Sunday, December 31, 2006

Scaling Back Postpartum Cleaning Expectations

Planning now for when your baby is born can help you to be prepared when he or she arrives. One of the first lessons you will learn as a new parent, unless you have the benefit of full-time help, is that you cannot do everything that you did before the baby was born. In the first weeks postpartum, you will find that you are tired and that you may have some trouble adjusting to your new schedule. Having someone else keep you awake is far more demanding of your energy, you likely will discover, than you staying up on your own.

That means that one of the most important steps you can take in preparation for the baby being born is to decide what must be done, what can be done, and what probably will not get done. Start with the basics. The dishes have to be washed, but you can cut down on the number you use. Forget those frugality arguments about paper plates. (My apologies to the environmentalists out there but forget them for a minute, too.) Using paper plates and cups and plastic utensils will save you tons of time and effort that you will need. Even if you have a dishwasher, you will discover that you may not have time to empty and reload it often. Use paper and plastic; it will save you time.

Laundry is something else that must be done, and if you are like me, it is one of your most dreaded household tasks anyway. Try to limit everyone. If your spouse changes clothes after work everyday, try to talk him out of it. At the very least, he can change into one outfit for a couple of days. After all, he is just wearing it around the house. Plan to limit laundry to one day a week and consolidate loads. Growing up, we had 10 or so loads of laundry that we sorted. In my family, we have seven. In the weeks after my son was born, we had maybe three. Most things can be washed together for a short while without any problems. Plan to work on laundry once a week and do as few loads as possible. If you never get caught up, do not worry about it.

Plan to spend some time that one day a week doing other must-do chores as well. The toilet should be scrubbed. The bathroom needs to be wiped down, and the carpets probably can use a quick vacuum. Do not spend a lot of time on these tasks. You can even hire someone to help with them if you can afford it. A teen will help you out for a few bucks an hour, and you really should not plan to do more than a couple of hours of work anyway. Put diapers in only one trash can or diaper pail in your home so that you will have only that one that absolutely must get changed often.

Beyond the dishes, laundry, and bathrooms, you will have to think about food. Having discretionary income is a benefit here. While I would not recommend going out to eat every night as it is a waste of money and unhealthy to boot, you can plan to have some convenience foods. If you have the freezer space, try making a few casseroles ahead of time. Otherwise plan to purchase healthy alternative frozen meals, frozen pancakes or waffles, and other quick meals. Cooking in a slow cooker is a great idea, too, because you can put the food in during the morning hours whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Be sure that you stock up on non-perishables before the baby arrives so that you will not need to make quick trips to the store.

Remember that you should scale back your expectations. You will need your rest. Some new moms choose to sleep when their babies sleep while others try to use that time to get work done. Either way you will want a break some days, and you deserve one. Do not overdo it, or you will begin to feel exhausted. And do not refuse all help. Being a martyr is no fun; let others give their assistance when they ask.

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