Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Newborn Mom’s Manifesto

            Recently I was on a mom’s discussion board and a good friend who has a seven-week-old apologized for not shipping some stuff to other friends because she didn’t have time in the day. Everyone responded that she didn’t need to worry about it because they understood that she was busy and tired. Parents understand; I’m not sure that non-parents would get how hard day-to-day stuff can be.
Liz, Sage, and Silas
            If you’re a new reader to the blog, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a 35-year-old psychology professor, doctoral student writing my dissertation, wife to Mike (who is also a student and works 19 hours per week), and Mom to Silas (27 months or 2 years and change as I say) and Sage (6 weeks old and born early at 35 weeks). During the regular academic year I teach six classes per semester (three face-to-face and three online), but during the summer I usually teach two online classes only from home, making me a 1/3 of the year stay at home mom. We’re usually a very “green” household and try to grow our own vegetables as much as possible. We cloth diaper (CD) both of our kidgets, so between the four of us and CD washing there’s daily laundry. With two dogs there’s a lot of vacuuming as well. And the dishes and cooking and the bottle washing…well you get it. Add in the sleep deprivation from having a newborn and it makes for some long days with the possibility of cranky people being cranky on each other.
            As I’ve read other bloggers’ posts on different things this week I started to think of a list of things that others (non-newborn parents) should understand about the newb household (ours especially). If you’re a parent, this list should look pretty familiar and probably will make you laugh as you think back about your experiences. If you’re not a parent (or not a parent yet), use this to understand exactly what’s going on with those friends that have newborns and you think have dropped off the face of the earth.

Sage sleeps...shhhh.
·      * Sleep is a fleeting visitor to my home (at least for me, sometimes for my husband, but thankfully not for Silas who sleeps through Sage’s hunger crying every night). We go to bed between 11:30 and 12 a.m. every night because Sage eats around 11:15 p.m. Some nights he sleeps until 4 a.m. before he wakes up for food again, but sometimes it’s 3 or earlier. Depending on what time he eats, he could wake up again around 6 or 7 for more food, and then he falls back asleep. Sage sleeps a lot right now, which is very helpful when you’re trying to coordinate two children’s schedules in the morning, but his schedule means that I’m getting two stretches of 3-4 hours of sleep per night (and most nights less than that). Sleep deprivation creeps up on you and eventually you sit on the couch feeding a child and wonder how you got there. Like literally, how you got on the couch with the child. Because your brain is so overwhelmed it stops making new memories.

·      * Sleep deprivation causes people to say some messed up stuff. So if I’m talking to you and there’s a long pause, it’s because I lost my train of thought and I’m trying to find it again. If I say something that sounds offensive, believe me, it’s not intended to be. The filter in the frontal lobe that says, “That sounds rude” is one of the first things to stop working when sleep deprivation sets in. Just ignore me.

·      * Days of the week are arbitrary really. I go on Facebook or get texts from friends and see “I can’t wait for the weekend!” and I’m thinking, “Wait, what day is it?” The only way I know what day it is is if a) I have an appointment that day (according to my iPhone calendar) or if b) Silas is home (and not at daycare). So calling me and asking me if I want to meet for XYZ on Tuesday doesn’t work. Say something like, “Two days from now” but also make sure I put it on my calendar. Otherwise I probably won’t show up.

·      * And if I do show up, I’m going to be late. Deal with it. I try not to be, so hopefully I won’t be too late, but you try coordinating dogs, babies, diaperbags, car seats, trains (Silas has to bring at least 4 with him wherever he goes), blankets, milk/formula to go, snacks (for Silas and for me), and you’ll see why I’m late. Even if I get to go somewhere by myself, like an outing to the grocery store, I’m still going to be late. Our Pediatrician’s office tells new parents that their first appointment is actually 30 minutes earlier than it actually is because they know you’re going to be late. I wish the rest of the world got that.

Showered and out in public! No way!
·      * One of the reasons I’m late is because I showered – you should be thankful for that. Showering at my house is not a daily occurrence (unless you’re my husband or Silas). I usually shower if I have to (I’m going out or someone’s coming over). Otherwise it may or may not happen. I do always put on deodorant though. That’s a plus. Unless I forget to because I’m overtired.

