The Pregnant Homekeeper: How to Keep the House Running Well While Exhausted
Awhile ago (actually several years ago–oops!), a reader asked:
I’d love to hear your thoughts/tips on things you do during pregnancy to ease nausea, to get the rest you need, to keep the household running smoothly, etc.
HOW I DEAL WITH PREGNANCY NAUSEA
First, I should say, I don’t deal with hyperemesis (crazy-terrible nausea/vomiting through pregnancy) like many of my friends have faced, so I am not the gal to consult for that. For those of you who face that difficulty, I offer you my genuine compassion.
I do, however, get a low-level, grating nauseousness that doesn’t go away for the first trimester, and handle it in these ways:
- I wear sea-bands. Yes they look like 80s work out wrist cuffs. But I seem to be very sensitive to pressure points & massage (as in, I could genuinely feel physical relief in other parts of my body while getting foot reflexology done in Thailand), and they truly help, almost immediately, to cut down on my feelings of nauseousness. I’ve had plenty of friends tell me it doesn’t work a lick for them. But it works for me, so I’ll mention it to you.
- I eat what I want to, when I want to. And I try to stay in-tune with what my body is really, actually craving. So sometimes that looks like Crispix & milk for many meals-in-a-row, straight. This pregnancy, it looked like a LOT of beef in the first trimester. Other meat wasn’t near as appetizing, and perhaps my body needed iron? I didn’t really want much by way of carbs or sweets, but I craved, and ate, a lot of beef.
- I lay down and lay low. Commitments and household stuff crawls to a screeching halt and I take a lot of time on non-busy days to rest and be still. For example, kids with schooling questions come to me, while I lay flat on the couch. (More on this, in a minute.)
HOW I GET THE REST I NEED DURING PREGNANCY
- I go to bed earlier. I’m normally a night-owl. Midnight/1am normally “ain’t no thing” for me. But during pregnancy, it’s not abnormal for me to go to bed hours earlier than that. For the last week, I’ve been in bed by (on average) 10pm. Sometimes 8:30/9. Tonight, as I’m writing this, it’s 30 minutes past midnight. I don’t know what’s come over me, but this is unusual during pregnancy. So. Yeah, I generally go to bed earlier.
- I take WAY more naps. This is when having a 4 year old who still naps comes in handy. The baby (usually under 2) sleeps for a good 2-3 hours. My 6-and-up crew are responsible enough to watch a video without quarreling, or color/read quietly/play Legos during nap time. This allows me to, when I need it, get a nap with the 4 year old (and allows us to snuggle, hand-in-hand, while we fall asleep together). I also make the most of weekend opportunities when my husband is home. This happens way more during the first trimester, and it’s happened just a handful of times in this second trimester.
- I’m more willing to thoughtfully use media to help get through the toughest days. Even during pregnancy, we are judicious in the amount and kinds of entertainment our kids take in, but I’m much more likely to allow a Liberty’s Kids, Magic School Bus, or America: The Story of Us marathon session during pregnancy than I am under normal circumstances. Pregnancy is one of the times when excellent, educational, entertaining video series get whipped out in our home, and put to good use.
- I put careful thought into self-care. I do things that refuel me, rather than zapping my energy, like: taking hot, epsom salt baths 3-5 times a week; springing for the coffee gelato; and pulling back on commitments outside the home.
HOW I KEEP THE HOUSEHOLD RUNNING SMOOTHLY DURING PREGNANCY
- I snuggle the kids and pour into them from a resting position. By that I mean, I am not as likely to be up and down, doing physical things in the yard with them, but we can definitely snuggle and read a book together. My goal is to meet their emotional and time-together needs even while giving my body as much REST as possible. So instead of acting silly and wrestling on the floor with the toddler, I might pull him up on the couch with me and count his toes, or name body parts and have him repeat after me. The preschooler might climb up to sit beside me and we’ll make silly faces at each other, giggling and tickling and playing silly games. This is not to say I am inactive or sedentary all the time, but I try to make those connecting time with the kiddos a time of rest.
- I simplify meals as much as possible. Whereas I might normally make meals more varied, during pregnancy (especially early pregnancy), meals like spaghetti-and-meatballs and breakfast burritos get much more “playtime.” It’s all about what’s fast, easy, and filling. Crock pot meals take precedence over multi-step baking/frying/boiling meals. Meals with simple ingredients, with as few steps as possible, win the day. (See my favorite list of 13 Easy Meals for Hard Days.)
- I simplify cleaning as much as possible. Elaborate toy sets get packed away, and we pare down to basic, favorite toys that can easily be sorted & picked up. We clean up as soon as a mess is made. I use paper plates if financially possible at that time, which cuts down on dishes. We have cleaning/pick-up parties where everyone participates and it gets done more quickly. We also have a chore chart (this started when my oldest was around 9-10, as I didn’t find it necessary to keep track of who-did-what before that time), which helps general cleaning tasks to stay on track.
- I simplify homeschooling as much as possible. This is true of my life in general. I’m not a flashy homeschooler. If you peeked into our home, you wouldn’t be impressed with custom workboxes, fancy gel pens, elaborate science projects, or wildly-creative-journaling assignments. We often learn by reading treasured books aloud together, snuggled in on the couch. I utilize workbooks (which I used to and maybe still do– I’ll admit it– disdain) for things like grammar & punctuation rule acquisition. I plan weeks in advance in their individual planners, and we plug along together. We sit around the living room, with each child working independently as they are able, with individual tutoring/lessons in needed areas, all interspersed with reading aloud. It’s very straightforward and very simple. I don’t throw in Latin, projects involving glue & popsicle sticks, origami, or notebooking.
- I try to spiritually “tank up.” One of the things I’ve noticed is that it is very easy for me to feel spiritually depleted when we have a newborn if I haven’t been purposeful about “tanking up” while pregnant. When you’re nursing round the clock, even getting to sit through an entire sermon, or have a semi-intelligible conversation with a friend, is a luxury! So during pregnancy, I try to listen to meaty sermons, go in depth with my Bible study, and make time for rich conversations with godly friends. I do as much as I can to chew on spiritual “meat” during the pregnancy so that when the time of postpartum exhaustion comes, I will have spiritual reserves to draw on.
- I simplify our schedule as much as possible. I don’t sign up for extra commitments, and tend to say “no” to things like homeschool co-ops and playgroups during pregnancy. That’s not always the case, as occasionally I feel up for them, but I really try to evaluate on the front end– can I really, joyfully, see this commitment all the way through? — if not, I say “no.” I have come to the place where I really, really know that I can’t do everything. And so for me there is a guilt-free sense of freedom that comes when I say “no” to even good things so I can have enough margin to joyfully say “yes” to and engage in the best things.
CONSIDER THESE THINGS SOBERLY & PRAYERFULLY
A lot of this comes down to soberly knowing yourself, what your needs are, and what you are capable of. Prayerfully, sit down with your husband and seek his wisdom in what you should & shouldn’t commit to… what things can go (like more involved meals), and what things can’t.
Different women will have different needs/desires/energy levels (and sometimes, we’re even different from *ourselves* in different seasons), and different husbands will prefer different things, but we all need to rightly evaluate ourselves, our resources, and the gifts and abilities God has given us.
We all need to carefully steward our bodies and our marriages, children, and homes, and these are some of the ways I’ve tried to do that during seasons of additional exhaustion (like happens with pregnancy).
IN THE COMMENTS:
- Please add your tips/thoughts about how you keep your household running smoothly through exhausting seasons.
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