Why You Need a Parenting Plan In Addition to Your Birth Plan
When I was pregnant with my first kid, I spent a ton of time researching. I researched baby products, parenting styles, breast pumps, and babywearing. I polled friends and colleagues and read lots of articles to make sure I was getting the best recommendations.
And I also dove head first into all the literature I could find on pregnancy, nutrition, options for birth, obstetricians versus midwives, doulas, etc. The more I learned about this completely foreign world, the more I wanted to know.
I would say by the time I gave birth, I knew A LOT.
Of course, there’s no way to truly prepare for birth since it’s one of those things you just have to experience to understand, but I was prepared in the sense that I knew my options. I knew what my vision was, and I knew what my back-up plan was.
We did end up with a homebirth. And we did end up having to utilize that backup plan. But I had an amazing team surrounding me, guiding me, and feeding me information. I felt supported in all the best ways to have a healthy birth experience.
What Comes Next?
While I still strongly believe in doing your homework, knowing your options, and researching what’s most important to you when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and caring for a newborn, I think we often forget to think about what comes next. Or at least I know that I did.
What’s your plan for those first 40 days after the baby arrives? What will your maternity leave look like? Who is a part of your support team? How will you heal and recover physically and emotionally?
And then beyond that fourth trimester, what is your vision for day-to-day life as a working mom? What’s your plan for childcare, for getting meals on the table, for taking care of you, and taking care of your relationships?
Life changes drastically once you become a mom and especially as you head back to work following a maternity leave. And just like birth, there is a portion of that process that you just have to experience to understand. But also just like birth, it’s good to know how others are managing it.
It’s good to know what resources are out there and who can be a part of your support network. It’s good to put a few routines or plans for routines in place while you’re still in the planning phase so you can make the transition that much smoother.
Creating Your Parenting Plan
So what would a parenting plan or a new mom plan look like? Well, it can be really anything you like. My recommendation though, is that it includes a few key sections:
Self-Care Tool Kit
Vision for Life as a Working Mom
1. YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
Who are the people who will help you and support you during the immediate postpartum period and then as you transition back to work?
Think about people like:
Life Coach or a Counselor
Mom’s Group / La Leche League
Friends & neighbors (think meal train and socialization)
For professionals, make sure you have a short list of recommendations or referrals so you don’t have to go tracking down a lactation consultant or a counselor when you need one. Reach out to fellow moms, your doula, your midwife/OB, or colleagues. If you have time to vet them in advance, great! If not, a running list is better than starting from scratch.
For friends and family, make sure they know that you’ll be counting on them. Tell them now how you envision them helping, and then once the baby arrives, tell them exactly what you need to feel supported. People want to help, but they also don’t want to overstep. Ask for what you need, and BE SPECIFIC.
2. SELF-CARE TOOLKIT
Create a list now of the things that make you feel good. So on those days when the tears are flowing, when life feels overwhelming, or you just can’t get out of that funk, all you have to do is pick something from this list and take action. In the moment, brainstorming what you should do to feel better is not going to make you feel better. Taking action will.
Here are some examples from my own self-care tool kit:
Take a walk around the block
Write in my journal
Drink hot tea
Take a bath with epsom salt
Listen to music
Do a sun salutation
3. HOUSEHOLD RESPONSIBILITIES
Adding the responsibility of taking care of a baby is a full-time job. It’s hard, for a time, to keep up with even the most basic household chores, like dishes, vacuuming, and going to the grocery store. If you and your spouse do an even split of the household chores, but you’re going to be nursing the baby, you might need to shift a few tasks to his list instead. There’s nothing worse than nagging or asking your partner to do those things when you’re both sleep-deprived and cranky.
Even though it feels a bit like an exercise for roommates and not spouses, try jotting down a list of all the basic household chores and responsibilities that need to get done in your house.
Then sit down together and figure out how you will divide them up at different stages - fourth trimester when mom is physically recovering, back-to-work for both of you, etc..
You’ll likely need to shift things around once you figure out your groove, but having these negotiations now while you’re well-rested, is so much better than in the heat of the moment. Plus, everyone knows what their job is and you can tackle it in your own way and in your own time.
4. YOUR VISION
Just like you create a birth plan to outline your wishes and hopes for the best-case scenario, the same can be done as you think about going back to work and your vision for your life as a working mom. Asking yourself questions like,
Is me-time a priority? If so, what does that me-time look like?
Are home-cooked meals important to me? If so, how might I make that happen?
What will my work hours look like? How will I get my job done while still leaving at a reasonable time to have time with my family?
Will I travel for work? Will I network for work? How will I grow my career? Do I even want to grow my career right now?
What do I want my relationship with my spouse to look like? How will we make time for each other?
How do I want to spend my family time? Am I content to be at home, just soaking in the little moments? Or do I want to be out in the community, exploring, and staying up with what’s happening outside my house?
Start to craft a vision for life. It likely will change, and that’s ok. But you have to start somewhere and knowing what you’re thinking, envisioning, or expecting can help you be purposeful about making that happen, or help you understand why you’re dealing with disappointment when things aren’t exactly as you envisioned. If the latter happens, it’s time to sit down and update your vision to what reality looks like.
Take The Time to Think About Life After Baby
Creating both a birth plan and a new mom plan can seem like a lot of work. But I know so many moms who, in hindsight, wish they had spent more time thinking about life after baby instead of only focusing on the birth itself.
Birth happens in a matter of hours. Being a working mom happens over your kids’ lifetime. Knowing how you’ll manage that and how you’ll create a life for yourself that you’re happy about, is so worth the extra time to prepare.
If you need help crafting your own new mom plan, send me a note. I’d be happy to take a look and make sure you’re answering the right questions as you craft your own plan.