Just after the arrival of a new baby, the thought of organizing housework might be the last thing on your mind. It is only too easy when you have a new baby, a husband, possibly other children and a house to care for, to forget that this is only possible if you take care of yourself, too. Output, in other words, is dependent on input! However good your intention to put child, husband and home first, as a new mother you are courting trouble if you forget that you, too, have needs; and that all these other areas of your life are dependent upon being in first-class physical, mental and emotional condition. The more you understand about the puerperium, for example, which is the medical term for the first four weeks after the delivery of a baby, the more you will know what to expect and the more competent you will be at coping with the waves of physical tiredness and emotional turmoil that often arise during the early weeks of motherhood.
The process of readjustment cannot and, indeed, should not be hurried. It is far healthier to accept that it will be several months before the body returns to a so-called normal state-the state which preceded pregnancy and childbirth. Never feel distressed because some compromises are necessary in relation to organizing the home. The first few weeks at home can be the most difficult time of a mother’s maternal life; but if you observe your baby carefully he will tell you all you need to know.
In fact, during these early weeks, it is the baby who provides the measure and the order of the day. A tiny new baby, for example, may need feeding every three to three-and-a-half hours in the early weeks; another, weighing over 3.20 kg (7 lb) will, perhaps, feed every four hours. A baby who is breastfed will need feeding more often than one who is bottle-fed. No two babies are alike; some are quiet and placid; others are lively and continually demand attention. Some babies cry when their nappy is soiled, others do not; some like drinks of boiled water between meals; some are quietened by being cradled; others by being held upright; some will sleep all through the night and others will not. It is only by observing your baby in all his moods that you will begin to recognize his own particular needs and rhythm.
Between feeding, changing and enjoying the miracle that is your baby, there will be housework, cooking, attending to friends or relatives and vital rest periods when you should sit with your feet up or lie flat on the floor or bed. Of all these activities, the rest periods are of paramount importance, especially in the first four weeks after the birth. Without them, a mother cannot cope with the thousand and one demands upon her attention. This means having enough sleep; sitting down for meals at regular times and sitting down for five to six minutes before you feed, change oryour baby, so that you can attend to him in a quiet, collected, happy state.
The relaxation exercises learned at antenatal preparation classes are invaluable at this time; so is any other form of relaxation that enables you to fall still and experience rest. Adequate rest of the mind means learning to centre your attention on whatever is in front of you; tackling each task and day as it presents itself, and not churning over the things that should or ought not to have been done. A very wise man once said that ‘There is only one choice in life. To be happy with what we have chosen to do.
ORGANIZING HOUSEWORK – BASICS
Countless things present themselves to a new mother in the course of a day. They can only be approached one by one and not, by any stretch of imagination, can they all be dealt with. So, if the gardenout to be weeded and you long to attend to it, forget the washing or ironing for a couple of hours, do it and enjoy it.
It is useful to remember that a new day is governed by the way in which a mother and father spend the previous evening-what your state of heart and mind is when you go to bed, even what time you ate your evening meal, plays its part. A popular time for bathing babies is in the evening, largely because this is a soothing experience for a baby. It also means that many fathers are home at that time, and it gives them an opportunity to get to know their baby. For bathing a baby, you will need to allow about an hour. This will be followed by an evening meal for you and your husband.
Research shows quite clearly that a light evening meal, taken about three hours before bed, is most easily digested and allows the natural pattern of sleep to proceed most easily. A meal consisting of soup, salad, whole-wheat bread, and fresh fruit, would be appetizing, delicious and nourishing. It would also be easy to prepare and not require a lot of cooking or last-minute attention. Before you go to bed, allow a reasonable time to attend to dishes and other little chores, so that everything presents a tidy, orderly appearance first thing in the morning. Then you will not have to cope with ‘last-night’ next morning and this, in itself, is very refreshing.
