During the pandemic, like many of us I ended up picking up old hobbies again. Being stuck inside all day and night forces you to get creative. And being pregnant during a pandemic, you are really stuck inside. One of the hobbies I ended up picking up was reading. In a way it felt almost too similar to that episode of the Twilight Zone titled ‘Time Enough at Last’ where a man gets stuck in a vault at a bank, the world explodes all around him and he emerges unharmed upon a total apocalyptic state but manages to find a massive book collection which quickly became his own utopia among the chaos… until (plot twist!) his glasses break! In my pre-COVID life, I was way too busy to spend hours a day reading but the silver lining of quarantine was a much needed ‘pause’ and slowdown.
My pandemic book-fueled utopia consisted of buying way too many books than I could really read. But I did manage to make my way through one book - Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. And in a world with more time on my hands than I was really comfortable with I was just soaking this book completely in by forming a game plan for when the world did open up again, for when I would truly be ‘busy’ again. I would be armed and ready with a sure fire strategy to make the most of my time and really engage in ‘deep work.’ And I even tried some of the strategies while working from home, like ‘time boxing my day’ into short intervals, planning out how I would spend my time for the entire day and retreating to a place where I would only do ‘work’ and no other activity.
However, I found a much more efficient and quicker way to employ some of these strategies. Heck, I think you can even skip reading the book by employing this one, single method. Have a baby.
Babies, as I have learned, are little alarm clocks that will automatically go off every 2-3 hours. Sometimes, their alarm will fail to reset after following the standard procedure of ‘diaper change, feed’ and you need to figure out a way to quickly disarm them with things called ‘binkies’ or ‘swaddles.’ I’m about one month in and I’m still figuring it out. But maybe in Cal’s next revision of the book he can just save everyone some time (that's the name of the game, right?) and just tell everyone to get babies. And boom - instant environmental parameters to engage in ‘deep work’.
As a new mom, I am in a state of planning overdrive and the baby is the boss. I plan when the baby eats, sleeps and plays and then I do the same for me. Except my ‘play time’ has now morphed into ‘self care’ time...because my previous play time would probably consist of going to an improv show at a bar but I can’t realistically fit that into a 90-120 min block at 3pm on a Tuesday. I’ve found myself clinging onto a few mantras about ‘self care’ during this time that help shape my perspective when planning out my ‘me’ time:
- Put the airmask on yourself first (I think of this in the least catastrophic way possible)
- You need to ‘make the time’ to ‘take the time’
- Be kind to your future self
I think the connection between all three is the need for planning and prep and to not forget about yourself. While the baby might be the boss right now, I’m his lifeline and if I’m not 100% then his foundation won’t be stable. So I find myself scheduling in my me-time around his downtime. And I will be very happy to be fully upfront and debunk the #1 myth every mom is told (and what was told to me by almost everyone) - just sleep when the baby sleeps. Umm...what if I want to shower, or go for a walk, or call those three stupid medical billing offices because they keep messing up my insurance claims? (hint: I really only want to do two of these things…).
As a new mom, building in my ‘me time’ has been critical as well as co-building that out with my husband because he needs his me-time too. So what's been working for us is we have a baby schedule and then we have a caretaker schedule of who is ‘on-call’ or ‘off-duty’, and when you’re off your shift you are 100% free of baby duties and can do whatever you want (unless there’s a major diaper blowout - then its all hands on deck). And during the day, changes to the plan do come up. Like a family member wants to come visit us, or someone needs to run out to the store, or a doctor's appointment comes up during someone’s on-duty baby shift. Over-communicating these changes or plans has been critical to keeping everything in a smooth flow. I don’t think I’ve ever ‘announced’ to my husband the number of times I’d like to take a shower as I have in the past month.
So to all the new moms out there who might be reading this - if sleeping when the baby sleeps isn’t working for you, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s just terrible advice that needs to go away. Remember to put the air mask on yourself first by making a plan for you and then your baby. Don’t forget to make some time in the day to take some time for yourself by scheduling it in, and finally be kind to your future self - if you have some extra time, wash bottles, put the laundry away, go take a shower or do anything you want that's technically not on the schedule just yet. You will thank yourself later for taking advantage of any little pockets of opportunities you have to do something nice for your future self.
Author’s note: This article was written while a baby was sleeping, scheduled three days in advance and was slotted between ‘pumping time’ and ‘bottle sanitizing’ time on the schedule. You can learn more about Francesca at https://frankiemakes.com/