Tell us about your family make-up and where you live (city, suburb, town, or country)?
My husband and I have been together for 14 years – 10 of which we spent travelling and living abroad – and two years ago we moved back to our hometown with hopes of starting a family. That wish was granted when our daughter Lou was born 10 months ago, and together we live in a little old house in a residential neighbourhood in the city centre.
Are you a stay-at-home, work-from-home, or working-out-of-the-house mom?
I’m a stay-at-home mom and I’m so happy about it. I feel very lucky that I’ll to get to be with Lou full-time until she starts preschool. Her dad travels a lot for work – it’s hard on him to be away from her for days and even weeks at a time, and I’m sure that feeling will be mutual when Lou’s a bit older. So I think it’s important that I’m always here for her, that she has that consistency – and if my husband has a random Wednesday at home between trips, we get to spend it together as a family; there’s nowhere else I have to be.
What does your daily/weekly schedule look like right now?
My days with Lou revolve around sleep and food. We don’t have a real schedule, but we do have little routines. She’s awake for three periods during the day, for 3-3.5 hours at a time, and I fit a meal at the table, two breastfeeds and two or three diaper changes into each of those periods. The rest of the time gets filled in with play, reading together, going for walks, a couple of group activities a week (a babywearing dance class and a Mom & Baby yoga class), visits with family and friends, and of course lots of hugs and kisses.
Lou almost always sleeps through the night now, and wakes up babbling to herself around 6am. Then we snuggle up together on the living room couch and I breastfeed her. Once she’s fed she’s eager to be off, crawling, cruising, playing with a musical toy, emptying her toy basket or else pulling all the books off her bookshelf and flipping through them. She can entertain herself in this way for 20 minutes, while I do things like empty the dishwasher, check my email, read the news and start making breakfast. Then we’ll play together for a while and she’ll walk around the house holding my hands. We eat breakfast together sometime between 7:30 and 8, and I make the same thing for both of us – things like oatmeal, a smoothie, avocado on toast, yogurt and fruit – I’m comfortable giving her just about anything as long as it doesn’t have added sugar or salt. I’ll nurse her again after she’s eaten just to make sure she’s truly full, and we’ll play together until she starts showing signs of being tired, around 9-9:30. We have the same “sleepy time” routine before every nap (saying “Goodnight” to every room and turning off all the lights; putting on her PJs and sleepsack; singing her bedtime song; reading her Sleepy Bunny book) and a longer one at bedtime (we add in a final breastfeed, a bath and a massage). Naps are different every day – a frustratingly short one will be 25 minutes, during which I shower, dress partially and just have time to climb back into bed before she’s up again, but once in a while she’ll have an Epic Nap (up to 2 hours) and I can get a little sleep in too.
Lou’s lunchtime awake period is when we usually Do Something like go to a class, have a play date or visit, run errands or take a long walk. During her afternoon nap, I usually start preparing dinner, read a book that doesn’t rhyme – or if we’ve got friends or family over, just sit and have a chat. When Lou wakes up again, we’ll read, sing, play and eat dinner together. She likes to open kitchen drawers and pull out all the pot lids and food storage containers while I cook and wash up. Then it’s time for one last story, bath and bed, normally by 6:30pm.
After Lou is asleep, I’ll tidy the living room and do a bit more cooking, cleaning, laundry, email &c., and then I’ll read, watch Netflix, scroll Instagram, or do some online shopping or meal planning until my own bedtime, 10pm.
How do you balance childcare/work/home responsibilities with your partner? Do you and your partner get to spend time together, just the two of you?
When Lou was born, my husband took three months off work and it was amazing. My job was to feed the baby, and his job was to feed me, and I absolutely loved it. Since then, though, he’s been back at his very demanding job and so the childcare and home responsibilities are almost entirely mine. I love being home with Lou, and cooking, and he gets a lot of satisfaction from his job, so this works for us – but sometimes my inner feminist cringes a bit that I’m basically a ’50s housewife.
Do you have any other help in your life? (childcare from friends or family/a babysitter/a housecleaner/a neighborhood kid mowing your lawn?)
My mom is an enormous help. She makes us lunch once a week, comes at other times just to hang out, frequently texts me: “Going to Costco in the morning; send me your list!” and then hand-delivers these huge boxes of groceries. Lou has a lot of separation anxiety, so I don’t often leave the two of them together for more than a few minutes, but I hope when Lou’s a little older she’ll be happy to have Grandma babysit her – I know my mom’s looking forward to that.
My other big help comes from this great three-woman cleaning team I’ve just hired to come for an hour twice a month, which is indulgent but totally worthwhile. I tidy up and do things like wash the dishes every day, but I just couldn’t find a good time to do a deeper clean, especially the vacuuming – if Lou’s awake, she screams in fear at the noise; if she’s asleep it wakes her – so to be able to just leave the house with her for an hour and come back to a sparkling home is amazing.
How much sleep do you get right now? Is it enough?
Admittedly, I’ve never been a great sleeper. I’ve had bouts of insomnia since I was a kid, and even in periods when I’m sleeping well I fall short of the recommended 8 hours a night. I used to get by on 5, but I definitely need more rest now that I’m keeping up with an energetic little one all day. I aim to be in bed before 10pm, but I always get a second wind after dinner and I have trouble switching off. So I try to lie down during Lou’s morning nap, and occasionally I nap too – but even if I don’t fall asleep, it helps to just close my eyes and rest or meditate for a few minutes. When I haven’t slept much, the thing that saves me is getting fresh air and exercise – that combo never fails to give my energy level a boost.
Do you feel that you get enough time for yourself personally and/or do you practice any self-care?
I’m working on this. It’s so much better now that Lou is sleeping on her own – for the first 7 months of her life I either walked with her in a carrier for her naps or nursed her to sleep over and over again through the night, so we were really never apart. But now, at least when my husband is at home, I can put her to bed and then I can go out to meet friends for dinner. We’ve done this three times in the last couple of months, and while it means even less time together as a couple, I find it really restorative to have a total change of scene for a couple of hours and I come home feeling revitalized.
I definitely count my two “mom & baby” fitness classes a week as self-care. I’ve always loved dance classes and doing yoga in a group, and I’m so happy to still get to do both of those things. Being able to share the experience with my daughter makes it all the more special!
Do you have any tricks for maximizing your time? (Occupying kids while you get something done/fitting in quality time with your family/general life hacks)
I think doing baby-led weaning has saved me a bit of time in that I don’t make separate meals for Lou. It means I’ve changed the way I eat a fair bit – I didn’t use to make myself chickpea macaroni for lunch – but it’s so lovely to have family meals together, to see her enjoying and experimenting with a variety of food, and to witness her dexterity developing so rapidly!
My other timesaver is Amazon. I’ve started using their subscription service for diapers and a few other household necessities and to have these things delivered right to our door once a month instead of having to go out to get them every time we’re running low makes life a lot easier.
What do you struggle with?
Driving! I’m kind of anxious behind the wheel to start with, and the fact that Lou has about a 10-minute limit on being stuck in her car seat before she begins to cry makes it stressful for me to go places by car. I force myself to drive us somewhere at least once every week, but the rest of the time we enjoy our very family-friendly neighbourhood and all the great activities and amenities that are in walking distance!
What do you love about your current life?
Getting to spend every day with my baby. It feels like she has some new development every day – yesterday she signed “milk” for the first time, and today she started crashing two pot lids together like cymbals – and I spend so much time just marvelling at her and how quickly she’s changing. I’m so thankful I’m not missing any of it. And when her dad’s home with us and we get to spend time as a family of three – that’s the best by far!