Wake your baby for a feed before you go to bed and then, with luck, you may have five or six hours before another feed is needed. Do not feel that your baby has to have a 2 a.m. feed. Let him sleep if he wants and let him wake you if he needs it. So, with luck, the next feed will not take place until the early morning. It will probably be possible, then, to sleep for a few more hours. When it is time to get up, bath or shower, and dress immediately, rather than give way to the temptation to struggle into a dressing gown. This routine will help wake you up, will make you feel good and prepared to face the day.
Have a good nutritious breakfast with your husband, rather than a cup of coffee and a cigarette! Follow this with feeding, changing, playing with your baby and putting him in his bed to sleep. During the morning, do those things which are absolutely essential and firmly ignore the others.
Prepare the ingredients for lunch and your evening meal, so that there will be no rush later in the day. In the first weeks, pin a notice to your front door at 2 p.m., saying ‘no callers till three-thirty` and take a rest period. However much there seems to do, make a practice of this. It will make a lot of difference to how you feel later in the day.
10 Tips for Organizing Housework with the New Baby
Use what time is left in the afternoon wisely, so that you are not too tired when your husband comes home. Here are some tips for cutting corners in housework.
- A house that is basically tidy needs only a dust and carpet sweep in the main rooms. Never go up or down stairs empty-handed.
- It is much easier to sweep a kitchen floor and wipe it over with a damp cloth, than to struggle with the thought of getting down on hands and knees to do a thorough scrub.
- When preparing meals, lay the table first This will avoid a last-minute scramble, and suggest that things are well on their way, even if they are not!
- Finely slice vegetables, Chinese-style, then cook in the minimum amount of water. They will take hardly any time to cook and will retain more goodness. Prepare them early in the day and refrigerate until you need to cook them.
- When changing clothes, put them straight on hangers. Creases will drop out more quickly and the knowledge that they are in order is restful in itself.
- Do nappies each day, and the laundry before there is so much that it becomes a pressure that takes several days to· clear!
- Do not iron bed linen. A neatly folded sheet that is placed on the top of a pile will be pressed by the time it is needed, if fresh sheets are always taken from the bottom. Do not iron kitchen towels or underwear. If your husband is agreeable, iron only the parts of his shirts that show!
- Plan your shopping so that you do not have to rush to the shops just as they are closing.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help from others. A neighbour might be only too happy to prepare lunch for you when she cooks her own. A ‘grandmother’ may be delighted to look after a small baby when her own grandchildren are hundreds of miles away. If your income is low, and you do not have the money to pay for help, then consider other ways in which you or your husband may return kindness.
- Team up with other mothers, so that you can help each other with shopping, baby-sitting, pursuing hobbies or courses of study. In this way, you can continue to play a part in the community and horizons will remain wide. Know your limitations, never criticize yourself; and if you do not think you have any virtues, assume them!
GETTING DOWN TO THE MECHANICS
A mother’s most useful basic aids are a refrigerator, vacuum cleaner and fully automatic washing machine. If the budget does not stretch to an automatic machine, try to afford a spin drier and a tumble drier. A tumble drier takes care where the spin-drier finishes. It avoids the necessity of Finding somewhere to dry nappies air stretch suits in wet weather, and will help to keep the home looking tidier. In these days of high fuel bills, a microwave is becoming an almost essential par: if kitchen equipment. You can use a microwave to prepare a wide variety of dishes very rapidly. For example, soups and stocks, vegetarian dishes, classic meat and fish recipes, cereals. stews and desserts. It is safer to use than a frying pan or deep fat fryer. A microwave oven is marvellous for preparing meals quickly.
For preparing solid foods for your baby, you will need a small heavy saucepan with a close-fitting lid; a small deep casserole with a lid for baking and steaming (you can use a heat-proof cup for this) ; a small nylon sieve with a fine mesh; a hand blender for puréeing thick foods and a small electric blender for liquid purées.·It is better to use a hand blender for thick purées. If you use an electric blender for food such as this, you will spend all your time scraping it off the blades.