written by Sarah-Lee Patterson

I returned to work as soon as my 18 weeks of PPL were up. Not just for financial reasons but because I love my job & also because I knew my daughter (Parker) would thrive 110% better at Daycare, than she would at home with me. I do love being a Mum but staying at home & being responsible for my Daughters learning & development just wasn’t for me. It sounds terrible when I put that in words but I know I’m not the only one who worries about how much pressure that is felt to ensure you’re supporting your child in hitting their milestones.

I returned 3 days a week initially then gradually increased back to full time hours from there. In hindsight, I wish I had worked 3 day weeks until Parker was 12months old. Unknown to me, once Parker hit 7-8months old, I found that my life was a constant cycle of work, washing (to ensure there were plenty of fresh daycare clothes) & pureeing baby food. Especially because help at home was limited (my husband is out of town a lot for his job). This is when mild PND set in & I started to wonder what I was doing with my life. I had a discussion with my manager & it was agreed that I was able to work from home 1-2 days a week so I could keep on top of things. I feel really lucky to have had a workplace that supported this at a time where it could have gone the complete opposite way.

Everyone’s return to work situation is completely different – some will have more support at home, some will have less. But just know that there ARE other people in the same situation as you & everyone copes with similar situations in different ways. Talk it out with someone you feel comfortable with or your Doctor if needed & come up with a strategy to lessen your load. Both physically & mentally. I didn’t respond well to medication so a change in work/life balance was really only option.

Because I put Parker in Daycare so early & had friends going through the same battle of working out how to approach it after me, I often got asked my tips/tricks/hacks for starting Daycare & keeping on top of things, so here they are :

CLOTHING : Leave the cute stuff at home & keep it simple. In Winter, dress in bodysuits, trackies/leggings and sweatshirts. In summer, the same again but with short sleeves and shorts. We frequented the Warehouse, Kmart & even Baby Factory. They grow so fast that I used to buy things in a range of sizes. Especially if it was black or another dark colour with less chance of being stained by food.

USE THE DRYER : It’s my holy grail. If I had to hang every piece of Parker’s clothes out to dry, I’d certainly go stir crazy. If you insist on hanging out washing to save a few bucks on the electricity, use those offers of help to get it done.

PRE-PACK OUTFITS : If you’re OCD in terms of outfits that need to go together/colour co-ordinate, put together your baby’s weeks worth of individual outfits in plastic sleeves (I kept the ones that our cot sheets came in) or laundry delicates bags (which I used when she grew up a bit and her clothes were a bit bulkier), then in their own drawer or shelf. This makes for getting dressed quickly in the mornings & when Dad is there to help out with the morning routine, he doesn’t have the stress of finding a suitable daycare outfit either.

STOCK DAYCARE UP WITH THE ESSENTIALS : We would stock Daycare up with whole boxes of nappies, tins of formula and breakfast (Farex etc) so that all we needed to do was ensure there were a couple of changes of clothes & a sleep-sack in Parker’s bag each day. Then the addition of lunch once she started on solids. To make this easier, I would highly recommend finding a daycare that provides meals.

BULK MAKE FOOD & USE PRE-MADE POUCHES : Bulk make a weeks worth of puréed foods and pop it in Kai Karriers ready to go to Daycare for lunches &/or dinners. You can also do this for breakfasts and bulk containers of yoghurt. However, don’t feel guilty if you opt to send them along with pre-made pouches from the Supermarket. I did this a lot too to save my sanity and even now (Parker is 2) we still have a stash of fruit pouches in the cupboard and opt for yoghurt pouches for breakfasts or an easy snack.

