My mental health means I’ve learnt to do things in quite particular ways. I’m naturally pretty full on when it comes to things like my routines, and keeping my house tidy.
Sometimes I do think I might have a low level of OCD, but overall it’s not a problem for me, and in fact I’m pretty glad I am like this, although there are definitely times where it’s more of a hindrance. I’m not over the top with keeping things clean by any means, but I have a particular standard of tidiness that I stick to. Admittedly when things aren’t kept to this standard it can cause me stress, the mess feels ‘wrong’ and sometimes it can be a huge struggle for me to leave the house if it’s not the right tidiness.
I think that needing to tidy is a symptom of my mental health. But also, if I’m not tidying and my house gets messy it’s one of the biggest warning signs that I am not doing ok. It’s an interesting cycle.
The thing is, I learnt during my mental health recovery that certain things were really helpful for my mental health. Things like eating and sleeping at regular times, getting enough sleep, keeping the house tidy, they’re all things that keep me well and my mental health in a good place.
So before having a baby I would tidy daily, and because I did that it would only take about 20-30 minutes a day to keep the house nice and tidy. Honestly it’s never bothered me doing it, in fact I actually really enjoy tidying the house. I’d also stick to routines pretty strictly. The result of it all was that my mental health was great, routine and regular tidying did me wonders and contributed to me being in a really good place for a few years before having Pickle.
However, naturally I was pretty worried about how I was going to manage this once I had my baby. I was concerned that having her would impact how tidy I could keep the house, and there was no way it wouldn’t impact my routines. I was anxious that both being impacted too much could affect my mental health, and that was a hard pill for me to swallow. 6 months in, we’ve had a good run of it so far and I can say with pride that it’s worked surprisingly well.
I’ve learnt a lot about myself. I’m more flexible and resilient than I realised. Yes, having a baby has affected my routines, that was inevitable, but I’ve coped with it unbelievably well. My brain adjusted well to the fact that there is more mess. I still tidy daily, but I’ve let the standard of how tidy the house needs to be drop just enough that it’s still neat, but homely and manageable with a baby. I’ve learnt that I actually kind of like seeing the odd few toys scattered over the front room rug. I don’t see mess, the way I would with anything else on the floor, I just feel love for my daughter.
I’ve also learnt that I am unbelievably glad that I had such good routine, and that tidying was so ingrained in me, especially as a single Mum. Because I ‘had’ to tidy, I got used to tidying with Pickle around, and from a fairly young age she got used to me doing it too. We’re now at the point where she enjoys watching me fold washing or dust. She knows that when I pop her on the floor or in her high chair to do certain tasks each morning I won’t be very long, and so she entertains herself till I’m done (sometimes I have to do awful Mum dancing to classic rock to entertain her, but I can live with that).
The fact that I had my own routine made it really easy to slot hers in alongside. I started her bedtime routine when she was only a few weeks old. You can’t really implement a bed time routine with a tiny baby, they’re obviously too young, but you can lay the foundations for a good bed time routine. I would come into the bedroom at the same time each night, turn the lights down low, have all electronics off and make sure it was quiet. I’d read her a book with a bottle, and then be really quiet through the night. When she was a little older I slotted a regular night time bath into the routine too, and most recently a little baby massage with a sleepy moisturiser (which is so cute and we both love it).
She’s always slept well. If I had removed the dummy from the equation a long time ago, she would’ve probably been sleeping through the night at a few months old. Now that she has no dummy, so far she does sleep through the night, albeit with the odd night where she wakes or things are tricky but she’s still a 6 ½ month old.
I know that chatting to my friends with babies, one of the biggest things they struggle with is routine, which is totally normal. And I’m not naïve enough to think that the entire reason Pickle sleeps through the night is my routine, but I know it plays a big part.
So, this post is partly about me taking a moment to feel proud of myself. To recognise that I’ve made some pretty big changes to things that keep me well, that I’ve managed to be flexible with things that I was pretty scared to change.
It’s also about me sharing my journey so far with other parents, and offering what is hopefully a word of wisdom for any new parents, from a single Mum who understands the troubles of sleep deprivation, and that is – if it feels manageable (and it’s totally ok if it doesn’t!) try to lay the foundation for that night time routine as early as you can. It’s helped me so much to be getting enough sleep that I’ve moved her into her own room (and taken that pain in the ass dummy away!). I know as well as any parent how precious sleep is, and how hard everything is when sleep deprived. My mental health has most definitely improved now that I’m getting more at last. If you can focus on one routine, let it be the sleep (and hopefully the rest will follow).
Also to any new parents out there, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t figure out any routine. You’re doing one of the toughest things any person can do. No matter how much research and preparation you might’ve done, nothing could truly prepare you for how hard it is raising a tiny human. It’s one of the most difficult things anyone could do both physically and mentally. You’re doing an amazing thing, and it’s totally ok if things feel crazy difficult. You’re not alone, and things will get easier.