When my munchkin was about two weeks old, one of my friends came to visit. We usually hang out in a local cafe, but she in an attempt to do me a favor suggested coming to my place. I had a new baby after all so I surely didn’t feel like going out, right? Wrong! Me and little Derry were out and about since the day we got home from the hospital.
When this friend came over she was surprised, if not shocked, that my flat was actually clean, I had make-up on, my hair wasn’t greasy and I looked fresh (according to her). On top of that there was freshly brewed coffee and biscuits ready on the table.
It was brought to my attention that apparently it’s not normal to be this collected and organised when caring for a new baby, especially not when it’s one’s first child and the said person has never changed a single nappy before. It got me thinking – how comes that I seem to have it all together? And what abilities do I possess that prevented me from loosing my shit?
It occurred to me that skills necessary to run a respectable household without any help while handling a newborn who requires constant attention, are not that far from skills required to successfully carry out my job. I spent the past two years working as a customer service manager for a major airline. When I say “customer service manager” I mean a crew herder, problem fixer, pilot server and a customer punchbag. My standard workday was filled with dramatic and intense moments, pressure from multiple directions and frequent time constraints. Just to give you an example, when boarding a flight I would find myself talking on the aircraft interphone while the dispatcher was ringing my work mobile with an urgent message, a customer was complaining to me in French, I was trying to figure out how to have a minor technical issue in the cabin fixed without delaying the plane, while pilots were impatiently waiting for their cups of tea served with the correct amount of sugar and a precise measure of milk. All at the same moment.
In this job I’ve truly learnt to multitask, set priorities, eliminate tasks that are not immediately critical, and not give in to stress and pressure. Oddly enough, a high-pressure working environment made me relaxed and chilled rather than stressed. (Wine (obviously not drank on duty) was/is a contributing factor but more about that in another blog post.) What is more, frequent traveling and overnight flights meant jetlag and a lack of sleep. To be able to cope I’ve learnt how to sleep/nap anywhere and whenever I have a chance – which is a crucial ability of a “successful” single mum.
So how do these skills come handy in motherhood? Well, most importantly, when my baby screams it doesn’t stress me out. Cry always means something so I go and fix whatever is wrong. When one can keep smiling while a passenger is shouting right in their face, handling a crying baby calmly is a breeze. Secondly, when my son naps I don’t waste this precious time watching TV or reading a book because I can do that while he’s feeding. Breastfeeding is a super productive time for me – besides enjoying my favourite TV show, I catch up on my emails, reply to messages, write birthday cards, read and get organised. Actually, I’m feeding him right now. Then when he naps I do all the tasks I am not able to complete when breastfeeding – mainly housework, make-up, shower etc. I also try to nap whenever I can.
My munchkin loves to be carried around the flat so he can look at things. I often use a sling so I have hands free to do little jobs around the flat. If I carry him on my shoulder, I can still do plenty of things one-handed, like for example putting away the dishes or taking down dry laundry (no, I don’t have a tumble dryer) which he finds quite fascinating.
So as I single mum I’m still able to cope, look like a respectable woman and live in a clean and well-organised home. It is not easy (especially since there is no man who comes home after work to relieve some of the pressure) but it is much easier than I thought it’d be. My advise is – prioritise, multitask, don’t waste a single moment and most importantly – don’t stress. And have some wine and chocolates as a reward for a job well done 🙂