You don’t need to do it alone!
Being a mother can be very daunting. Besides being physically and emotionally responsible for another human being, there are many other things that we have to take upon ourselves which we may not have realised before. This can include basic things like managing your baby’s feeds, bed and bath time, to weekly meal planning and researching the best paediatricians and insurance providers, to interviewing helpers and organising their work schedule…the list is endless. No wonder then the mental load that falls on mamas is a hotly discussed and debated topic (French cartoonist Emma explains this phenomenon with humour and insight).
The debate on this topic will continue (most fathers feel they’ve got an unfairly bad rep!) and without taking sides, I realise that I have found ways to lighten my load. I’m a meticulous planner, using technology and other resources available to me. That’s not to say that things don’t slip by me, but I do manage to balance a hectic job, my 6-year-old’s school and play activities, exercise (only moderately!) and make time for my hobbies like doodling, crafting, scrapbooking and more. I have some suggestions on what you can do to make your life easier, with a little bit of planning, increased delegation and last, but not least, a strong support system.
How to reduce mental load
1. Syncing schedules
I come from a family of tech geeks and have always learnt to make optimum use of technology. Google Calendar is my lifeline. It takes some getting used to but now it’s almost a reflex action to feed in an event, engagement and reminder and invite my husband on to it. Once you get used to it, you will realise how helpful it can be to plan things between you and your spouse. Set yourself birthday alarms, vaccination reminders, jot down addresses and helpful notes and clear up your mind space for other tasks.
We briefly did use SimplyUs (only available on iOS) too which has a similar concept of syncing your calendar and to-do tasks. There are a number of other calendar-sharing apps (try Evernote or Trello) available to organise your schedules. Try different apps as a family and decide what best works for you.
2. Communicating efficiently
Ours is a family of four – my husband, daughter, our lovely helper Melissa and I. I took the plunge and decided to go back to full-time work when Isha was three years old. Undoubtedly, that was only possible as I knew Melissa (we fondly call her Isha’s second mum) was at home looking after her. Our family Whatsapp group includes Melissa and we use it to plan, delegate and discuss household errands, events, etc. Quite often, the woman of the house becomes the go-between for other members. This just adds to her workload and there are chances of slipping up or miscommunicating. Allow and encourage direct discussion with your own messenger group (iMessage or Telegram are also options) to reduce your own mental load.
3. Storing memories
Your happiest memories should definitely not be another reason to feel overburdened. But sometimes, the task of staying in touch with the family back home, providing daily or weekly updates about the kids and documenting your little one’s life falls squarely upon the mama. Very soon after Isha was born, I came across an app called Tinybeans that helped me capture milestones, little notes and pictures of her every single day. The best part is I can invite family and friends, who now receive a daily update on her activities without me having to physically call or Skype them.
Another app that is a godsend (for a sentimental hoarder like me) if you have an artistic child is Artkive. I can now carefully document every piece of art (or scrap!) she has ever made. It can be used to make a booklet that will be a great gift for doting grandparents.
While we’re talking about memories, it’s no secret that my baby brain continued even after my delivery. It’s increasingly hard to remember things these days and that can be quite worrying when it comes to passwords and important documents. I find it safer to store these online on Evernote, though you can also use Google drive.
How to reduce stress
1. Forgive and let go
Mums are usually too hard on themselves. In trying to achieve everything (and perfectly, at that), they tend to burn out. Stop, breathe and acknowledge that you can’t be on top of your game 100% of the time. Similarly, learn to delegate. Ask for help, in fact, insist on it at times. While you do, don’t micromanage. Allow others to do their share and accept that it may be done in a way that’s different from yours (not better or worse, just different). That’s also part of the letting go process.
2. Getting calmer
The minute you learn to be a bit more forgiving, you might find this happening naturally. Incorporating certain things in your daily routine can also help. I have been practising Yoga for the past 11 years. It really helped me through my entire pregnancy and post Isha’s birth. I would strongly recommend that all mums try to experience the benefits of yoga for themselves. I was also keen that Isha practices yoga. Try watching the Cosmic Kids Yoga YouTube channel with your kids. Jaime makes it fun and exciting and you may soon have little yogis at home.
If yoga isn’t your thing, try meditation. My husband introduced me to Headspace, though I’m guilty of not using it very regularly (the rest of my family swear by it though!). Once again, it has great options for kids if you want them to start early.
We could all do with KonMari-ing our life. Make sure to declutter your home regularly and sell or donate to organisations such as the Salvation Army Family Store, 2nd Chance, Retykle, Redress etc. that will help you recycle and give back to society. Besides physical decluttering, I have found that the best way to reduce stress is to be with positive and like-minded friends.
4. Taking up a hobby
There can’t be enough said about taking time for yourself and pursuing a passion project. I had always been interested in scrapbooking and after the birth of my daughter, I realised that there was no better way to document her initial years. I spent hours researching on Pinterest and followed it up by making scrapbooks, memory photo-frames, and eventually, quiet books for children. It kept me gainfully and creatively occupied for the first three years and still stands me in good stead for Isha’s school projects. Most importantly though, it’s my way of unwinding after a long day. Find your own creative outlet and watch your stress melt away.