Kelly Carper Detterman
SAHM Reality Check
It's 11 am and it has been a crazy day already. Technically today started at 1:06 am with little man's first wakeup...or technically he just woke me up with a quick cry as he rolled over on his belly and began his sleep search for the pacifier he spit out hours earlier. When I signed up to be a stay at home mom I had dreams of what a cushy new job I would have. After nearly 15 years working in human resources and the past 3 years as an HR Manager, I am not new to long work days and sticky situations.
Even before we are pregnant we are plastered with images of motherhood that almost always show a well rested mama with perfect hair and a happy baby. Case in point:
Don't get me wrong, most of my mama friends and family, coworkers and even strangers on the street or in the grocery store are more than willing to share their stories of how life will never be the same and of how difficult the adjustment to motherhood. I delusionally went into motherhood thinking my preparation and organization skills would get me through. I thought my 50-60 hour work weeks would prepare me for long days and nights with a baby. I honestly thought I had this. I prepped ahead of time; I cleaned and cleaned, I shopped for everything I thought we would need, and I even did freezer meals until my husband said "how many more?"
Remember it is 11 am as I write this post. I am already on the 3rd load of laundry, the dishwasher has been emptied, 3 diaper changes, packaged a couple Poshmark packages, ran to FedEx for a Mercari drop off and I was prepping little man's 3rd meal for the day when I am interrupted by the cat who decides to vomit on the couch. That is only the beginning of what I will accomplish today.
I was told by everyone that my life would never look the same after having a baby and while I listened (silently thinking they don't know me) I downplayed it for myself. Family and friends warned me that my OCD would go out the door and my house would never look the same. (Just a quick update for all those people...you were only partially right. My OCD is still in effect and my house looks the same when anyone visits, but don't open the closets or just drop by unless you want to see me in my yoga pants and the pile of toys all over the living room floor.)
I honestly don't think there is anything that anyone could have said that would have prepared me for motherhood. I missed the class that requires you to carry a fake baby or an egg around to let you in on caring for another being and I was the youngest in my family so I didn't have to deal with a younger sibling. I was going in blind and arrogant enough to think I would be better at this than EVERYONE I knew. I was the person silently judging the mom who didn't have it all together and all I can say is karma is a b***h.
With all that being said, I didn't start this blog to have a pity party for one. While this is definitely the most difficult role I will EVER hold I wouldn't change it for the world. I might change a few of the things I have done along the way that made it more difficult and I want to pass that info along in hopes of helping another delusional future mama. So here goes, what could I have done to make my first year as a SAHM easier.
Nesting is a fantastic way to get your house clean and clear up that to do list, but is it necessary for baby? My husband repeatedly asked me if this was nesting throughout my pregnancy, all of which I thought was normal cleaning. He said he knew I had moved into nesting when 8 months pregnant I am on my hands and knees cleaning our stairs. Don't worry, I was using Method non-toxic cleaner. I still think that was normal cleaning, just maybe abnormal timing; especially comparing myself to stories of being on the shed roof completing a roof install and regrouting the shower. I say skip it; nesting is for the birds and those who can hire someone on Care.com.
Freezer meals are an excellent way to prepare for bringing home a new baby. When you get home from the hospital you will NOT feel like cooking. It will take all the energy you have to feed your baby every 3 hours let alone feed yourself 3 times per day. I say prepare some crockpot freezer bags; and stock up on crockpot bags to make clean up even easier. I prepped a lot of freezer meals but I wasn't fully prepared for how long I would not feel like cooking, so there are quick and easy back up options in your grocer's freezer section. Check out the easy skillet meals and other frozen entrees for quick and easy dinners when there is no time to prep and cook. Bonus points for signing up for a grocery delivery service like PeaPod or Amazon Fresh.
Breastfeeding was one of the hardest things I ever worked at to still fail. For one month, I tried 8 times a day to breastfeed my baby followed by a 20 minute pumping session. I tried power pumping, I tried vitamins, lactation consultants, lactation cookies, different breastfeeding pillows...you name it, I tried it. As stubborn as my little man was about latching, I was stubborn about being successful. As with many of the battles we will have over the next 18+ years, little man won and I conceded in the breastfeeding battle after one month. I will say I gave it my best, but still dealt with extreme guilt and a sense of failure that still haunts me as I write this post. I believe that breastfeeding is an excellent source of nutrition for babies and I believe it has some health benefits for mamas. However, my logical brain understands what my emotional brain cannot. Formula is also an excellent source of nutrition for babies. The breastfeeding battle fraught with tears, extra fatigue, sore nipples, constant feelings of inadequacy and major emotional strain on the relationship between mama and baby just may not be worth it for whatever extra benefits could be associated with breastfeeding. Do what is right for you and your baby. By all means, give it a try BUT don't be afraid or feel guilty if it does not work for you.
Sleep is key and hard to find when you bring home a newborn. Everyone says to sleep when baby sleeps and that is great if you can manage to sleep that frequently and for those short periods of time. Sleep was very hard to get for me during the first month because of the difficulties with breastfeeding. Looking back, I would have skipped at least one pumping feeding session and slept through that one while Dad took care of feeding our little man. When you can get sleep make the most of it. I hear so many moms say they couldn't sleep because they were up checking whether baby was breathing.
One of my top baby purchases was the Owlet Baby monitor to alert me if there was an issue with little man's heart rate or oxygen level. I still checked on him but this gave me a little extra peace of mind to sleep.
A sleeping baby means a sleeping mama. I also have the Baby Shoosher and I LOVE it. For over 6 months we used this every night and every nap to get little man to sleep after our photographer used it during our newborn photo session. This actually went in the car with us for road trips and was great for calming an upset baby when they are trapped in a car seat. The shoosher has a 30 minute time so I think a white noise machine that will run continuously is also important for sleep. The Hatch Baby Rest is perfect for continuous white noise and also provides a night light and gentle wake up functions that can be useful later in life.
Bright light can be detrimental to sleep in the middle of the night. I don't know if this Nite-Nite Light Bulb did help or not but it was definitely gentler on my eyes when I had to feed the little man in the middle of the night or change diaper. I hear you can do these things in the dark, but that was above my skill level.
Showers are definitely something I took for granted before baby and again an area that I heard a lot about from mothers while I was pregnant...how hard it would be to find the time to get a shower after baby. Again I judged and again...karma. I don't have a lot of tips for this one, other than to say find the time. Even if it is just 5 minutes it will rejuvenate you just a little bit. I actually found that taking the vibrating bouncer chair into the bathroom and strapping my little man in was the easiest way to get a shower in the early months.
If you are looking for other great tips on surviving the first months, check out my baby shopping lists here. In the meantime a little does of baby reality...little man's favorite place to sleep makes it hard to sleep when baby sleeps.