Thankfully there are some achievable practical tasks that can make a real difference to first time parents’ preparation. All of which you can easily do on your commute or your downtime at home.
It’s worth saying that while this article is of primary benefit to new parents, it is still relevant to any parent.
This article comes from a string of coaching sessions that highlights a common feeling: how do I prepare for what I don’t know? I’ve sat in sessions with clients who have read guides or books on how best to deal with being a new parent or how to get that work life harmony in place but, as you can well imagine, until you are actually a parent, there is just too much uncertainty to know what to prepare for.
I was also inspired to write this article having met with a client who also ‘didn’t know what he didn’t know’ and was willing to see how things went with the arrival of his first child. However within the week of his child being born a number of family problems arose, the birth was very traumatic, and there were further challenges postnatally for the family. Unfortunately there was no real backup or plan B in place making a difficult time even harder, resulting in increasing stress and anxiety levels.
For these reasons this article sets out some real practical things you can do in preparation when you’re approaching your new family life.
By no means do I believe this is an option for everyone. However the objective isn’t to pay someone, it is about helping take off the edge of the general housecleaning. So while it may be easiest to pay someone to come in, it could be that a family member could do this just as well. But for now start to research costs, recommendations and timings, find someone that you can call on. Have their number on your phone; it only takes a few bad nights’ sleeps and you’ll be glad you have it.
If you’re doing this already, perhaps a cleaner comes once a fortnight already but now, pre-birth, is a great time to see if that can temporarily increase to weekly.
If something is good, it’s worth repeating: online food shopping. Download the app, setup the account and let go of the hassle of the weekly shop. It’s easy, convenient and a massive time saving. Whilst it may not stop you from having to do a midnight run for nappies, it will help with meal plans and becomes one less thing you have to think about.
As dull as it may seem knowing what to cook for the day can be a huge relief and a weekly meal plan can do just that. Rather than unloading the freezer in search of a collection of odd veg and a dubious looking quiche, having an idea of what to cook up genuinely relieves anxiety. It will also save some money; money which can be used on getting someone to do your ironing.
À la getting a cleaner in. Let someone else take the strain when it comes to the basket of laundry or, possibly more relevant, the collection of work shirts that need to be ironed. The last thing your partner will want to do while having to breastfeed is every blouse, skirt, collar and cuff.
This is actually quite important though it may not seem so. I’m sure you’ve already spoken to family members or they have volunteered and told you that they’ll be available at the drop of a hat. However now is the time to get specific on who is available and when. Perhaps a family member says they’ll be there for you but innocently forgets that they have commitments every Friday. This is the stuff you need to know now not when you’re trying to sooth a crying child and exhausted partner.
Get open and honest so you are clear on who to call and when. Because if they are not as available as they thought, you may need a …
This may not be either a personal preference or a financial option, however there’s nothing wrong with making the best of your commute by researching and finding out costs, who is available, expectations and timings. Even if you rule it out as financially unviable, you will at least have the information at hand. I know of clients who have used a nanny overnight allowing them a reasonable night’s sleep. Even if this is not the service you use in the first few months, it maybe something on horizon in the first or later years.
As the birth gets closer, the soon-to-be mum will be more and more occupied with the pregnancy and preparation for birth. Yet for their partner it can feel that there’s less and less help they can give. However what they can do is ‘wraparound’ help that supports the new family. Actioning these suggestions provides both a wraparound support and a sense of purpose for the partner who becomes inevitably more an observer than the participant.
I think it’s worth highlighting that there needs to be a conversation between you and your partner about these suggestions. An open, honest and sensitive dialogue that looks to focus on making this transition as hassle-free of house chores as possible. Reinforcing that these are not necessarily permanent but simply temporary as everyone gets used to the new family.
For many it can be pride that stops hiring someone to help out. Yet by seeing it as merely a temporary solution it can dilute some of that pride and make way for some support.
It may not seem much, however the knowledge that you don’t have to ‘imagine up’ dinner or that the ironing isn’t your problem, makes a huge impact on you and your partner’s wellbeing. It can be a source of deep frustration for the parent who returns to work and not be on hand to help. And often feel both helpless and powerless to offer no more than a reassuring text or call. Much of that can be alleviated knowing that the menial day-to-day house chores are taken care of.
It may be that when it comes down to it you never need to worry about any of these. But for the cost of a few minutes here and there in research and information gathering in the preceding months, isn’t it best to have those phone numbers on speed dial for when it really matters?
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Ben Jackson is a registered counsellor, coach, and lecturer with nearly 10 years of professional experience. He helps clients with stress and anxiety, anger management, self esteem, confidence, and depression.
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