In today's VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, I review some life hacks that I wish I learned earlier into my motherhood journey. As a hyper-efficient veterinarian, I was trying to prepare as much as I could prior to my one-and-only child. For those of you guys who know Myers-Briggs personality scoring, I’m a pretty high “J” (e.g., anal retentive), so I wanted to be as organized as possible for this baby-thing. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
What I didn’t find? Life hacks for the working veterinary mom. So here, the top 5 life hacks for the working veterinary parent (and yes, this applies to you dads too).
1. Don’t unswaddle at night.
I prepared as much as I could by reading all the parenting and baby books early. But there are some lies in the books that no one fills you in on – and I’ll share the two biggest right now. First, “skin to skin.” Really? You don’t think your baby is going to naturally bond to you? You don’t need to strip the baby out of his PJ’s and unswaddle at night while breastfeeding – no need to change the diaper. AT. ALL. DURING. THE. NIGHT. That’s what I was doing. Maximizing the skin to skin, unswaddling, breast feeding, changing the diaper, and re-swaddling… and now I had a totally awake baby. (BTW, this swaddle and this Merlin sleep suit are a MUST have!). After my 6th week of doing this, the teacher of my moms’ group yelled at our whole group of new moms. “NO,” she replied. “Slather a ton of baby diaper rash cream on, feed with the lights off, and let him sleep off the milk coma.” You don’t read that in any baby books.
2. It’s ok to introduce the pacifier before 30 days.
Ah, the pacifier. All the books say that babies get nipple confusion and not to give them a pacifier for one month. I learned all my mom friends had introduced a pacifier after day 2… while in the hospital. I’m so rule-abiding, I waited for one month, but regret not starting sooner! All those long nights… why didn’t tell me it was ok to start earlier!
3. Prepare as much as you can.
At least one month before the baby was born, I pre-organized as much as I could. Ordered all the dog food in advance. Topped off all the supplies at home. Got my oil changed. Set up Amazon Prime Subscribe & Save. Stocked the pantry as much as possible. Put all your bills on auto-pay. Get a Litter Robot, because you won’t have time to scoop. And a Roomba, because you won’t have time to vacuum. Automate as much as you can. Find out what top 10 baby items you need as a working mom. Because you’ll seriously not have time to for the first few months… to years. For real.
4. Learn to let go.
The sooner you learn to let go of your expectations, the easier parenthood will be for you. Have low to no expectations for what you think you’ll be able to get done during maternity leave and just enjoy the time. One of my “to do” lists during week 2 post-C-section? Feed the cat and fill the Q-tips. And keep the kid alive.
4. Learn how to multi-task.
As veterinary professionals, you likely know how to multi-task very well. But that’s why I actually created VETgirl, the #1 online veterinary continuing education (CE) platform out there. Because as a working mom, you may not be able to travel to a veterinary conference for CE one year. And you can get all your CE from the comforts of home from your smartphone, tablet, or computer while your kids are in bed. So you can learn, get CE, exercise, all while walking around the house baby-wearing trying to get your newborn to sleep.
5. Join a mom’s group.
If you have one in your area, it’s worth joining a mom’s group. Typically, this is started around 5-6 weeks of age (for your newborn). I found this an amazing way of connecting with some women who I could text with emergency questions, general support, relationship venting (because the first 12 weeks are tough for you and your partner) and general advice. I ended up creating some strong relationships with a few of the moms, and their kids continue to be our playdates!
Being a working parent is tough. Hopefully these life hacks help. And when in doubt, get support. Because parenting is hard! Any tips or comments? Weigh in below!