“How can I cope when the tasks of child-rearing and homemaking seem too much to handle?” Ensign, Aug. 1982, 26–27
Tamera Smith Allred, mother. Following the birth of our second child, I wondered if there would ever be such a thing as normal in our home again. Most of all I wondered if I would ever again be in control. Finally one day, at the kind suggestion of my husband, I took my burden to the Lord. I wept as I poured out my motherhood sorrows from the backlog of laundry, to the plants turned upside down, to the contents of drawers strewn underfoot. In the midst of this prayer came some of the clearest answers I have ever received. The main message was that these children were sent to earth for my perfection as well as theirs, that the tools to help me overcome the hardships I was now experiencing were available if I would but search for them.
I pondered for a long time after that prayer, trying to remember everything and formulating a tentative plan of action.
Over the next few days and months I tried several different approaches to handling the housework and the babies. I read magazine articles and talked to neighbors for advice. Some basic helps emerged to help me make it through those first trying months. Perhaps what has worked for me can work for you.
Rearrange your priorities. It takes many women several months to a year after the birth of a new baby to return to their normal strength and vigor. As a result, our capacity to achieve may drop but will rise as we regain our strength. In the meantime something may have to go. Take a look at your activities and draw a temporary line through the least important. Prayerfully decide what’s really important and concentrate on that for now.
Set aside a small amount of time each day for minimum housework. By spending just one or two hours a day, I found I was able to keep up with the basic household chores. I used the same time each day and it became a routine not only for me, but for the children as well. I learned to move quickly and avoid the temptation to be as thorough as I once had been. (The dust behind the stove can wait, but the children cannot.) As long as the house is neat, everyone will feel better, especially you. When your allotted time is up, quickly wrap up your work and stop.
Accept interruptions as the way of life now. To minimize interruptions, think of ways for your children to entertain themselves while you work. Set a timer for the older ones and explain to them that they are to have quiet time with books and toys in their rooms or cribs. Let them help whenever possible. Put the baby in his crib with some toys or push him around the house in a stroller as you work so he can see you. When the inevitable interruptions do come, don’t worry about them. Just try to keep coming back to the same task until you finish it. Play soothing music while you work. It will keep you going and help entertain the children.
Capitalize on convenience. If possible, pool your talents with others. For example, you might offer to bake bread for a neighbor as you bake your own if she will watch your children. Plan simple meals. Find a hairdo that requires minimum attention. If you have the resources, you might even want to hire some temporary help. A lot of teenagers would like to earn a few extra dollars.
Kindly air your emotions. As our bodies return to normal after childbirth, sometimes our hormones get out of whack. Crying babies seem only to add to the resulting distress. Kindly let your feelings out—your fears, your frustrations, your sorrows. Talk them over with your husband, the Lord, your mother, or even the children. (I’ve found two-year-olds are very sympathetic even though they don’t understand what we’re talking about.) You’ll feel better, and you might get some useful ideas during these conversations. Of course, constant venting of emotion can be as counterproductive as holding your emotions in. The idea is to release pressure appropriately, then get on with the activities of the day.
Spend some time alone with your husband each week. Your relationship with your husband is more important than ever at this time, but it is often neglected, since whoever cries the loudest usually gets the attention. Find a babysitter for at least a couple of hours each week, while you and your husband go for a walk, out for ice cream, or to a movie.
Take time for yourself daily. Set aside at least fifteen to thirty minutes each day to rest. Read a good book or magazine. Watch a good television presentation. Soak in the tub. Take a nap. Do whatever refreshes and relaxes you. Many find that prayer and scripture reading are marvelous ways to restore perspective and emotional energy.
Keep your perspective. It may seem that you will never again have time to do some of the things you have enjoyed in the past, that you will forever have someone needing your attention almost nonstop. Just like everything else, however, this too will pass. Make the most of the moments you may long for later—the soft feel of your baby’s warm body, her affectionate, cooing attempts to talk to you, your toddler’s newest discovery, his funny laugh and tender demonstrations of love, the sounds of children at play. For better or for worse, babyhood doesn’t last forever.