My New Normal – How I Survive as a Stay-at-Home Mom

11 01 2012

Ugh. It’s 5:30 at night, and I am already exhausted. Didn’t I wake up feeling exhausted, too? Yes, I did. Exhausted is my new normal. I stumble through my day, hoping to survive until bedtime, hoping I will get sleep once we lay down.

Bean is now two and a half months old, and we have what most people call a “good” baby. She doesn’t have mysterious bouts of colic, she doesn’t scream, heck, she rarely cries. When she does cry, we know exactly why she is crying. At night, she actually sleeps. Sure, it’s only in 2-3 hour stretches between breastfeeding and diaper changes, but that adds up between 10 pm and 8 am. She doesn’t sleep much during the day, naps are pretty short and infrequent, but thanks to my moby wrap (which I initially HATED) I am still able to get quite a bit done through my haze of fatigue.

Life doesn’t stop just because I have a baby or am tired. The goats still need plenty of care, as do the chickens. Laundry still needs to be washed, firewood restocked, fires made and tended to heat the house, dishes washed and I have to find things to eat during the day.

I try to get up by 6 am every day, which is a drag. I hate getting out of bed in a cold, dark room. But someone has to shut the window and get the space heater turned on. We found sleeping with no heat and extra down comforters keeps all three of us plenty warm, and the cold air on our heads… I don’t know, I just feel more refreshed in the morning. Bean sleeps between us at night, and if I worry she won’t be warm enough she gets an extra layer added in the form of a hand knit merino lap blanket I made her dad when we first met. If it weren’t for Bean sleeping in bed with us I wouldn’t get any rest all. I am already a very light sleeper, always have been. I think I won’t sleep deeply again until she is out of our bed, probably around her 5th birthday. We aren’t worried about it, we are amassing sheep fleeces so we can make our own custom-sized wool-stuff mattress for our family bed. I can’t wait to sleep on all that wool!

After I get up I get a fire started, do a round of yoga (I am using Rodney Yee’s program “Moving Toward Balance” which is a daily workout for 8 weeks. I find it gets me warmed up and I do it right in front of the fire so I can make sure it is good and hot by the time I need to feed Bean, around 7 am. If I’, lucky she falls back asleep for one more hour, which I use to shower, make breakfast and get a chore down.

My morning chore change each day, but it is usually either clean the bathroom, wash dishes, or sweep.

I use my mornings to do a self-study of gardening, cob building, green building techniques, animal care or permaculture, Pretty much whatever seems enjoyable. It is all stuff I try to learn more about and implement into our life, so I consider it important to do and take notes on.

When I have a rare bit a free time and all the chores are done, I like to knit. But as soon as I pick up my knitting, Bean knows it and will wake up or suddenly need me in one way or another. I don’t know how she does it.

I had a problem adjusting to this new pace of life. I felt like I needed to be “working,” as in doing work that results in a paycheck. It is hard to do something like mothering in a society that does not value the contributions a mother makes. We downplay parenting, substituting in machines, gadgets and gizmos to take the place of human interaction with our infants. Not because we don’t want to interact with them, but because we are already stretched so thin and stressed out so much that it just feels like one more thing is going to break us. Babies need a lot of time and attention and physical care in order to be happy and well-adjusted. Before the invention of the nuclear family and single family households, we had extended family, elders and villages of families to help off-set all the demanding work a new baby needs. It is a lot to ask of any new mother to care for herself and her family with no outside help.

I had help from friends and family for about 2 weeks after I had Bean. I was on such an emotional high that I was raring to go, I wanted to get up and get doing. But after an hour or so up and about, I realized that emotions don’t always equate to physical energy, I then I realized I was totally screwed. I didn’t have meals lined up, I didn’t have people signed up to come and help with dished or laundry or animal care. I felt lost, forgotten and neglected. NEXT TIME, I am going to can 3 months worth of soups for myself. I found soup was one of the easiest things to make, eat and reheat the first few weeks. They were extra fluid, and I could add fresh egg yolks and extra butter to hot soups for extra calories.

Here we are, with Bean now 10 weeks old, and I am slowly coming to terms with my new profession, my new pace of life, my new motherhood. I can get maybe 25% of my former workload done in a day. Things have had to just slide. I’ve had to adjust and re-prioritize. I find it is still easy to get overwhelmed if I think about all the things I am not getting done, but the I look at my baby, and remind myself that there is always tomorrow, next week, next month, next season, next year. It doesn’t matter, it will all get done eventually as long as I don’t give up. But I love how little I get done now, because when I do get it done, I’ve got Bean strapped to my chest, and she is watching, learning and growing. And it feels like I’ve done something important.

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One response

17 03 2012
Gary Rondeau

Jami, I ran onto your blog by looking for WordPress sites about “Peak Everything”. Your’s is a very personal site. It’s great heartfelt writing. In many ways you are indeed responding to peak everything in the only way that will work in the long run. You might enjoy Sharon Astyk if you haven’t run across her. Goats and chickens and kids and writing and making a go of it your own way – you have a lot in common. Best of luck!

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