing rubber broom I bought on recommendation from the Flylady site.

It’s the morning and evening routines that help me the most and makes me less fearful of the doorbell.  They were tough to fit in at first, but are really second nature now.

If you have a routine that helps you then please share, I am always looking to learn more!