Tell me if this sounds familiar…
Before kids, you had all your stuff together (relatively). You got dressed every day. You showered regularly. You were organized and knew where most stuff in your life was. You set goals and achieved them. In short, you were #winning.
After kids, the old you jumped ship with the sleep gods. You no longer controlled your life. Postpartum depression and anxiety became intimate enemies. Self-care took a backseat to child care. Closets and bathroom floors became confessionals. Basically, you were #failing (at least it felt like you were).
I’m not sure there’s anything else in life that can turn you into the very opposite version of yourself like motherhood. It’s a total identity shifter and stealer.
And if you’re a mom suffering from postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, the last thing you’re thinking about or capable of is staying organized and on top of all the to-dos in your life. When you can barely find the time or energy to put on a pair of clean sweatpants, having everything organized and clean is out of the question.
But now that I’m out of the weeds on the postpartum mental health stuff, I’m (somewhat) able to focus on getting my life together. And to do that, I've learned to look for small and simple tools to help me in big ways. Tools that allow me to keep the house and my son together, even if I need to fall apart for a little while (because I still have days where I fall apart).
Organize Ahead of Time
The key to staying organized in the chaos of having children is to utilize the night before. Have the kids’ clothes picked out the night before (don't forget to label everything ahead of time so you don't have to worry about it again) and make all lunches and snacks the night before. Added bonus: Once the kids are old enough, you can have them do it all while you sip your glass of wine and supervise (I still have a few years before I get there.)
This is a HUGE time saver the next morning when you’re tearing the house apart to find your kid’s left shoe, desperately trying to get some form of nutritious breakfast in all their bellies, and ushering everyone out of the house to be on time.
Get Yourself Ready First
Another tool I’m experimenting with (mostly because bed is my happy place) is getting up earlier. While waking up an hour before my son means an hour of less sleep, having that whole uninterrupted, quiet hour to myself has been a game-changer. I make and eat a healthy breakfast. I drink a hot coffee. I answer emails and enjoy some time to myself. That way, MY bucket has been filled and I’m able to be a more patient person when my son moves at a snail’s pace to get ready for school. I’m even considering starting a daily 10-minute meditation in my solo hour to really start every day on the right foot.
Use Your Support System
Finally, the last tool I rely on just might be the most important one: a crew of super supportive, non-judgmental mom friends, who are just a text message or phone call away. No one makes me feel more like a winner or throws a better life preserver to me than my girl tribe. And sometimes, just hearing that I'm not alone, or that others are feeling the same way or have been in the same boat is all I need.
While seemingly insignificant, these little things can make a huge impact in making moms who struggle with their mental health function well and reduce the feelings of failure and inadequacy, emotions that are nearly impossible to keep at bay when depression and anxiety tend to make weekly cameos.
Mamas, we can still be messes, in our heads and in our homes, but if we've made efforts to stay organized, have taken our needed quiet time and used our support systems to vent when it all falls apart anyway, then I'd say we're #winning(ish).
Jen Schwartz is the medicated mommy who picked up the debris left by postpartum depression and anxiety and created MOTHERHOOD-UNDERSTOOD, a platform for the 1 in 7 moms affected by maternal mental health issues and the community she couldn’t find while struggling in a dark closet all by herself after the birth of her son. Jen gives permission slips to women who aren’t exactly enamored with their new role as mommy, so they can allow themselves to be the most real and honest versions of themselves. She helps them empathize, share, and connect with others who speak their language—moms who understand that new mommy life isn’t always the way it looks on Instagram. Jen is committed to shining the light on the darkest of places, where maternal mental health taboos have been hiding out, trying to make us believe that we are not enough and all alone. Jen is a writer, speaker, and influencer whose work and commentary has been featured all over the mommy blogosphere and on popular websites like Forbes, Bustle, The Mighty, Healthline, The Bump, Pop Sugar Moms, Scary Mommy, CafeMom and more. Recently, 2020 Moms named Jen their 2019 Blue Dot Project National Spokeswoman and Inspire partnered with her to create and run their maternal mental health online community forum.