How I Went From Being A Rigid Planner To Being A Relaxed Working Mother

Posted: September 4, 2019

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Having a baby, looking after the house and juggling work – does ‘planning’ help a working mom do it all? Or is there another way?

It has been a while since I last wrote an article, in fact it has been 6 months. And yes, I do have the usual excuse of being busy with a hundred things swirling around me which literally made me a scatterbrain.

I haven’t been able to figure out why I am overwhelmed most of the times and I wish I could pinpoint the reason, so that I could find a solution.

The only conclusion I can come to is that working and being a parent has been the hardest thing I have done in my life.

When will things fall in place?

Doing a Ph.D. was a piece of cake when you go through this! Well, the most obvious thing then would be to just quit my job. Maybe then things will fall in place. That’s when I realised that it is actually not the work or my kid, but the individual and the mother within me head-butting with each other most of the times.

When I want to wear the work hat, I am forced to wear the mother hat, or something else leads to frustration as things are not going as planned. I ended up feeling helpless, out of control and out of depth.

Never did I realise how much of a task and time oriented person I am. Nor did I realise how much satisfaction I got from completing work – any work. Before my son was born, I would wake up in the morning and have a plan for the day and for better or for worse, the day would roll out uneventfully.

There were some highlights here and there, such as Taekwondo classes, dinner and cinema with the husband that removed the boredom of a predictable life. Now with a baby in tow, things have taken a 180 degree turn.

The derailed plans

I still wake up in the morning with a plan for the day, only to realise after just 5 minutes that it is completely derailed because of some unpredictable event.

This is the conflict phase, where the individual in me thinks I wanted this time to pan out in a certain order and now the mother in me is dealing with a different situation that was totally unplanned for. It is getting over this mental habit of being task oriented which makes it hard and thus, I find it hard to relax in my day to day life.

How the internet helped me

That, in turn, lead me down the rabbit hole of searching the internet on tips of how to relax and be calm. The more I read, I realised that the general discussion is on how to plan your day to help you be less stressed and therefore, by default be more relaxed.

I did try this, but I found out to my dismay that I can’t control even minute of my day that well and it doesn’t go the way I thought it should in such detail. If I plan to take a break after finishing tasks at work or home, then that never happens because something will come up which needs attention and I have to resolve it.

I am always in catching up mode, whether it is work, laundry, dishes or other household chores. It is making me realise that the planning to execute tasks for the day in a methodical way is too regimented for a mother. This is simply because I can’t project these plans outside of me, having only myself in mind. The centre of my life is now my son, some relative, my manager, or my work, depending on the time of the day.

Planned relaxation?

Then, I wondered, if I should really plan and set aside some time to relax and recharge my batteries. Or if I should go with the flow and not resist it. That way, I don’t have to worry about what hat I should wear.

The realisation became more acute recently, while I was vacationing in India and for some reason had no WhatsApp connection. Not having WhatsApp meant that I really couldn’t get in touch with anyone at all.

My basic broad and loose plan was to spend time with my son and my dad. Other than that, I made no plans to meet any other family member, nor did I go shopping, eating out or even sightseeing. I stayed at home and napped when my son did, which, some times, would be 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.

There were no plans made and I let the day plan itself which was an amazing experience. I still reminiscence those days as they were so peaceful in my mind.

The letting go of stress

Even now that I am not on vacation, I want to have the same attitude towards work. I want to wake up in the morning with a loose, broad idea on what needs to be done; and while things take care of themselves, I want to relax and just go with it.

This also means, I let go of the guilt that I will be changing his diaper a little later than planned. Or that I would send that email a little later as it is super urgent only in my head and nowhere else. I don’t want to put those rigid boundaries in my head with all the planning we are conditioned to believe is productive. Basically, I just want to relax and not stress.

There is the realisation that this would mean that I have to unlearn a lot of things. I just want to do the tasks and not pre-script it in my mind only to get frustrated if they don’t turn out the way I expected them to. That leads to me being grumpy all day long. Being grumpy was how most of my days unfolded until now; and that gives me the urge to stand up, shake my legs and hands and be silly.

Being silly and taking my own time

And while I was being silly like this, I thought that yes, I feel relaxed and happy as soon as stop; instead I felt like having a cup of tea. Which I did, after which my old self would have gotten back to completing this article quickly so I can have guilt free, no-nag time with my son.

Instead I ended up watching a drama on TV, took another 2 days to complete this article and now that this is close to completion, I do feel good about it in a mild way.

So, maybe, instead of looking for things to help me relax, maybe I am looking for slowing down and calming myself as really, there is no rush.

Picture credits: Pexels

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I am a new mother with a PhD in Genetics from Cambridge University. I have

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