My maternity has proven to be an unexpected course in mindfulness – like one of these surprising 2-for-1 deals you didn’t know about until you reached the till.
Mindful maternity? Far from it. But the last months have taught me a few important lessons:
1. Every state is temporary.
One day baby sleeps through the night, and one day there is a sleep regression. There are growth spurts and teeth and colic and whatever else your baby has on offer. One day you are still sore and one day you are healed. One day you are tired and one day you are not. Even if it is difficult at times, there is no point getting too uptight about it. Babies change
Looking back at my life, it’s always been like this: School and its many exams – one day they were all passed. The relationship that did not feel right – well, it was not meant to last. The days of partying and hangovers – one day I had other priorities. The family dinners, the parental advice – and then your parents pass away.
What has the baby taught me? Every state is temporary. Enjoy what you can. Take away what you can. Because in a day from now, a month from now, a year from now, everything will be different again.
2. Order > Chaos.
I’ve always been fairly tidy and I love clean lines and wide spaces. But when baby comes, stuff comes – play blankets, changing mats, toys,… even reduced to the essential items, your baby comes with luggage.
Baby has shown me
Part of my night time routine is to go through all the rooms, tidy up the discarded clothes and toys, and prepare for the next day. Yes, I love waking up in a tidy home but there is much more to this routine: As I wander through the house, I am honouring our space and restore its peace.
3. I need to be here.
I love(d?) my work. It was on my mind all the time, and I never really switched off from it – mainly because I didn’t have to or want to. I was productive, organised, and successful.
Baby has changed me. It took me a while to learn – but the days have slowed. It does not matter if I made the bed/got the washing on/went to the shops or whatever else I had planned to do. If we need an extra nap, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. While baby was teething, more cuddles were required. While we got used to nap time, lots of hand holding was required. All I need to do is to show up and observe what is best right now. And for that, I need to be fully present.
I am not saying that there is no schedule or that I am constantly responding on demand. What am saying is that I learned everything I needed to know by being present. That a little bit of playtime with a parent who is
4. Realistic time management.
I strive on to-do-lists. If I write things down, my brain does not need to hold the information, I can use mini-breaks in my day effectively by ticking off a few jobs, and crossing off completed items gives me a beautiful sense of achievement.
However, I’ve always had a tendency to overbook myself and my to-do lists reflected more of an ambitious ideal of my day rather than a realistic goalset.
Since I am on maternity leave, I am time-rich but poor in me-time. And I have very quickly learnt to maximise its use through realistic time management. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that less time has made me more efficient. Rather than planning to clean the whole house in one go, I clean one room per day. Rather than hoping for a leisurely night for catching up on emails, I take the time for one long email to a friend. If I have a bigger task, I break it down into smaller chunks. I plan exactly for the little time I have available – and am satisfied when I have achieved my manageable to do list. Not more. Just that.
5. There is no “empty time”.
A baby comes with a lot of “empty time” – going for walks with the pushchair, feeding time, maybe you sit with your lovely bundle while they slowly drop off to sleep. Coming from a busy busy job, I have learnt to absolutely love this time – and I maximise it to the brim. While I sometimes use our walks to catch up with friends, more often than not it is my thinking time. And it does me so much good.
This empty time, while seemingly unproductive or even leisurely, has given me better ideas and solutions than I ever had just
With babies, everything is on fast-forward: the changes are quick and come with a visual manifestation, like a human being progress-bar. However, the lessons learned go far beyond my maternity leave – they have taught me to slow down. And I will hold onto that.