When my first child was born, I was so scared of him that whenever a diaper had to be changed, I pushed a button for the hospital nurse.
The day I was discharged from the hospital was the scariest day of my life. Chopin’s funeral march was playing inside my head as we walked down the hallway. Each step felt like a step in the wrong direction. I asked my husband, “Are you sure insurance won’t cover just one extra day in the hospital?” Weighted down by the baby in a car seat, two pillows, and three overnight bags, he only grunted in exasperation.
Once we got home, life without a nurse button proved to be as topsy-turvy as I feared. I felt as if somebody had thrown a bomb into my hands and said, “You have 60 seconds to figure out how it works. Otherwise, we all will blow up!”
Too much responsibility, uncertainty, chaos.
I was living in a rocking chair in our upstairs bedroom healing from a C-section with a helpless baby in my arms who always wanted something. My mom was in Russia. My mother-in-law was in Wisconsin. My husband went back to work two hours after we got home. (Okay, it actually was two weeks, but it felt like two hours!).
“Oh, I know,” said my friend Natasha, “why don’t you put some wine in a baby bottle to help him sleep better. That’s what my mom did.” Baby bottle? I almost swooned at the thought. Hadn’t she heard of nipple confusion? My other friends were just as childless and as clueless.
So I did what I always do when I need to clear my mind. I got out my yoga mat. Doing yoga a week after a C-section doesn’t seem like the correct thing to do, but it got me what I wanted. With my mind clear and in tune with the present moment, I realized that the best way out of this crisis, just as with any other crisis, is a clear plan of action.
First, I created a Baby Needs chart that outlined everything the baby might need—nursing, a clean diaper, shhh-ing and rocking, or a walk. Then I created a Poop/Pee chart so that I could check it against the doctor’s recommendations and know my baby was doing well instead of worrying about the baby doing well.
When the C-section healed, I made a laminated checklist of productive things I could do while the baby napped. I also created a Chores Chart, Baby Education Chart (to ensure an equal rotation of peek-a-boo, this little piggy, tummy time, and listening to nursery songs while bouncing on my lap), and Weight Loss Chart (I hate not being able to wear my favorite clothes).
And you know what?
Life didn’t seem so unpredictable and chaotic anymore.
When the baby was unhappy, I methodically moved down the Baby Needs Chart, trying each thing in turn until I stumbled upon the correct one. Every diaper change seemed to have a purpose because I needed to mark it on my Poop/Pee chart. When the baby took a nap, I was super productive, moving energetically through my checklists, alternating between tasks that recharged me (reading a book in a rocking chair) and tasks that got chores done (loading the dishwasher). When the baby was awake, I provided him with enriching and loving experiences that fostering our bond and made me feel good about my developing parenting skills.
Making a few charts didn’t change my situation, but it changed the way I think.
From chaos and clutter, I created a predictable and sensible routine that worked for my baby and for me. From a scared, helpless first time mom, I morphed back into my usual cheerful self.
Two kids, three kids, four kids.
I took every task, challenge and responsibility thrown my way and broke it down into its simplest form.
I developed more systems to account for a growing list of responsibilities and kids. That’s why, even though we decided to educate our kids at home, it didn’t seem overwhelming or stressful.
Having a system allowed me to organize my mind and my home for the best performance. It allowed me to reign in the chaos of a growing family through busy seasons without sacrificing my high standards and without getting overwhelmed. With four homeschooled kids in our home, our life is running smoother than ever, and we are thriving.
I was surprised, though, by the number of overwhelmed homeschooling parents we were meeting on our homeschooling journey. Also, many of my friends thought that homeschooling sounded great, but it was too difficult for them to handle, even though I assured them that they could do it very well. Maybe people make homeschooling harder than it is, I thought.
Homeschooling should be easier.
I’m not perfect. I raise my voice, forget what I learned and make mistakes. But I have discovered that a good system will always pull you back to a place of peace. And when you parent from a peaceful heart, your actions are not dictated by fears, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. I’ve also learned that you don’t have to follow the patterns that don’t work for you. You are free to be mindful, to see each day for what it is and live each day the best way for YOU and YOUR family.
I didn’t go through years of making mistakes or feeling overwhelmed and underachieving, and you don’t have to either.
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