Sunday, October 13, 2013

New Baby = Nothing Done

Just got this article from a friend. It's entitled "New Mamas Get Nothing Done (and Other Untruths)."

I found it incredibly spot-on. 

I wish I could say I wrote it myself.

While I do, actually, feel like I get things done, I feel that these things are tiny things. I am working on Abigail's baby book. (Yes, Abigail's -- not Hannah's.) If I get two or three pages done during a day, I mark that as a day of accomplishment. My other need-to-get-done-things might include: 

  • reading to the kids.
  • bathing the kids.
  • taking the kids outside.
  • getting some homeschool time in.
  • spending 1-on-1 time with each of the kids.
  • keeping the house semi-picked-up all day.

Often, when JB gets home, he'll ask me what we did that day.

The list is usually incredibly short. Short on things I can say with words. "We read books. We took a bath. We brushed our teeth. We ate popcorn. We played Candyland." You know, that sort of thing. 

And when I tell him, he often says: "Good job."

How wonderful to hear that.

Not all Moms hear that. Many are measured, both by themselves and their spouses (and possibly others) in errands they ran, events they attended, and friends with whom they visited.

But I have been learning that trying to do those things, when you have small children at home, is probably counterproductive to the life you want to be leading with them. 

While I agree that staying home feels boring and doing nothing, feels, well, like nothing, I want to encourage us all to do more of this. Our kids just want to be with us. They want you to put on music and dance in your pajamas. They want you to color with them. They want you to read to them. They want you to hold them. To snuggle under a blanket on the couch.

This article talks about that. I'd love to hear what you think about Anne Rusts' words.

Enjoy! (My favorite parts are in bold.)

"New Mamas Get Nothing Done (and Other Untruths)"

By Ann Rust

I often talk to new mamas with babies who “aren’t very good sleepers.” The latest mama has a happy 5-month-old girl who doesn’t nap more than 15 minutes at a time and is still waking up about every 3-4 hours at night. It’s exhausting.
I run through my usual suggestions. First, this can be a normal pattern for some babies at this age. It helps to know that. I recommend a good, comfy, hands-free baby carrier (a must) and a sleeping arrangement that helps her stay close (and safe) with baby at night. I tell her that she isn’t doing anything wrong—most likely there is no “solution” to this issue, it’s just who her baby is and what she needs right now.  This too shall pass, and all of that.
This mama looks at me blankly for a minute, and then, looking confused, says, “So do you just not get anything done then??”
Mamas, I want to tell you the truth. And here it is: You will not get anything done when you are home with a baby. And anyone who told you otherwise is not being very forthcoming (or perhaps they just have a lousy memory). You might get yourself fed. You might get yourself dressed (then again, you might not). You might take a walk (it makes baby happy). You might have a short phone conversation or start a load of laundry, neither of which you will finish. This is your new mom normal.
So what are you doing all day? Not much that can be measured, really. You’re simply responding appropriately and with patience (through fatigue), to smiles, to tears, to hunger cues, and to drowsiness, teaching your baby how to navigate this complex and (to a baby) highly emotional and raw world. You are keeping your baby clean, which on some days involves more costume changes (for both of you) than any non-mother can begin to fathom. You are teaching a tiny, helpless person all about the world—at least the important parts, like how we treat each other and what it means to be connected to a family. You are creating a foundation of love and trust between you and your baby, one that will help you set your parenting compass, inform your future interactions, and provide a basis for the way your child relates to the larger world.  You may be breastfeeding your baby—another time consuming task (though once established, it takes less time than bottle feeding) that reaches forward through time to heal and protect your child, and simultaneously reducesyour risk of disease. Oh, and you’re becoming a mother. It started the day your baby was conceived, and it continues beyond birth. Your baby is stretching and growing into this new body, and you are too.
But that’s about it, really. That’s your day.
Our culture doesn’t have a good way to measure what you are accomplishing. Your baby will grow and meet milestones: check. But to the untrained eye most of this work, at the end of the day, will look like nothing.
But we know better.
There is no greater task than the nothing you did yesterday, the nothing you are doing today, and the nothing you will do tomorrow. Caring for a baby is all about the immediate experience, yet the first two years are all about investment. It’s give, give, give, and give some more. These are hard-fought, rough-and-tumble years that can cut us down to our core and take us soaring high above the clouds, all in the space of 5 minutes. And yes, as you do the hardest work of your life, it will seem like you’re not getting anything done at all. Crazy, huh?
But here’s where it gets interesting: As much as you need and want a break now (and you should take one, more on that later), no mother has ever looked back on this time and thought, “I wish I had held my baby less.” You will not remember the dishes that didn’t get done, the vacuuming that you just couldn’t make happen, or the dirty clothes you wore more often than you’d like to admit. You will remember the first smile, the first belly laugh, the first words, the first steps. You will remember the way you looked at your baby, and the way your baby looked at you.
So the next time you find yourself wondering how another day is gone and nothing is done, stop. Hold your baby—feel the way that tiny body strains to contain this giant soul—complete, and full of potential all at the same time. Take a deep, slow breath. Close your eyes and measure your day not as tasks, but as feelings, as sounds, as colors. Exhaustion is part of it. And it’s true, you will get “nothing” done. But the hard parts will fade. The intense, burning love is what remains, and it is yours to keep forever.


Anonymous said...

Great post. The first three months or so of my daughter's life, I made it a goal to make it outside at least once every day, get dressed by noon and have a shower at some point and remember to eat. That was it.

Some days I didn't even manage all of those things or even half. When I found myself apologizing or explaining the difficulty of the above to my husband he said not to let it bother me. That was hard though.

I am pregnant again and will keep the same goals but lose the guilt. I am looking forward to that beautiful time again.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree! And I think you are getting something done, you are taking care of your baby or children! And it's still hard to "get things done" because now mine are a little older and their friends are constantly in and out, but what precious days! Love ya! Sarah