For a few weeks, I’ve been trying to throw together a particular post. Something poignant about what it’s like to try to get things done while also keeping a small baby alive. Something useful. Something hopeful.
Then, my darling baby boy decided that while he would continue to enjoy long stretches of sleep at night, he would not drift off to a peaceful sleep without a fight. Like, an hours-long, everyone weeping fight. And napping? Maybe. If Mom can jiggle at the right speed and shush at the proper frequency and align the stars and maybe just hang out in bed with a boob at the ready, perhaps he may sleep. For exactly 41 minutes. And wake up cranky.
After a few days of that, I abandoned all hope of Getting Anything Done, including writing blog posts about my supposed ability to Get Anything Done. It was Family Survival Mode – if all three human members of this little family ingested enough food, had the bare minimum of required sleep, and went to bed before 10 p.m., then we’d call it a win.
Our day-to-day has been improving since then, but even when the baby is asleep/otherwise happily occupied, I’m finding it quite difficult to let go of that edgy, antsy “but what if he…” kind of feeling. I suspect this is part of parenting – that even once I’m done obsessively Googling variants of “cranky 3 month old baby fights sleep,” I’ll still keep myself up at night wondering what he needs from me and how to provide it. And I have probably given over a permanent portion of my consciousness to some sort of general vigilance, so I’ll be ready to spring to action just as soon as my baby needs me. Even if my baby is 25 years old.
So how do I operate now, with these new constants? These inconstant-constants? Times of great change, I’ve found, come with new skills. When I went to college, I learned how to study. When I graduated, I learned how to go after what I wanted. When I worked four jobs, I learned how to shut down procrastination. Now I’m not saying I’m still great at all of these skills (I’m looking at YOU, procrastination), but they are definitely part of my life’s toolkit now. And I’m feeling a few more coming down the line.
- Better compartmentalization – the ability to think about work when I’m working and not-work when I’m not-working.
- Being able to work in spurts and chunks, and to be able to quickly identify when those spurts and chunks arrive, prioritize instantly, and tackle them.
- Harnessing the power of wanting to be a good role model when trying to improve my day-to-day habits: family dinners, exercise, staying off of my gd phone (please, oh, please I hope I can stay off of my phone).
So yeah, despite my non-napping baby, I’m hopeful. but I’m also trying not to get upset when my best intentions don’t pan out. My baby is still little, but he’s already gone through so many day-to-day schedule iterations; it’s all I can do to keep up with his cues and needs and he grows and changes so dang quickly. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing a good job, sometimes I feel like I’m doing it all wrong. Sometimes I have time and mental energy to Do a Non-Baby Related Thing, sometimes I don’t.
I keep reminding myself that while some of these parenting changes are permanent, this little-baby-time is a drop in the bucket. A relentless drop in the bucket. A mostly enjoyable, entirely temporary, completely relentless drop in the bucket. And what have I learned from other relentless times in my life? From finals weeks and Hell Weeks and other times of temporary chaos? Keep it simple. Eat enough good food. Drink enough water. Try to get a little exercise. Read something and write something every day. Hang on tight – days are long, years are short, etc., etc., etc.