This is actually a third attempt at a post. Hopefully this one sticks. You’ll see the other two one day, once I’ve made them suck less.

This is advice that doesn’t apply to an expecting parent specifically, but it may apply to them especially. Stress is a stealthy thing. I haven’t been feeling particularly stressed, not in any way I’ve been hugely conscious of. I’m busy, but that’s been my M.O. since high school. So I don’t think anything of it. Par for the course. But I’ve got new things that are in the background. The baby and the home are carving out spaces in my brain that I’m not aware of.

If I think of my brain like a computer file server, I’ve partitioned it out into different pieces. Let’s make it easy and say my brain is normally split into three even parts: work, relationship, miscellaneous to-do. Now that I’ve got new things to focus on, the system administrator that live in my brain has carved out new partitions for house and baby. The thing is, though, that my brain’s capacity has not increased. So if I now have new partitions for these items, I have less room for everything else—I just don’t realize it yet.

Well, I do now, but that’s because my body let me know it was an issue. Early evening on Sunday, I realized my left jaw was sore, like I’d been chewing gum only on that side for days and the muscle had gotten tired. Monday and Tuesday this progressed into muscle pain that would make me wince whenever I started to chew or clench my teeth at all. It has faded now, but only after a pretty healthy amount of massage over the last two days. I’m almost 100% sure that I’ve been clenching and grinding my teeth, probably while I’m sleeping, as a way to vent my stress.

I don’t tell myself I’m stressed, but if I step back and take stock of my day, it’s pretty clear that I am. Today, for example, I’ve sent out 30-something e-mails and fixed at least 20 entirely unrelated issues BEFORE NOON. Even on a day that I consider a slow day, I probably send 30-40 e-mails and solve 10-20 different problems. Then when I get home, I’ve got at least seven house projects and two or three baby projects or decisions to deal with. Maybe back when I didn’t have the house and baby to deal with, everything I took care of at work was manageable in my brain, but no longer.

I need to learn to pace myself better. Maybe I schedule blocks of time for myself to spread out my tasks. Maybe I head home early a couple days. Maybe I need to delegate more tasks. But I need to do something, because you can’t shrug off duties related to the baby until later. If you don’t handle these things in advance, they become small disasters later on down the line. My fix here is a pretty simple one: make a to-do list, preferably a physical one. Put a limited set of items on that list. Maybe one is hard or multi-part, the others, maybe three to five of them, are all easy. Don’t think about anything else except those items, and when you finish them, cross them out with a big, bold pen stroke. Each one is a victory, and being able to visual that and physically express it is important.

Try not to neglect some self-reflection as you focus more and more on external things, like a tiny new person. If you’re no good for yourself, you’re certainly no good to them. After all, aren’t the best managers people who can practice what they try to teach? Manage the items you can and celebrate all the victories you can claim, large or small.

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