Wellness

The Impulse Buy That Helped Me Reclaim My Time as a New Mom of Two

written by KRIS OSBORNE

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Source: Canva
Source: Canva

A couple of months after my second child started eating solids, I realized I was spending at least an hour each day sweeping up messes. Between the two kids, it seemed like I’d just finish tidying up before having to prepare the next meal or snack. And the cycle continued. I spent more than half my day cooking, serving meals, or cleaning up the floor. Cleaning up seemed a defeating and pointless task, only to have to do it again a few hours later. And the hours I logged cleaning began to feel more soul-crushing, rather than helpful. I could hear myself saying things like, “Let it go,” and “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” But leaving food on the floor and living in disarray was also not an option for my overall well-being. As a person with ADHD, the messiness and chaos made it much harder to focus on other things that needed my attention. 

The constant “doing” left me feeling exhausted, sleep-deprived, and (I’m ashamed to say it) resentful from having to deal with the care tasks of others all day. My disillusionment with how traditional gender roles were playing out in my household was also targeted toward my partner, who was trying to pull his weight in many other ways. Something needed to change. In a moment of weariness, I opened the Amazon app on my phone and impulsively bought a robot vacuum.

The next day, I eagerly waited for the familiar knock on the door. Picking up my package and sliding the seam ripper under the crisply sealed tape, I felt the weight of my rash impulse buy and my skepticism creep in. I imagined the vacuum getting stuck on rug tassels or bumping into chairs. Would it just end up being something else I had to manage? 

Lessons Learned from Outsourcing One Household Task

After overcoming the learning curve, I was pleasantly surprised to find the robot vacuum’s clever sensors let it navigate our living space fairly seamlessly. A week in and literal hours of saved labor logged, I started actively tracking my time savings. My newly discovered robot vacuum cleaning hack was removing 60-plus minutes of sweeping from my daily workload. At first, I’d use the relinquished sweeping time to finish the dishes or change my son’s diaper while the bot vacuumed up the wreckage of lunch. A couple of weeks in, however, I noticed that the constant feeling of overwhelm I’d previously felt was no longer there.

I found myself breathing a bit easier, knowing this one thing was off my plate. And for the first time in a long time, I felt more like myself. In an effort to keep feeling good, I set out to use those moments of reclaimed time more intentionally.

robot vacuum cleaning hack for moms
Source: Elevae Visuals

Reclaiming My Time Bit by Bit

Ten or 15 minutes may not seem like a lot. But when it’s all you’ve got, you quickly learn to be creative. I began rediscovering small activities I loved but couldn’t find time for as a busy mom—a nearly forgotten luxury. While the robot vacuum did its work, I’d prepare a fun, non-alcoholic drink, do a mini facial, listen to upbeat music, do a quickie workout, catch up on texts with friends, listen to an audiobook or podcast, tidy or organize a small space, meditate, or simply let myself daydream about my work and personal goals

On the surface, the vacuum cleaned up the post-meal messes allowing me a breath before rushing to the next task. But the greater impact was actually much more meaningful. To my great surprise, it allowed me to feel a sense of freedom and independence from the constancy and monotony of motherhood—and that genuinely improved my quality of life. I couldn’t have anticipated the impact this seemingly silly impulse buy would have on my life.

Embracing Valuable Advice

When I was a new mom to my firstborn, adjusting to life outside of the NICU, struggling through breastfeeding, and barely sleeping a wink, my midwife shared the common advice to “sleep when the baby sleeps”—a phrase I know every mom balks at. But as an experienced mom and longtime caregiver, she added, “even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes. Those minutes will add up and you’ll eventually find yourself feeling better.” I didn’t believe her at the time…and when would I eat or shower? But I was also desperately sleep-deprived and out of alternatives. Resigned, I started taking short naps with my daughter. And to my astonishment, the cumulated minutes of rest did help! 

The “robot vacuum method,” as I now playfully call it, is similar. You may not be in the phase of life that grants you hours or days away on a regular basis, but owning small intentional moments has the potential to pay back exponentially in improved mental health. I was more centered and present, less anxious and resentful, and generally more hopeful. I also found the minor automation made me feel more resourceful. We don’t have a lot of family support, nor do we have endless amounts of disposable income to outsource it. But if I could find a solution to this, maybe I could find other creative ways to open up more time in my life. 

robot vacuum hack for moms
Source: Canva

Getting Creative About Help

As much as I would have loved to hire a part-time nanny or send out to a laundry service, those solutions weren’t realistic for my family. So, I started by enlisting a high school student to walk my daughter home from school twice a week. Her rate was very reasonable, and when asked if she or her friends would like to help with other occasional tasks, they were thrilled. They’ve come over to fold laundry on the weeks the piles feel insurmountable, they’ve helped me reorganize our spare bedroom, and they’ve taken the kids to the park up the road while I tackle work or larger projects that I can’t do with them around.

I’ve also had a trusted friend come to my house after the kids were asleep so that my partner and I could go on a date, and I’ve done the same for her. I also currently have a trade happening with a personal trainer in our neighborhood in exchange for a freshly prepared meal.

Perhaps the most surprising? A very generous new friend and neighbor helped us overhaul our entire backyard ourselves (we had no experience doing anything like this!) so we could toss out the $40,000 quote we got from a landscaper. He did this for nothing but goodwill. But his generosity only furthered to cement our feelings of home and community in our new neighborhood, making us think about the kinds of people we want to be and the kind of place we want to live in and contribute to. It’s a gift we’ll never forget.

I know that charitable neighbors are a rare and unlikely commodity! And splurging on a robotic vacuum isn’t feasible for everyone. But who says we can’t rethink our economic agreements and get creative about trading our skills and time instead? Once I opened my eyes to the goodwill economy thriving locally, I felt much more able to thrive personally instead of simply surviving.

Having the Bigger Conversations

If you’re reading this and wondering where my partner was through all of this, we were through the first big hump of the pandemic, and he was working long hours to support our family. With parenting being my top priority, I could no longer make the same amount of money freelancing. But we recognized that the load I was carrying was still much heavier, and he also wanted it to be more equitable. Outside of better communicating our needs, we have been working through sharing the load more equitably. If you’re unsure of how to have this conversation with your partner, Eve Rodsky’s book is a great place to start. 

Internalizing the Lessons

Automating an endless chore not only gave me a clean floor, it also gifted me some much-needed mental breathing room. I’ll never again underestimate the power of 10 minutes. The lessons? Be creative and ruthless about taking back time where you can, then use it with intention. Your future self will thank you. Outsourcing isn’t only for the wealthy. Remember, you’re not the only parent desperately needing a hand. Chances are your pleas for help will be met with empathy by someone happy to be there for you. 

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