·      * Sure, you can come visit. There’s not ever really a “good time” (except 7-8:30 p.m. is bath/bed time so that’s a bad time). Bring ready to eat food if you want to eat because I don’t cook. And if you’re competent and enjoy babies, I may just ask you to watch Sage while I go take a shower or hand you a bottle to feed our Littlest Monkey. And be careful what you say around us. Mike and I have decided to never say no to some nutbag (I mean loving friend) who says, “I’ll watch the boys so you guys can…” We’re liable to run out of the house before you finish that statement. Am I joking? Mmm slightly.

·      * While you’re visiting, know that everyone here uses the rest room with the door open. If I don’t leave it open, there will be a toddler at the door, banging, crying “Momma! MOMMA!” until you pull your hair out, scream “I will be RIGHT OUT!,” or simply open the door for him. We’ve opted to just leave it open. Circumvents the whole process.

·     *  I miss adult human interaction and news from the outside world. You can only interact with a child whose favorite word is “No” (and recently, “No, now”) for so long before you feel the loss of IQ points. Even getting mail from people (as opposed to bills and junk) and email from friends (even if I don’t respond right away) make my day. It reminds me that there are other humans in the world who have a larger vocabulary than “Car gone! Thomas! Choo choo!”

Disaster creator at rest
·      * My house is a disaster (in my mind). We keep expectations real low around here (and we’re never disappointed!). There are Hot Wheels cars everywhere, baby contraptions (bouncer, swing, tummy time mat) all over the living room, and trains dribbled from the boys’ room to their bathroom to the playroom. There’s mud spots on my black couch along with Sharpie stains (black thankfully). Toddler activities are not always what we think they should be. And I don’t always have the energy or wherewithal to deal with them.

·    *   As far as eating goes, we try to cook. We really do. But I can’t help it if the Chinese food delivery guy knows Silas by his first name and Silas hugs him when he leaves. Don’t judge. At least we’re eating.

·      * And when we do eat, we use paper plates and sometimes even plastic eating utensils. The least number of dishes to wash, the better. But there are always sippy cups that need to be washed. I have been known to run the dishwasher full of sippy cups on the top shelf and some silverware on the bottom shelf. Having a newborn has definitely cut down on our environmentally friendliness.

·    *   I would love to hire a cleaning service. But I look around and think, “Would I need to pick up before they come over?” and that deters me from calling anyone. So I run the vacuum around and call it done. That little Dust Buster is my bestest friend when it comes to cleaning the tile floors.

·      * I have lots of stuff I intend to do. Like my friend that I started this post about, I have stuff I could ship to friends and thank you cards to write. But I have to say, if my options are “take a nap or…,” take a nap always wins.

·      * Grocery shopping for the week is a thing of the past until Sage can sit in the cart. If you don’t know why, take an infant car seat. Put it in the cart at the grocery store. See how much space you have left. It’s about enough for three days’ worth of groceries (maybe). Once he gets a little bigger I’ll be able to use my Beco or Ergo carrier with him so we won’t need the car seat in the store, but until then we shop on an as needed basis. As in, “Mike, we need milk for Silas and formula for Sage. Pick those up on your way home.”

·    *   I feel as if I wash cloth diapers every day. But that’s not true. I wash them on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, but then I fold them on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Mondays, so there’s really only one day that I’m not doing something with diapers for the boys (besides putting them on them). And on Saturdays I catch up on clothing laundry and feel like I cannot catch a laundry break.

Blissful rest
Ah peace.
·     *  I have no life outside of this house pretty much. So don’t get offended if I don’t call you back right away or answer your texts. You may read this and think, “God, I’m never having kids,” and that would be a mistake. Regardless of how overwhelmed and tired I feel, these two little boys are my loves and my world. But like everyone, a short vacation wouldn’t be a bad thing. I’d miss them like crazy though.

Are you a new parent? What do you wish that others knew about your life and household so they could understand your seemingly quirky behaviors?
Thanks for reading,
-Liz (who’s off to fold towels)