Some of the comments on today's Moxie post made me realize what my number one piece of advice for any Mom-to-Be would be. Actually, this is advice for Dads-to-Be, too, but I never get asked for advice by Dads-to-Be. Maybe they're asking Hubby.
Anyway, the post asked readers to list things that "tricked" them about parenthood, and to name their most odious parenting tasks. (If you're curious, I felt tricked by the whole baby sleep book industry- no one's advice really worked on our particular child, and I now get visibly worked up by the idea that some magical technique can get every baby to sleep through the night. Some babies just don't do that. My most odious task is nail clipping, which is why Hubby does that most times. In exchange, I change most of the poopy diapers.)
Some people felt tricked by discovering how hard it is to stay on top of things with a child in the house, and others put the daily grind of chores/getting things done as their most odious task.
I have to agree- adding a baby does make keeping up with life harder. Much harder. I have daydreams about a service that would just come in and get me caught up on everything already. Or at least do the dishes and fold the laundry so that Hubby and I could catch up with each other.
I realized that what I should have been doing when I was pregnant with Pumpkin was strengthening our family processes and systems. The only way you stay anywhere near caught up is to rely on processes and systems. You just don't have time to keep figuring things out as you go. We have a system for keeping our family calendar up to date (Hubby seems to be a little fuzzy on that one, but he's getting better). We have a system for ensuring bills get paid on time. We had a process for ensuring that I had all my pump parts when I was taking a pump to work. We're still refining the system for keeping track of all the things that need to get done, and we have yet to really settle on a process for getting big projects done quickly. For instance, we wanted to redo our bathroom. The sink was a wall mount style, which Pumpkin was slowly pulling off the wall as she climbed up to wash her hands. We intended to do the work in January. The sink and new light just got installed this week. We haven't got a plan yet for the rest of the work.
Pre-baby, none of these things were really issues. Hubby and I are both pretty organized, in our own ways. We kept track of our calendar and made sure things got done without much trouble. Paying bills on time was easy.
Pumpkin changed all that. We were sleep-deprived, so I could no longer rely on my memory about bills or events. Our evening chores list got much longer even as I needed to move my bedtime much earlier, so we never seem to have time to really plan out projects. And our to do list was suddenly out of control with new things like "set up trust/will" and "research toddler finger foods" (at one point, we had an urgent need to get Pumpkin eating more finger foods so that she could move up to the older baby room at day care). And this doesn't even consider how much time we spent sick and/or taking care of a sick child.
Everyone always tells a pregnant woman to rest while she still can. This is sort of good advice, I guess. You certainly don't want to go into the newborn phase any more tired than you have to be. But you can't really store up sleep. All that sleeping and resting I did during my pregnancy didn't make it OK for me to be sleep deprived for months on end. It didn't make it possible for me to keep functioning as I had before the baby.
The other advice we got was to stock our freezer with leftovers, so that we wouldn't have to cook. This is definitely good advice, although I would add "don't make all the meals dairy heavy, in case your child turns out to be unable to tolerate cow's milk proteins in your breastmilk." You can't "pre-do" everything, and even if you think you're really well prepared, some portion of that work is going to turn out to be wasted because your baby doesn't do things that way.
What you really need to do is get organized. Talk to your partner about how things get done around your house. Tweak the systems and processes you do have and develop new ones. This will be much easier to discuss and do before you have a demanding little baby who thinks that you exist primarily to feed, change, and soothe him/her. And believe me, you don't want to try discussing family work balance when you and your partner are both trying to skate by on only a few hours of sleep. If by some miracle you manage not to have this discussion turn into an argument, you won't remember what you decided the next day.
OK, now I'm scaring myself. I think Hubby and I need to find some time to kick our organizational skills up a notch before baby #2 arrives.