I never thought the simple act of taking a shower would give me a sense of accomplishment.
But on the days that I am able to shower – even if it lasts only five minutes – I feel like the most productive person. That’s because I have a newborn, and the majority of my time is spent tending to her needs rather than my own.
These last two months as a new mother have made me really think about what it means to be productive, and what it means to be lazy.
I have felt like the laziest person on the planet while also feeling incredibly productive at the same time.
Did you know that a year of breastfeeding can take more than 1,825 hours of a mother’s time? And that’s just a conservative estimate according to a calculation this mother made. For context, consider this: in France, the working week is 35 hours – if you were to calculate the total number of hours a person works a year (without taking holidays into consideration), it would come to 1,820.
On top of all the time spent breastfeeding, there is also the crazy amount of time you spend as a new mum trying to get your little one to sleep. No one told me that babies come into the world not knowing how to go to sleep even when they are extremely tired!
And then of course, changing diapers.
This is all in addition to the recovery your body is going through after giving birth.
I’ve heard some women who haven’t had children wishing for maternity leave, as though it were some kind of holiday they were missing out on. But let me tell you, it is no holiday.
It’s true that there has been a lot of downtime while holding my baby for naps for example, when I could binge-watch a TV series or read a book. But these are much needed little bursts of laziness for the mum to recover not just her body, but her brain. So nothing too serious or mind-bending.
Before giving birth we had discussed with my partner whether I would get bored on my maternity leave, not having much to do. I thought no way, I’ll read all these serious books I got, I’ll paint, I’ll keep learning French….why would I be bored? It’ll be great! I thought I would be so productive.
But since she’s been born, I’ve had to tell myself over and over again that it is okay to just sit quietly and hold my baby while she sleeps. That I don’t need to do something “productive” at the same time.
The hormones don’t help. Anxiety grows, fears are heightened, and the worry of not being a good mother occupies a large space in my mind.
In the moments when my baby is crying, and I feel inadequate, I’ve found it important not to go down the social media rabbit hole and compare myself to others.
These days, it’s so easy to do. Particularly when the algorithm is bombarding you with videos of new mums, waking up looking refreshed, having plenty of time to shower, get dressed, put on make-up, to have an incredibly productive day with their baby. It can feel disheartening when you’re coming down from nine months’ worth of hormones, learning to take care of a tiny little human being and questioning yourself every step of the way.
But social media can be incredibly harmful to new mothers. One recent study found that the “abundance of idealised portrayals of motherhood” were putting increasing pressure on mothers and negatively affected their mental health. Idealised posts can cause high levels of envy and create a state of anxiety, the study found.
So for the sake of our mental health, let’s change what productivity means when it comes to motherhood and embrace laziness.
It’s okay to leave those dishes and do the laundry another day. And it’s okay to just take some time to sit quietly and rest your brain, while your body works hard to provide nutrition to your baby.
It’s in accepting and welcoming these moments of quiet that I’ve actually felt my creativity reemerge.
I’m not rushing to get anything done at the moment, but at least I know that the ideas will keep coming, and becoming a mother is giving me a new perspective, a new lens to see the world – so rather than taking anything away, it will, in the long run, add to my creativity.
All those articles online about how to be productive as a new mum should really be replaced with articles on how to be lazy as a new mum and how to make the most of it.
My definition of productive has definitely changed:
Being productive is feeding my baby.
Being productive is being able to sleep for three hours straight at night.
Being productive is changing a diaper fast and quietly enough at night so that she can go back to sleep.
Being productive is making a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, and drinking it while it’s still hot.
Or eating food that is still warm…
Being productive is playing with my baby and sharing pictures of her smiling with her grandparents who live far away.
Or spending an hour putting her to sleep, only for her to wake up 30 minutes later.
Finding the right song to sing to her so she will sleep.
Having the time – and the free hands – to cook a meal, or do the laundry.
Being productive is when we are able to go outside for 20 minutes to run some errands, without her getting fussy.
Even spending hours on the sofa, with the shape of my body imprinted on the cushions after a cluster feeding frenzy, is productive.
And it is sitting down 15 times to write this article, but only being able to come up with one sentence before I’m needed again.
In the end, motherhood is filled with contradictions. You could at the same time feel your happiest but also depressed. You can go from laughing one minute to crying the next. You can also feel exhausted but oddly energised – so much so that you can function on no sleep for days. And of course, you are at your laziest and the most productive at the same time…
Written by Lazy Selin.
Check out her most recent pieces here!
Illustrated by Lyndsey Paynter.
Lyndsey Paynter is a working illustrator in Cincinnati Ohio. Originally from the hills of Kentucky, she regularly transforms the mundane with magical thinking in her art as a way of seeking out the positivity, mystique, and unknown that exists in the world. You can find her posting ridiculous memes, frogs, and mental health discoveries on her Instagram stories as well as raising awareness of women’s issues such as PMDD.