DAYCARE BAG : You can use basically any bag – a lot of people use their nappy bags for the first little while. I invested in a Herschel bag for Parker last March and she has used it every day since. It’s still in great condition with no signs of wear. I highly recommend them. Also, Pop a wet bag in their bag for wet/dirty clothes (I believe most daycares are advising this now as they’re trying to go plastic bag free)

NAMING DAYCARE ITEMS : I went through the painstaking process of ironing Dymo name labels on all Parker’s daycare clothes. Realistically, this was more of a pain than helpful. Their clothes rarely go missing when they’re smaller as they generally have less changes of clothes. Name labeling is key when they’re transitioned to a toddler room though. Stuck on You labels are great but get the larger sized ones. Name all plastic surfaces with vinyl name labels – bottles, drink bottles, kai carriers & lunch boxes. I personally love using Vinyl Junkies. Their service is top notch and their labels last well too.

MAKE TIME FOR YOU : Take a day off work every now & then just for you and don’t feel bad about it. Everyone needs this. In fact, I checked myself into a hotel for the night a couple of times just to get some rest without worrying about anything else.

ACCEPT OFFERS OF HELP & DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP : I had friends bring dinner over a few times. Not just because I’m useless at cooking when it’s just myself at home but it was also nice to have the company on those days. Also, I know personally that if any of my friends needed help folding their laundry, doing their dishes or vacuuming their house, I would happily be there for them. If anything, I’d make me feel good knowing that they feel like that can reach out to me for help. This goes for babysitting too! It’s not so daunting looking after someone else’s kid now that I’m somewhat “experienced”.

HIRE HELP : if finances allow, just do it. We had someone come to do the essentials for us for a few months last year & it was so good knowing that each fortnight, the kitchen, bathroom and floors were getting a decent clean. I would walk in the door with a feeling of relief knowing I could just sit down for a few moments without feeling like my house was a absolute sty riddled with germs. Of course the cleanliness didn’t last with a toddler but at least temporarily, I could breathe a little.

Once Parker was somewhere between 12-18 months, juggling things did get easier. She can feed & entertain herself (mostly) which means there is some room for getting housework done while she is occupied & I got a new job that allows me to work flexible hours so now I get home a lot earlier than I used to.

So, if you’re about to return to work or have recently returned & are feeling like everything is a bit much, remind yourself that the best is yet to come. You may feel overwhelmed at times but it will pass & it does get better.

I purchased a new pair of togs yesterday, decided it was finally time I graduated from my maternity ones (I’ll always love you ole faithful) and in my usual style of shopping I grabbed a pair off the rack, held it against myself and said and “yep – she’ll be right”.

She won’t. By god they’re high cut and the downstairs tenant didn’t get the memo about the requirements. I put them on in the changing room, looked down and had one of those ‘oh shit’ moments. It was way too late – she’s festively thick and bushy like a Christmas tree. Oops #mumlife.

Being a mum is all about putting them first and us second. At least it took away from the fact that I haven’t shaved my legs in weeks.

I’ll keep the weed wackers handy for our next excursion.

Maintaining a relationship post-baby takes a lot of time and energy, exactly what you’ve got f*ck all of right now.

Reuben and I decided way back when I started the blog several years ago that our relationship was something I would never go into great detail about on the blog. I see woman slagging of their partners online and this was something I never wanted to do. I see people discussing their sex lives opening, kudos to them but that’s not us. We like to keep some things private.

Reuben has been incredible since we first welcomed Baxter into the world, sure, like I was – he was scared. We were delving into the unknown, we were sleep deprived and we let it get to us. By the time we had Lily we were confident in what we were doing. We are certainly not experts, but we were much more clued up on what to expect (especially in the first 12 weeks). There have been rocky moments where we’ve yelled at each other and questioned or criticised each other’s parenting, but we still love each other.

When you have children, all your attention turns to them and you quite often forget that your relationship with your partner needs attention too.

I can count on one hand the amount of times that Reuben and I have been out without the kids on an actual date since having the kids and that’s pretty sad. With me working full-time (+ some) and him being at home with the kids it’s so easy to get lost in the day to day life. We have had countless offers from people to watch the kids while we spend some time together, but something always comes up. A kid gets sick, one of us get sick or we’re just tired. We worry about their routines being interrupted and we just worry too much.

