There’s nothing like having a new baby in the house to make one get serious about efficiency and organisation. Almost as soon as you return home with your child the practical realities of family begin. There are so many calls on your time, things constantly requiring attention, from regular nappy changes every 2-4 hours (some days up to 8 times!) washing and cleaning, tidying, shopping etc., on top of the usual stuff. At first these felt like weird intrusions on the bliss that we felt. Even going and doing the shopping felt strange as it required leaving the home.
Our position is pretty normal, in fact it’s better than that as we’re in the fortunate position of being able to remain at home together for the first few weeks. We’ve also had a lot of help from family and friends, especially with meals. Even so, we’ve had our work cut out for us, especially on the days when Will wants to feed every couple of hours or more. Pretty quickly it became clear to me that I needed to find a way to get things done in a way that would preserve as much time as possible for us to spend together as a family. I also needed to organise things so that I would have a routine which I could maintain when I started work again. This is a work in progress. I also wanted to find a way of maintaining certain standards in our home, and concerning our health and wellbeing.
Now, to be clear, I have pretty high standards for our environment – I like a clean and tidy house, ideally a beautiful and comfortable environment. Of course, standards have to be flexible to adapt to this new reality but the principal hasn’t changed. Now though, our lovely living room also has a change table and a cot – they kind of move around with us depending which room we’re based in. To deal with the most mundane part, I’m starting to focus my domestic maintenance around a couple of key times in the morning and the evening, then the time in between can be used for the real stuff. Rather than letting things get out of hand, I’m doing things like washing up and tidying more frequently but they take less time than they used to because I do the jobs before they become large. Making them part of my daily ritual is actually quite enjoyable. Doing it this way, will also be a real help when I resume working. That is, I’ll be able to do my part as well as do my work. The most important thing here is to put aside time for this at regular intervals otherwise this sort of thing can start to spread and detract from the quality of our most valuable time.
Maintaining our health is a simple way of staying on top of things so mental and physical health are very high on our list of priorities. I know only too well what it’s like to lose both of these and I also know that everyone suffers as a result. This requires both action and quality non-action, mindful ‘being’ time. One of the first things I wanted to make time for once I got my energy back was exercise, which for me basically means cycling. I was doing up to 5 rides a week before. Now, however, my focus is just on maintenance. As much as I can I want to retain my form, especially my climbing strength which takes so much hard work to build up. I figure this can be done with a minimum of 2 high-intensity rides of at least an hour. I put a premium on this as an essential part of my mental and physical health and wellbeing. It’s also time out, time for me, time to recharge. So this actually satisfies an element of being as well, and a particular powerful one at that, which I’ve written about in previous posts.
Alongside riding, we budget for our weekly network chiropractic care, and keep up a great diet of organic fresh produce. While we were particularly exhausted we were eating more sugar, but this is something we generally try to keep to a minimum. We still enjoy our treats, but sugar and carbs generally are a very small part of our main diet. Apart from the health benefits, I also find that keeping sugar and caffeine under control helps me to have better awareness of my actual energy. If I’m tired I feel it, and I’m more likely to respond to it appropriately. Not feeling, or ignoring, tiredness is a great recipe for getting run-down and sick – something I’m serious about avoiding.
Finally, I mentioned ‘being’ time. In the very busiest, most intense times of my life, dealing with things from exams to literally life-or-death situations, I’ve come to learn just how important it is to have quality quiet time. Last year when I was recovering from a serious period of anxiety and depression, I found one of the best things was to go and lie on the grass for a few minutes several times a day, usually in between tasks. Along with other strategies, this simple habit of getting some fresh air and sunshine and feeling the grass under my feet helped me get through the end of my PhD thesis and to stay on track while supporting my mother when she was being treated for cancer. I know there has been a lot done to study the effects of sunlight on mood. At the time though, I was just doing it because it felt right and because it worked.
Time holding my little boy really counts as being, especially as I find it focusses my mind on the preciousness of the moment. It has a great effect on both us. This has also become one of my favourite daily rituals.
I want to finish by adding that my wife and I have acquired a deepened respect for families, and especially those with single parents, like my mum, who manage the demands of parenting, home and health by themselves. Hats off.