by Janan Zaitoun
On August 14th, 2013 me and my husband’s lives changed forever. On that day, Allah blessed us with, Aisha, our beautiful baby girl. Soon after, I found out that taking care of a newborn is, in one word, draining. In two words, it is: frustrating routine. But in three words—and with a little patience—it becomes: the purest joy.
“Aioshi”, as I like to call my baby girl (which means “my Aisha” in Arabic), is now six months old. Perhaps the only thing I did more than change diapers these past few months was constantly readjusting to rapid change. And if entering motherhood wasn’t enough of a challenge for me, I buckled up and went back to grad school last month for one heck of a ride.
I contacted some friends who had to go back to work or school when they had their first child. Together we will give some tips to those who will find themselves in our shoes soon, and perhaps, give you some insight into your future.
TIP ONE: Set a schedule for your baby’s naps
Nap time for your baby = study/work for Mom. When my baby takes a nap, I drop everything and plunge into the books.
“I think the most important thing is for the baby to be on a schedule which includes sleeping no later than 8 pm,” said Samira Taha, both a graduate student and a working Mom at the American University of Sharjah, UAE.
Babies are ready for a general schedule between 2 and 4 months of age, according to BabyCenter.com. Once your baby has a routine, you will learn to do the studying and working when your baby is asleep and the cooking and the cleaning when your baby is awake. And about that, don’t stress it. Your house will take longer to manage. It’s a fact. Learn to deal with it from now.
“If the parents are financially capable, please hire a cleaner once a week to relieve some of the stress and take some of the work away from the mom,” said Taha. “If they are not financially capable, I wouldn’t worry about the house on a daily basis. School / work are the second priority after the baby.”
TIP TWO: Don’t be shy to ask for help
I loved a logo design I found online that said, “I’m a Mom. What’s your super power?”. I still have to remind myself, though, that mothers can be vulnerable humans, too.
“Surround yourself with a support network of good people who could step in whenever needed emotionally and with the baby,” said Sana Hiary, a graduate student at Columbia University. Hiary leaves her son at a daycare during her classes.
I personally decided to take online classes this semester, so I can be at home with Aisha. My husband takes her during one class, and, only recently, my neighbor started taking her during another. I find the separation during those two hours extremely hard. Out of necessity, I pushed myself to impose on my neighbor, who offered to babysit Aisha in the first place. I thought I could attend my online class with a six month old on my lap. It’s difficult to divide yourself in half, even if you think you have super powers.
TIP THREE: Constantly recharge your battery.
The best way to pump yourself up is to talk to someone who is in the same boat with you. It’s after those phone calls that I feel like I CAN do this. If you can’t find someone to talk to in person or on the phone, there are plenty of support groups online.
For working moms, you can join BabyCenter.com’s group:
For college or grad student moms, you can join BabyCenter.com’s groups:
College Student Moms
Grad Student Moms
Or, you can follow blogs for working moms. Here is a list of the top blogs for working moms:
Taking a step back, you might be wondering when is the best time for you and baby to go back to work or school.
“Experts suggest that you wait at least until you’ve “attached” or “bonded” with your baby and feel competent as a mother,” said Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect the First Year. “Bonding can take three months (though if your baby has colic, you will probably just be starting to become friends at this point), or it can take five or six. Some research suggests that there are benefits to waiting a year.”
When you do decide to take the step forward, keep in mind that there will be days when you will not check anything off your to-do-list. Don’t be disappointed. Remind yourself that your first priority is your child. Yes, at times you will only be a mom, and that is more than fine. Because ‘only’ being a mom is the greatest achievement.