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A sneak peek at Allyson Downey’s game-changing career guidebook for mamas

How to better manage your nights and weekends—an excerpt from Allyson Downey, founder of weeSpring’s new book.

A  sneak peek at Allyson Downey’s game-changing career guidebook for mamas

Excerpt from Here's the Plan: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood by Allyson Downey. Available from Seal Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2016


Available for pre-order on Amazon or HeresThePlanBook.com.

Managing Your Nights and Weekends


Cali Williams Yost coined the term “work+life fit" because she felt the idea of work-life balance was unrealistic. She told me, “Most people aren't intentional about how they're getting their work done and being a mother." She advocates mindful and deliberate planning in order to map out how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Your spouse or partner, if you have one, has a big role to play here. You're establishing patterns now about family responsibility that will impact the next eighteen years of your life.

Take advantage of the blank slate you have in your early days as parents to set norms of equal division of household labor.

In Chapter 5: Maternity Leave, I talk about specific ways you can do this, like the woman who with her husband created a Google calendar, assigning blocks of time to each of them. Every week, those hours needed to equal out between them—and they divvied up every hour that their child wasn't at daycare. It wasn't just about who was going to be home on what night, but also about who was feeding the baby breakfast and who was doing the middle-of-the-night wake-ups. One mom told me of her relationship with her wife: “We have the advantage of having no preconceived ideas about who has which 'role.'" Since neither had been socialized to think she was “better" or “worse" at baby care or wage earning, they divided things up in the way that made the most sense to them as individuals.

If you don't have a partner, lean on friends, family, neighbors— and hired help when you can afford it.

Take it from Rachel Sklar, a single mother and founder of e Li.st. “Any mom knows that you learn how to do things one-handed," she told me. “That's the metaphor. Being a single mom is one-handedness. You just get good at it." She also explained that support doesn't have to come from a partner. One of her friends put together a “sleep fund" for her, which she used to hire a doula without guilt about spending money on it. Other friends drop by

and lend a hand with the baby so she can get some work done. As someone who has always been independent, she's had to learn how to accept help and make the most of it. “You have to be organized about marshaling that goodwill."

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According to Yost's research, 72 percent of people think they're being deliberate and intentional about managing their work-life day, but only 52 percent actually are. Managing your work schedule and time at the office only gets you halfway there; you also have to be mindful of all the other little details that make your home function.

One of my friends made the most of her time doing errands by turning it into one-on-one time with her toddler. “We're going on an adventure!" she'd tell him. “To the dry cleaner!" A two-year-old doesn't know that's a chore; he just knows it's time with mom focusing just on him.

For years experts have advised that buying experiences—or services—rather than things has a much more lasting impact on happiness. And when you invest in services like housecleaning or errand-running you're literally buying time for yourself.

I personally call it “arbitraging my time": figuring out how much my time is worth, and off-loading the things I can hire someone to do for less money. There have been plenty of days I've hired our (willing) babysitter to help organize our apartment or run some errands for me so I could work or enjoy time with the kids. Services like TaskRabbit make it easy to find people for one-off jobs.

Lindsay Cookson is a marketing director at Dolby Laboratories. When she went back to work, she realized how much of her day was lost to mundane busyness, and how hungry she was to get that time back, even if it meant scrimping in other places.

So she and her husband drafted a job description for a “family assistant" and hired someone to come over every morning for three hours.

The assistant gets all of the baby's food ready for daycare, including ensuring all the bottle parts are clean, preparing baby food, and packing a bag for him. She does their laundry and grocery shopping, picks up prescriptions or dry cleaning, and tidies up the kitchen. She then prepares dinner for the family to reheat when they get home.

Fran Hauser became a master at this type of delegating. “I learned how to let go in a big way," she said, both professionally and personally. She hired a personal assistant to cover anything administrative in her life. She admits it sometimes feels like a luxury, but it takes time-consuming and mostly mindless tasks off her plate. Over the holidays, her assistant wrapped her gifts and mailed out her Christmas cards, which gave Fran that time to spend with her kids or get ahead on work.

Another reason to outsource: 65 percent of the women I surveyed reported that their to-do list kept them up at night.

You're not just buying time by shedding some of the smaller responsibilities; you're buying sleep, and that's something many can't put a price on.

And as you'll learn as you read on, sleep (or the lack thereof) has an enormous impact on your ability to function professionally.

But delegating certain responsibilities to others isn't the only way to off-load them: there's always the option of eliminating some entirely. One woman said her biggest regret during maternity leave was that she didn't “let [her] house be a little more dirty." During my maternity leave, I realized that some of the things I was sinking time into for weeSpring weren't delivering much return. After I eliminated tasks and responsibilities that were nonessential, I brought that same mindset to my personal life. If you had to eliminate half your domestic chores, ask yourself what would make the cut. Ironing clothes? Dusting quarterly instead of monthly? Hand-addressing holiday cards? Going to the car wash? No one in my family can tell the difference between the grocery store rotisserie chicken and the one I painstakingly stuffed with lemons and roasted myself. If in doubt, stop doing the time-consuming stuff and wait to see if anyone notices. (They probably won't.)

In your nonparent life, you may have had very blurred lines between your workdays and your personal time. That creep of work emails and little projects that need wrapping up can feel much more intrusive once you need to fit it around baby bedtime or a nursing session. Some women find that they don't have the same drive for evening or weekend work. One woman told me that after her baby was born her “rabid 24/7 focus on

work had waned."

It didn't mean that she cared less about her job, or that she wasn't as good at it—she just got more disciplined about protecting her personal life.

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A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Life

9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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