Getting Things Done With a Newborn: Part 1
So, I have a 6 week old baby on my lap as I type this.
I have a baby.
He is called Sam, and he is very cute.
Anyway now I actually have some experience of looking after a baby I can talk about a topic close to my heart.
When I was pregnant I stumbled upon a lot of articles and blog posts about what it's like to be a mum. Without exception they were extremely negative.
Motherhood was compared to losing your identity, disappearing, in one case even described as a DEATH of your old self, something to literally mourn!
They talked about not being able to do things any more and how depressing and inevitable this was.
I didn't seek out these type of blog posts, they just happened to be what I stumbled upon; ironically often linked to or written by bloggers who I read for other reasons; artists, writers and entrepreneurs.
Motherhood was presented as being some sort of shrinking of yourself into nothingness in the process of looking after a new baby.
I am sure these bloggers also felt that the rewards were incredible too, a worthy sacrifice, but that's not what they seemed to talk about. It was almost as if the overriding message was, YOU WILL NEVER DO ANYTHING EVER AGAIN.
This article by Charlie Brooker sums it up:
During the pregnancy, whenever a parent spotted me so much as eating a biscuit, they'd chortle and say: "Ho ho: enjoy eating biscuits while you can! Your biscuit-eating days are over, my friend! There'll be no time for biscuits once the baby arrives!"
And yet when I read these posts part of me thought, hang on, you've been able to write a 1000 word blog post bemoaning your lack of ability to achieve things that aren't baby related? So how does that compute? Obviously you *are* managing to do other stuff, i.e. the blog post you just wrote, right?
It is difficult to talk about this topic because YES, it is obviously very important and valid for mothers to express their negative feelings, to show that life is not just a bed of roses, be honest and show others that you're not alone in feeling a certain way, and to reiterate how exhausting and challenging parenting can be.
But when I was pregnant, I desperately did not want to be hearing this sort of stuff. In fact, the opposite.
For me, I wanted, and still want, to see and read about new mums who managed to continue do the things they love, the things that made them the unique individuals they are. To continue to eat biscuits, to continue Brooker's analogy.
Some might find those sort of stories and examples sickeningly smug and unrealistic, the sort of thing that can make you feel depressed in comparison because 'all' you've managed to do today apart from baby stuff is take a 2 minute shower and watch daytime TV whilst breastfeeding for 8 hours. I can understand that! The last thing we want to do is to create some kind of arbitrary benchmark: 'she manages to do all that as well as look after the baby, why can't you?'
But firstly I do not believe and do not want to give the impression that doing baby stuff is 'not achieving anything'. It is achieving something incredible even if that is the 'only' thing you are doing!
A book called "What Mothers Do, Especially When it Seems Like Nothing" by Naomi Stadlen discusses this issue further. A kind person sent me this book on learning I had a newborn and it was very reassuring.
Certainly, for some women being a parent is the only single thing they genuinely want to focus on in life. That's totally cool. But that's not me. If you know me you will know that I always have lots of projects on the go outside of my day job: writing, crafting or planning my next hiking trip. And so for me, I needed to hear different stories, positive ones about mums who also create, who do other things as well, against all the odds; they inspire me.
I wanted to hope and believe that motherhood can be an EXPANSION of who I was; to GROW as a person, to ADD motherhood to my list of incredible life experiences, to go deeply into it and enjoy it, but also for it NOT to be a shrinking, a shrivelling of myself into a husk, nostalgically looking back on the days when I had interests and activities in my life, thinking 'well those days are over'.
Frankly, and sorry for the language but seriously, FUCK THAT.
I am a person with interests and a constant desire to create and that is so important to me that it's been a major concern of mine to find ways to incorporate that into my life once the baby has arrived.
I want to eat the biscuits. They are MY biscuits. Eating biscuits is who I am!
And I did find a few inspiring snippets here and there.
I noticed that Connie from Dirty Footprints Studio made a video which showed her painting with her 6 week old baby in a carrier (not only the fact that she'd painted but also edited the video and posted it online - activities that are quite time consuming in themselves - was awesome).
I was inspired by Tamara Laporte who runs a successful online art business whilst being a dedicated mother to two young children.
This amazing post by Leonie Dawson encouraged me to value my own passions, even actively prioritising them to avoid falling into the same trap as she did.
A few little things here and there helped:
A brief mention in Marianne Cantwell's email newsletter of a woman who'd set up a new business whilst on maternity leave; a woman on Twitter who tweeted about her newborn AND tweeted about band rehersals; friends who'd travelled far afield with their very young newborn babies to friends' weddings.
I mentioned the blog post I read comparing motherhood being like a death of the self/identity to Andrew and he said: "think about our friend X, do you really think her identity is dead? I don't think so".
And I read about a family who'd...
"Nursing while snowshoeing" By Ground Truth Trekking
I wanted to believe that things were POSSIBLE. More difficult, requiring more planning perhaps, taking a lot longer than usual naturally, but possible.
Even if this belief turned out to be hopelessly naive and ignorant, I wanted to carry on doing the things I love.
That is why I incorporated this issue into my mum-to-be planner.
I told a friend "if I manage to cobble together just 1 hour a day for my projects whilst on maternity leave I'll probably be more productive than I currently am!"
So how is it going, this life with a newborn?
In Part 2 I will go into more detail on my experience so far; whether I've been able to eat any of those biscuits.
And if there is no Part 2 posted here, I guess you will know the answer.
But allow me a few days, yeah?
Update: Part 2 is here! Phew!