After recently attending one of Reuben’s best friend’s wedding last weekend (he was a groomsman and I was the Photographer) it reminded how important love is, and spending time with each other. The past few years I have been so focused on so many other things – the kids, my work, housework that I have failed to make my relationship a priority. We’re too tired to have sex, we’re too tired to go out. We’re just tired.

My parents have a weekly date night that they do every week without fail and I am so envious. Between this and the wedding, we are both looking at things with a fresh perspective. We’re now spending quality time with each other once the kids go to sleep instead of doing our own thing (Reuben will do some work and I will do admin stuff on my blog/group etc.) and we actually look forward to it. Sometimes when you’re tired and your mind is cluttered, it feels like a bit of a chore or it can easily be put in the too hard basket but with a small shift in my mind – things are improving, and I am feeling really good about it. We became parents and that was it.

I thought I would put together a small list of things you can do to keep your relationship alive after kids! I mean hey, what would I know – haha. I am only just re-beginning the journey but have been reading about it a lot and thinking of ways to refocus.

Lower your expectations – yeah, those chores you asked them to do? They’re probably not going to get done. And if they do, it won’t be up to your standard. Unless you are part of a small percentage of women who have a partner who happily partakes in household chores – lower your expectations a little. I am told a lot that I need to lower my expectations, that I expect too much and to a ridiculous standard. I moan about how he hangs the clothes on the clothes horse. I mean does it REALLY matter? They’re still going to dry. It’s going to annoy the shit out of me, but I need to learn to lower those expectations and pick my battles.

Be appreciative – Reuben does a lot for me when it comes to the kids, the house may not be spotless, but the kids are happy and fed. Like everybody, we like to be told when we’re appreciated and that our work isn’t going unnoticed. So instead of telling them everything they’re doing wrong, focus on what they’re doing right and make it known.

Prioritize sleep – I know, it’s easier said than done but hear me out. Researchers think that one of the reasons the transition to parenthood might be hard on relationships is because kids wreak havoc on your sleep. When you’re low on sleep, you might find yourself feeling more irritable and hostile therefore reacting badly when something happens.

Talk – Sounds silly I know but how often do you two just talk, no kids, no distractions, nothing? I know us, it’s not often other than a quick call after work to see if we need anything from the supermarket. When Reuben and I first met we would talk on the phone (and in person) for HOURS! To the point I think one of us actually fell asleep one night. We would talk until we were so tired we could barely stay awake or until one of our phones died. Often when we talk now, it’s about the kids (obviously) but I think it’s so important to talk about other things, how each other is doing etc.

Make time for each other – As I mentioned earlier, having time together, away from the kids is important. No matter what comes up, make it happen.

I could carry on forever, but you guys get where I am going. I am using this post to hold me accountable because I am currently not doing half of these but with small changes, the two of us are noticing a big difference.

Being a parent is tough. Go back to basics, remember why you fell in love and prioritise alone time.

I am keen to hear what things you do with your partner to ensure you have some time away from the kids and keep your relationship alive?

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with the whole parenting thing. I mean come on, who hasn’t? I think we all do at some stage or another – some are honest about it, some aren’t. I get comments all the time said to me or sly digs about those people who ‘share to much on social media’, who ‘have to tell the world about everything’.  Well, over-sharer? Quite possibly. But I definitely don’t tell the world everything. There is a lot you don’t know about me and probably won’t ever know.

I’ve been extremely slack on the blog front, life happened, kids happened, work happened. I’ve just been busy in general. For a while there I got so consumed in the online world, I let shit comments get to me and cloud my judgement. I wanted to stop doing what I was doing, all for the wrong reasons.

Well, life is still happening and I am still shit at making time for me as much as I try preach about how important it is. It’s a work in progress okay. BUT, I need to get back to writing, it helps me release and I get messages daily saying it helps you to so win win right?

