8. ROUTINE AND RESOURCES
The old work/life structure is gone, what now? There is new space to set up a daily routine that works for you and your family. It's your first time as a parent, so that usually means trial and error. Give yourself permission to make the mistakes which will help you to work out how to create enough alone time, social time, couple time, fun time, baby time that feels good for you.
The challenge is to create a life as a parent that makes you happy. This means booking in fun times and relaxing times, then staying with that commitment to make sure they happen. Otherwise it's too easy to let life turn into a 24/7 blur of being constantly on duty. Creating routine means that you don't have to waste energy and time each week reinventing how you are going to fit in time to look after yourself and a baby as well as all the other things that need doing. Creating this routine is a team affair. So talk to your partner/other adult caregiver of your child about what you need so that you can plan child care and other jobs depending on what works for your family.
Routine is massively underrated as a tool in creating an empowered and joyful life as a parent. The argument sometimes heard from a partner (often one who is struggling with transition to parenthood and/or adulthood) is, "I don't want rules, regulations and routines in my house. I just want to go with the flow." The reality, though, is that all households run on rules; it's just that those rules are not always obvious. A common rule is that when there are 'no rules' the jobs that need to get done such as keeping a baby well and cared for, meals on the table, a clean enough house, etcetera, usually fall to the most responsible person present (and that's never the one who is saying no to rules). It makes sense, and it's only fair, to be clear about the reality of what is actually happening on a day to day basis; and that means talking and negotiating between the adults who are caring for the child or children.
For the non-primary care giver, having baby for an afternoon once a week while the main care giver (let's say mum) has time out, is usually enough of a reality check for them to understand why she needs that break. Probably more importantly, though, is that putting this into the weekly schedule gives the non-primary care giver the chance to realize the fun in being the adult in charge. This builds their own relationship with the child and confidence in themselves as a parent. Mum's job here is to support her partner in parenting in their own way. In the past, so many adults (particularly men) have seriously missed out on the joys of parenting. Now more men and dads are fully sharing the care, the love, the fun - and how brilliant is that for everyone!
Creating your own routine also includes learning to strengthen personal boundaries, which you may not have needed to do as often in your life before children. Like choosing to turn off phones during baby nap times, dinner times or when you need space to yourself. In the first months after birth, particularly, it might work better for you if friends and family call ahead before dropping in? Asking for this from important people in your life is high self-esteem behaviour. When you have the courage to ask directly for what you want, it builds strong relationships with people who love and care for you.
As you learn to live well in two or more worlds, of paid and unpaid work, for example, more head space is needed for different sets of relationships and also for actual tasks and ways of doing things, both in the workplace and at home. This is all the more reason to book in that regular chill-out time/fun time to create boundaries and space for you to relax, clear your head and, most of all, to Enjoy Yourself at this amazing time of your life.
As you learn to manage your finite resources - sleep, energy, time, money - the new demands of transitioning to parenthood will often highlight areas in your life where you may be wasting those resources. If you pay attention, you will start to notice people or activities that are taking your energy, rather than the give and take of healthy situations. You'll know the energy takers because you will feel tired after being with certain people or doing certain activities.
If you can stay with the reality of what is happening and not slip into the 'shoulds' and 'musts' of fantasy, there is the opportunity to see what is actually going on. Then you can choose to adjust your part in such relationships, to talk it through with the person involved or, if this isn't possible, to let them go.