With three kids, a husband, a dog and a cat, I constantly feel like I'm managing everyone's stuff. It can get a bit overwhelming when our weeks are busy, I'm away with a laboring mama, our calendar is packed with activities. I've tried to implement chore charts, after-school expectations, family meetings where we discuss said chore charts and after-school expectations. Sometimes we're on top of everything, managing well, but lately it feels like we're, well, not managing well.
So, in birth, if someone is not managing or coping well, I'd suggest other positions or movements. I may rub a mama's back or offer her something to drink. I'd remind her about where she is in labor and normalize her feelings of discomfort or curiousity. And if that didn't work, I'd try something else. I'd follow her lead. I'd turn to her birth partner, nurse or care provider and we'd come together as her team to support her hard work and efforts.
But at home, as co-head of our household, I'm struggling with feeling like whatever I try to implement isn't sustainable. Then I start considering the reasons why. And I've come to realize that I cannot expect our home to be without it's disorganization or mess. WE LIVE HERE! WE'RE A BUSY FAMILY OF FIVE! THIS IS REAL LIFE AND NOT SOME MAGAZINE! Even so, there must be ways to get us back to some sense of calm after those busy days. In labor, women yell, moan, cry, sway silently. It's real and it's not what you see in the movies. A contraction begins and a woman uses whatever coping choice feels right and then she savors the calm following. I think our family might be able to do what we need to get through our more hectic times but then return to this sense of calm before the next one begins.
Here are some thoughts on how we might do this:
- Honestly examine how we cope with challenges, disorganization and mess, and problem solve how we might support each other; for example, I'm really good at taking all the items out of our junk drawer, discarding the outdated coupons and garbage, deciding that we don't really need 19 pens on hand, cleaning the trays and returning the drawer more organized and clean than before. My husband, on the other hand, is really good at just getting the job done. Laundry? He just puts the clothes away. Done. Maybe it's not done as neatly as I'd like, but the truth is, it's done and the laundry baskets are empty. He's able to move on to the next task. This is a great skill to have and one that comes in handy when we need to get stuff done. My son is great at helping with directed tasks or working directly with his father or me. My daughter, though, can be asked to tackle a chore and she's self-motivated to do it without supervision. We can use each of our skills and address how we can "get our house in order" using different tactics, rather than thinking that one chore chart fits all (i.e., not every laboring mother will want to use the shower during labor. Not every laboring mother will choose to squat.).
- Chaos in a family of five is normal, yes, but it doesn't mean we are destined to a life that is stressful or maybe overwhelming. There must be a way to return to a more calm and organized way of living. But guess what? A family of five will look differenly than a single person living by themselves. This is our new normal. What I see in magazines is not real life. When you see that celebrity four weeks postpartum and there is no evidence she's given birth, that is not what I'd call "real life". Does it happen? Yes. But is it typical or what we'd expect? No. When your new normal is more hectic than you had imagined, then that means you need to figure out how to return to a new normal level of calm in between the moments of real life.
- This, and every moment you experience, is part of whatever stage you're living. And stages change, we know that. The stage we're living involves a toddler, a Lego-maniac and a busy schedule. In nine short years, we'll be preparing to send our oldest off to college <gasp>. In 16 years (doesn't feel as soon, that's for sure), we may not have any children living with us! That means that we'll be without play food thrown across the floor or floor puzzle pieces abandoned mid-play. Yes, it'll look cleaner and we'll have a new normal. But the stage we're currently living will be over. And honestly, though it is really hard somedays, I also realize that this stage will carry us into the next. When I see a laboring woman breathe through early contractions, I'm aware that labor will change and her contractions will shift. She'll have a new normal. And her stage of labor is just that, a stage. And it's up to her birth team to support her transition into the next stage, whether it be active labor or breastfeeding or parenting. As a doula, it's up to me to support the other parent move into the next stage, as well. I'm there to remind the birthing family that each stage has it's joys and challenges, and that it's their new normal.
Sure, go ahead and buy that latest book on organizing! Look to professional resources for support and ways to move through the stages. But most importantly, take time to think about and plan ways you can get your house in order. It won't be perfect, it won't be without challenges. But looking within to your strengths and abilities will help you as you do this work.