As I was speaking with a mommy friend today about having our first babies, I was saying to her that one of the reasons I don’t want a second child is that I was pretty miserable when my son was an infant. Looking back now, I’m not sure if that’s just because having an infant is difficult, or if it was because I was so lonely. I hadn’t yet found my tribe. And my friends were all working.
There is so much effort needed in taking care of an infant. And for many parents, there is so little reward at first. No smiles, no giggles. And certainly no intelligent conversation. It’s a rough time. If you can somehow plan your pregnancy with your friends, so you all have babies at the same time, that’s really what I recommend (haha, what, like it’s hard? :-P) For the rest of us, we have to build a tribe, as I mentioned in my last entry. But besides that, allow me to give you a few tips that helped keep me sane on those days when I was running on very little sleep.
- Join Facebook/social media groups – It can be a great place to vent and commiserate, even if you’re not actively planning play dates from it. At three in the morning, someone else may also be up and will like your post. Or maybe you will notice the next morning that they liked it an hour after you finally passed out, and it was their turn to be up. Comraderie is valuable.
- Make a cheat sheet – This is a document I put into Notes on my phone. Quick little ideas for when I was feeling stuck or frustrated. Go for a walk. Give the baby a bath. Dance around. Bake cookies. Call a friend. Things like that. It is unbelievably easy to forget these things when you’re in the thick of it. And add to the list kid friendly places you can go: zoo, mall, library, park, whatever.
- Use online calendars – Here is what I did.
- I researched local events in my area by checking library pages, radio station websites, national websites like Macaroni Kids, local kids’ centers (trampoline parks, indoor play places), malls, maternal wellness centers, hospitals, town websites, and anything else I could think of. (Facebook mom groups may already have lists like these — take advantage!) Google “kids activities near me” if you’re stuck.
- I found any weekly events and programmed them into a separate Kids calendar on my phone (I personally used Google calendars for this). All calendar apps these days have the ability to make multiple calendars.
- As this made my calendar look crazy (overlapping events and such), I hid this calendar from view.
- When I needed to get out of the house and had no idea what to do, I turned the calendar back on and found something (always confirm events and update your calendar from time to time). This did not work like a charm every single time, of course. A lot of events were in the morning, and I’m by no means an early bird. And there were some days I just couldn’t find something that worked. But it still helped. Even just knowing I HAD these options helped. If I go here, there will be other moms who haven’t slept! That’s such a powerful concept when you’re combatting loneliness.
- Attend mom groups/play groups – As I’ve said before, I know that can suck if you’re shy, but I will also tell you that it is all but essential. You don’t have to find your new bestie. Just go sit beside someone else who probably has spit up on their clothes.
- Go places with baby! – I know this can be so intimidating and seem like so much work. But just think — it only gets easier. Until you have another kid, haha! But seriously, it will not get harder, only easier as you get practice and your baby grows up. Load up that diaper bag. Make yourself a checklist. Always pack two changes of clothes for baby and at least one for you (TRUST ME). Pack formula, snacks, toys, blankets, wipes, diapers, bottles. Pack a book or headphones for you in case baby falls asleep. You don’t even have to talk to anyone else if you don’t want to. Push the stroller around the mall and enjoy people smiling at you. Ignore anyone who gives you stink eye when your baby cries. You’re in public. It’s allowed. It’s not like you took them to a movie theater (don’t do that). Go to a park and enjoy the sunshine. Or just walk around your neighborhood. Anything is better than sitting at home with your loneliness and apprehension. I know it can be scary, but it is so good for both you and your child.
- TV/Screentime – I don’t care what the crunchy organic granola sanctimommy in your mommy group says, a little screen time is not going to hurt your child. If you are spent, tired, frustrated, it is okay to turn on the TV or YouTube as a distraction (YouTube Kids is a great app). IT IS OKAY. I, PERSON IN CHARGE OF NOTHING, GIVE YOU PERMISSION. And, just so you know, children’s TV is most likely very different from when you were a child. There are regulations and everything on how much of it needs to be educational. So much of it is. Don’t be hard on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect. You just need to get through the day. Also … if it annoys you the first time you hear/see it, pick something else! Don’t fall for Caillou, people!
- Remember those who came before you – Okay, this one’s going to sound a little weird. But it helped me a bit. When you’re trying and trying to get that baby to sleep or nursing them through their first cold, just remember all the moms that have done this before you. Think of the sisterhood whose steps you are walking in. Back and forth, back and forth. Mothers have done this since the dawn of time. You are not alone when you are rocking and feeding that baby. You’re part of something more. There are millions all over the world in the same boat as you. And so many who came before.
Oh, and state specific suggestion for finding events, including ones that are not just for kids, check out New Hampshire Magazine’s online event calendar.