Whether you are a mother yourself, contemplating the possibility of one day becoming one, or a friend to someone who is a Mum, chances are this won't be news to you: Motherhood is hard.
Sure, it's beautiful, magical and all those other great things too. But it’s really hard. Since my first day on the job in my brand-new role as ‘Mum’ (a little over a year ago now), I've often been struck by the parallels to the professional world I left behind. As I near the end of maternity leave and soon commence the struggle juggle of wearing two hats, I wanted to share five principles I pinched from my professional tool-kit that held me in good stead to survive that first gruelling year (and occasionally even thrive!).
1. Work smarter, not harder. Unfortunately, when it comes to both work and motherhood, maximum effort does not always equal the best results.
Time and energy are scarce commodities during those early days (okay, years) as parents, so be sure to invest your time and energy wisely. Not everything will be possible to achieve in a day, so prioritising what matters most is a must – and learning to let go of the rest.
There will be many days as a parent that you will have to do the equivalent of clearing your calendar – if your little one is sick, everything else can wait.
Also, timesaving #mumhacks are your friend. The beauty of the motherhood biz is that it’s a well-worn path, walked by millions before you. You can find lots of ideas, tricks and tips to make #Mumlife a little less chaotic. Ultimately, do whatever works best for you and your little family, and whatever maximises quality time together. At first, I wanted to punch people who would tell me how fast it all goes, but it really, truly does.
2. Network, Network, Network. It’s a word that can feel a little cringe-y because it’s been used to death, but networking has its place – both in business and in motherhood.
When you are a mother, ‘Mum-friends’ are a special kind of friend – they are the real MVPs (check out my celebration of them here). I truthfully cannot quantify the value of making connections with other Mums doing the same gig you are. Whether you enrol in your local Mother's Group, strike up conversation in the park, or go to a Canberra Mum’s Facebook meet-up, find yourself a handful of like- minded women.
I also recommend you find a 'Mentor Mum' (no need to actually call them that!) - someone whose kid/s are slightly older than yours, so is further down the line than you. They will help you see the light at the end of looooong nights tunnel.
3. Organisation is key. Don’t worry, I am not suggesting you should be Type-A Mum, beholden to a strict routine (see #4 below), but it’s worth implementing a few life-saving habits to make sure the Motherhood fog doesn’t see you forgetting birthdays and appointments.
Your brain might feel a bit like fairy floss for the first months and years, so a calendar, lists and reminders will keep you out of trouble. Use the note-pad app in your phone to jot things down or keep a small notebook in your baby/nappy bag. Set reminders before appointments.
Basically, just don’t rely on your sleep-deprived brain for much. Because one thing they definitely don’t tell you at pre-natal classes is that you kind of become your kid’s Exec Assistant – between development checks, vaccinations, childcare application and enrolment forms, play-dates and activities – there is a lot to remember.
4. Be Flexible Once you become a Mum, you will have MANY examples ready for future job interviews if you need to “describe a time you had to change direction” (but probably don’t use them). Babies and kids (I’ll hazard a guess: teenagers too) are unpredictable.
Much like your working life, if you go into your day as a Mum with a firmly set agenda and desired outcomes, you will be disappointed.
Your plans will change. You will need to reschedule that catch-up with a friend, often two or more times. Just go with it, and remember – if you get to the end of the day and everyone is alive, fed and feeling loved, you have met your KPI.
5. Trust your team Just like in your work life, you simply can’t do it all on your own. Post-natal depletion and burn out is very real, so to avoid it, you need to delegate and accept help. It can be tempting to try and handle everything on your own, but it really pays to take the support you are offered. They say it takes a village to raise a child, so if you are lucky enough to have trusted family and friends around who want to help, try to let them. Whether it’s a chance to catch up on some sleep, dropping over dinner so you don’t have to cook, or an opportunity to get out on your own for a break – lightening your load is going to make you feel less overwhelmed and allow you to be more present when you’re with your little person.
--- Want more tell-it-like-it-is tales of Mamahood? @saidnomumever launched in October 2020 as a platform to connect expecting, new and seasoned Mums.
Lauren is a local Canberra woman, Mum of one and aspiring writer, with an academic/professional background in Sociology + Health policy. Through @saidnomumever, Lauren hopes to use her love for the written word to help shift the conversation on motherhood – by calling BS on the swathe of unhelpful commentary + making way for what is really missing from the dialogue.