In a world that values high productivity and efficiency, becoming a new mom comes as a painful shock when we realize that we must slow down to a snail’s pace. We are used to busy, productive days but all that comes grinding to a halt the moment our first child enters our lives.
Our pre-children days looked a bit like this: we get up, eat, hit the gym, make ourselves presentable, and rush off to work, and complete as many tasks as time will allow. When we return from work we cram in groceries, laundry, cleaning, yard work, and all those other not-so-glamorous tasks. Our day comes crashing to a halt, not by choice, but because we just can’t take anymore.
Then we sleep. And do it all over again the next day.
We are conditioned at our jobs to streamline processes, become more efficient, pressured to do more in less time. Articles show up in our email, social media feeds giving us hacks to improve our lives. How to iron our shirt more efficiently. Tips to make a nutritious dinner at the speed of light. There are even hacks that promise to help us fall asleep faster.
The common message: be more efficient, increase your speed. You are falling behind.
Along comes a baby
When our first baby enters our life all of our efficiency and speed comes grinding to a halt. Before we could put in a full day’s work, go out with friends, make dinner, and grocery shop all in one day. Now, we may manage one of those tasks.
It’s no wonder that the transition into motherhood comes as a shock. Like someone kicked you hard and you’re limping through your day.
You have every intention of having a productive day. But then naps get screwed up. Your baby decides he will only sleep if he’s tucked up neatly on your chest. You are confined to the couch for hours.
When you’re finally on your way out the door and baby is in the car seat ready to go, you hear that unmistakable grunting noise followed by squishy gurgling sounds.
Clean up baby. Clean up car seat. You pick up your baby, ready to put him back in the car seat when vomit spews all over your shoulder, dripping down your back, all down your shirt and pants. Now it’s time for your wardrobe change.
Your husband gets home from work and asks you what you did today. You mutter “had a shower”. That’s the only notable thing you’ve done today.
You feel like you’re failing every day.
You feel inefficient.
No longer are you able to measure your productiveness by the number of tasks you complete. Now, a successful day equates to the completion of one item on the to-do list or one outing.
Consequently, the early days of motherhood are slow. Painfully slow.
You are exhausted. Your baby needs to be held most of the day. You feel like you are doing nothing. Literally nothing but sitting on the couch watching TV.
But you must remember one very important detail. Although your days feel inefficient you are filling them with one task that trumps all others: growing a baby. That is your only job.
You feed them, you change them. You make sure they are warm enough, cool enough. You clean them up, calm them down, and help them sleep.
These tasks don’t seem productive. There’s no way to optimize these processes, no way to streamline and make your day more efficient.
You just have to learn to slow down and trust that you are doing enough. Your days are still productive. You are growing a baby into a child. You are giving them everything they need to be happy and healthy.
Slow down and enjoy. It’s going by fast, whether you feel it or not.
Next time your husband asks you what you did today, you can confidently say “I helped our baby make it through the day. I was there for him when he needed help. I cleaned him up. I comforted him when he cried. I made him a nutritious meal. And I helped him rest.”
When they get a bit older your life will speed up again. You’re days will go back to go, go, go. They will be filled with work, dinner, getting kids ready for school, for practice, for bed. You will be tempted to enroll your child in every program imaginable.
But remember to slow down.
Remember how to slow down. Because at the end of this journey called life, you’ll look back and it won’t be the running around that you remember. It’ll be those slow moments that you will cherish.
The moment you took to enjoy a long dinner with family. The mornings when the kids snuggled into bed with you for a rare sleep-in. The hour-long process of making pancakes with your toddler who insisted on helping.
Set aside the speed and efficiency mantra of the working world, it has no place in motherhood. This isn’t a race to get to the end of the day. This is an experience to be savored.
Slow down and enjoy.