C’mon, you all know it’s true. Yes, we adore our children. Yes, we share precious, unforgettable moments with them.
But let’s be real: those precious moments are balanced by an equal number of mind-numbingly dull interactions.
Most of our time as parents is taken up with negotiating somewhat healthy food into our children’s mouths, cleaning up after them and listening to them tell long, rambling stories that MAKE NO SENSE and HAVE NO POINT.
As a very wise (and honest) friend once said to me, the tedium of parenting comes from endless kids’ needs coming before our own.
As parents, we have to prioritize the survival of our children: clothing, feeding and getting them to school/daycare. Or just getting them through the day.
As a result, our needs come second (if at all).
I really admire those parents who can continue with their pre-kids activities with apparently as much dedication as ever. In my experience, while some things must continue (work, for instance), something always must give way in the face of our children’s needs.
I guess that is the sacrifice of parenthood.
In our family, we have each given up something in the face of parenthood. In my Chico’s case, it’s doing the sports he loves. For me, it’s been a career.
This is where the Mom-Guilt-Monster raises its ugly head.
I think: but if we don’t model self care and prioritizing of our interests to our children, how will they learn to take proper care of themselves?
I haven’t figured it out yet but I’m hoping we’ll all learn to strike a balance.
And in any case, even if we think we have everything right and we’re doing everything perfectly, I bet you our kids will grow up to complain to their therapists about us, anyway. Ha!
Three times in the last month, my Bug has had a major freak out over a minor boo-boo.
The first time, he completely lost it and went into full-on meltdown mode when I tried to clip his toenails. Normally, this is a non-issue. He’s fine with it. But this time he freaked out, started screaming, crying, howling and kicking his legs around.
The second time, a large scab on his knee came part-way off and was tugging and pulling uncomfortably. We sat down for me to look at it. When I told him I needed to cut it off so that it wouldn’t hurt him, he completely lost it.
Today was the latest episode. He got a splinter in his hand. He trustingly gave me his hand to look at. When I told him that I would have to take it out, he balled his hand into a fist, snatched it towards his chest, burst into tears and wouldn’t let me near it.
He was paralyzed by the idea of being hurt.
Of course, there’s not much I can do in these situations. Either I wait for him to calm down (which takes forever, if he does at all), or I would have to hog-tie him and pin him down in order to do what needs to be done. Not an option, as it’s probably illegal.
As you can imagine, these incidents are intense, frustrating, and pretty traumatizing for both of us. And even though I try to stay calm myself, I feel rage building inside me the longer his freakout lasts.
And then, just like that, it’s over! The splinter is out, the scab is removed, the toenails are cut–all painlessly.
Someone throws a switch in his brain and he’s suddenly back to being 100% fine. Yes, there are tear tracks down his face, but he’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The child that moments ago was shrieking bloody murder is now gazing at me peacefully, a big relieved grin on his face.
But I’m still mad.
I cannot throw that switch and suddenly go back to all-fine-mode. I’m angry that he nearly burst my eardrum with his shrieking. I’m mad that he didn’t trust me not to hurt him. I’m ticked off that something so simple has become such a drama.
But he remembers none of that. He has moved on to his next moment. Probably a cool leaf, a comic book, or a funny fart noise.
Do all children live so totally in the moment? Or is it just mine? And how can I learn to do that?
How can I learn to let the frustration, the anger and the stress melt away to nothing? To move on so quickly to happier thoughts?
Is my inability to do this part and parcel of being a grownup? Is it some of the magic of childhood that we adults lose?
Or maybe, just maybe, I can learn to do as he does with practice. Maybe I can learn to take a deep breath, look back into his enormous, teal-green eyes and see that the bad moment has passed.
Note: these are some things that have really worked for me. Of course, every family and baby is different. Let me know in the comments if you had other tricks/recommendations that really worked for you.
1. Choose your visitors carefully.
Even if you’re the most put-together, organized person, having good help when you have a baby is essential.
All visitors are not created equal, however. Try to surround yourself with helpful, useful people whose goal is to make your life as a new parent easier. If you can, ask them to pick up groceries, or help you with cooking or a load of laundry.
Limit visits from people who will expect to be entertained. If friends or family come over expecting a warm meal from you, they are sub-optimal postpartum guests. If you feel you must see these people, suggest a meeting outside of the home in a café or restaurant, and then do not invite them home for a coffee.
2. Rethink your priorities.
Are you picky about the bed being made or the house being super tidy? Well, get over that.
Parenthood does not necessarily mean that your life will become a disaster (I’m thinking of this comic from the Oatmeal–caution, strong language), but if you’re a neat freak, you may have to tone it down a bit.
At the beginning, you’re going to want to sleep when your baby sleeps. If that’s in the middle of the day, so be it. It’s tempting to take advantage of a nap to throw on a load of laundry or do some dishes. But if you are sleep-deprived, forget it. Ask someone to do it for you (see point 1).
Eventually, as things get more regular, and your baby sleeps better at night, you’ll be able to do more.
3. Get out of the house.
This one can be tough for some and essential for others. It was essential for me.
Our Bug needed to visit the hospital two days after he was born for a follow-up check, so in early January in Quebec, we bundled him into the ErgoBaby carrier and trekked over to the hospital.
I was super stressed out about whether he was breathing okay, if he was warm enough, etc. But once that first outing was over and it went so well, Chico and I made a point of going out on an almost daily basis.
Getting out of the house will help you in so many ways: it’s exercise, it’s a change of scenery, and it will likely knock your kid out for a nap. Sweet.
4. Make a bedtime routine.
I have no idea if Chico and I just lucked out, or if it’s because we started a bedtime routine from early on, but our Bug is a champion sleeper (knocking on wood like crazy here).
Starting at just a few weeks old, we got used to giving the Bug a nightly bath, and now it’s like a pavlovian response: his trigger is the bath, and his response is sleep. It’s amazing.
Bath time is also a great opportunity for Chico to bond with the Bug. Chico is the Bath Master, and he and the Bug have a blast splashing around in the tub, and then giving and getting a massage.
Little by little we are working on a daytime routine as well, in order to help Bug master the daytime naps. I’ll let you know how that goes.
5. Baby wearing is a lifesaver.
Some people swear by it, and others say it’s dangerous to get a baby used to it, but our Bug loves to be slung in the Moby wrap. Sometimes he falls asleep, sometimes he doesn’t, but he always loves it.
I read in “What to Expect the First Year” that baby wearing for a few hours a day can actually lead to a less fussy baby, and promotes bonding.
Eh, whatever. All I know is that our Bug loves it, and he has even nursed in the Moby wrap like a champ. When he’s fussing and I have things to get done, I sling that baby like a badass and carry him around while I fold laundry, do dishes and get dinner ready (just don’t go putting anything in the oven while you’re wearing your baby, okay?).
What lessons have you learned that made your life as a parent easier? Do tell in the comments!