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 creator of The Medicated Mommy Blog and Founder of MOTHERHOOD | UNDERSTOOD, a social media platform geared to moms who battle maternal mental health disorders. Jen is a published author, speaker, thought-leader, and contributor at the TODAY Parenting Team, Pop Sugar Moms, Motherlucker, The Mighty, Thrive Global, Suburban Misfit Mom, and Mogul. Her writing and commentary have been featured all over the mommy blogosphere at top websites such as Scary Mommy, CafeMom, HuffPost Parents, Hello Giggles and more. Jen lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband Jason, tiny human Mason, and dog Harry Potter.