I’ve been a mum of 2 for over a year now – what the actual fluff (see Mum, I can do it without saying the F word). If anybody knows where the past 12 months have gone then please holla atcha girl and let mew know cos I’m sitting here in disbelief that we’ve already celebrated Lily’s 1st birthday. I was so freaked out when I found out I was pregnant (yes, pregnant on my first child’s 1st birthday – am I mad?). I had huge fears about how things would pan out and how I would cope. I struggled with one so how on earth was I going to manage with 2? Well, I did. We got through and here we are, a year in and I am by no means going to say it was easy – it most certainly wasn’t. But I’m alive, and so are both the kids (and Reuben – just).

People often ask me what life is like with two kids. I don’t have a straightforward answer. It’s hectic, with one you can get away with distracting them and getting other stuff done, with two – you distract one and then the other goes in to pick a fight. So basically, there is a never a dull moment – for me anyway. Like everything in life, you find a way to get through, to manage – to get by. I can pop Lily in the highchair, give Baxter some toys and still get housework done. We chose to have the kids in quick succession which meant a small period of madness. Lily is 1 now and I think we are out of the really tough stage (for now), they’re getting along reasonably well (70%) of the time but don’t get me wrong – I know we’ve got some real shit times ahead of us. It’s all part of this parenting gig.

Looking at these kids when they’re playing nicely just makes it all worth it, all those shitty times are just forgotten about. I say to Baxter do you love Lily and he says “yes Mummy”. I die inside. He pats her head and gives her kisses. They’re really starting to engage with each other and get each other. He knows how to wind her up and she definitely knows how to wind him up.

Baxter is a mini Reuben and Lily is a mini me. It’s scary but its Karma at its finest, haha. I see us in them and it scares the shit out of me.

I am glad we chose to have the kids close together (18m gap). The stages are familiar with us and we haven’t forgotten about the tough times. Our theory was, ‘do it quickly and get those initial shitty times out of the way’ – they’re gone, behind us and gosh it feels good. The first 12 weeks is still hell but a different kind of hell because we remembered what it was like as we’d not long done it. We clearly remembered what tactics worked with Baxter and tried them on Lily.

The kids are actually different, Baxter was SO chill, almost too chill. Lily is so full on – all the time. Is really rough with Baxter (the me in her, haha). She climbs, jumps and squeals and the kid has no fear – none of which we experienced with Baxter. He has totally had to up his game now she is walking and trying to rule the roost.

Baxter is now in Kindy 3 days per week and is thriving, best thing we did for him (and lets be realistic, for us too). Reuben is a stay at home Dad still so having B in Kindy 3 days allows him some 1 on 1 time with Lily which he really enjoys.

The wolfpack is complete with no additions in the foreseeable future. I am content with the kids. I am still working on myself and managing my anxiety + depression but to be honest, I don’t think it will ever be gone. It’s part of me, its who I am and some days are shit, other days I am on top of the world.

Here’s to another year…

To the boy who made me a mum,

You turned my life upside down.

You showed me that there were far more important things in life than what I was currently prioritizing.

You brought out strengths in me that I never knew I had and discover weaknesses I never knew existed.

You made me realize I was focusing on all the wrong things in life and that it was the small things that really mean the most.

You’ve made me cry, you’ve made my laugh and you’ve made me yell.

You have the most amazing personality and you have such a kind heart.

You inspired me to start this blog and help so many people.

You saved me.

The moment you were put in my arms, I was overwhelmed with emotions. So much love, and so much fear. I was so scared because this whole motherhood thing this was new to me. I was so scared of not being a good Mum to you. I got post natal depression and I cried a lot. I would sit there and look at you, and cry. I was so scared that I was failing you because I wasn’t coping. The first few months were really difficult for me, coming to terms with such a big adjustment, my hormones were all over the place and I was discovering a new side of myself.

You are such a good big brother (most of the time) and these days when I look at you I am so proud of how far we have both come.

We are gonna move mountains together kiddo