I used to have a very deliberate, mindful approach to getting up in the morning, where I began my day carving out beautiful little idylls of solitude with stretching, writing and general peace and quiet. But that all went out the door because I now have a baby! A baby who generally likes to get up around 7ish or so, and so now my days begin quite differently.
For one thing, he’s my alarm clock, and I wake to the sound of his cooing or crying, depending upon the vagaries of his temperament that morning. Depending on the night before, I’m either slightly groggy (Baby went to sleep well!) or hella groggy (Baby decided to raise hell about sleeping!). I nurse the little fellow while either deleting emails on my phone or reading The Economist. (Doesn’t that sound so smart? Sadly, this is the only real news I take in, other than reading The Skimm super quick in the morning.)
(Also I know some sanctimommy will chide me for not gazing lovingly into my baby’s eyes with my full presence as I feed him, but you know what? He’s usually half-asleep, too!)
After he tanks up, we cuddle on the sofa. Or at least, I try to cuddle him — by now he’s alert and usually likes to dive around and squirm and grab anything within reach, like remote controls, random fraying threads on one of the sofa throws, or his own feet. Once I wake up a little, I change his diaper and we play on the floor with toys, read books or creep and crawl in the floor. (Sometimes I feel like my baby’s personal trainer, not his parent.) Once he’s settled in a groove and in a safe place, I do my morning “beauty” routine. Everything is super simple: Neutrogena face wash, Aveeno moisturizer and a quick brush of teeth and hair. Glamorous, right? Sometimes I do manage tinted lip balm. Now that is hella glamour.
Then I run back into the action, and scoop up Baby for his morning foodie meal, usually a few kinds of fruit purée and oat or rice cereal, with occasional finger foods. I try to eat breakfast with him because I like the idea of everyone eating together and think it’s never too early to teach that — but in practice I usually do a little song-and-dance to get Baby to eat. (He’s actually a good eater, but easily distracted.) Then I scarf down my own cereal or yogurt when he’s done. Then we chill a little to digest our food by reading (“Fox in Socks” is a new favorite) before I change his clothes. Then I put on my Baby Bjorn and snap him in and we’re off on our usual morning walk.
We are usually out for a good 30 minutes on a good-weather day and we see all our favorite neighborhood people — at this time of the day it’s usually the retired folks and stay-at-home moms and mail carriers. Sometimes I listen to a podcast but usually I try to talk to Baby or at least be as present as possible. I love our little walks, and the fresh air is so good for Baby — he’s relaxed, calm and yet alert after. Actually, that goes for me, too. And then we come back and usually by now Baby is ready for his first nap of the day.
Baby gets a morning nap, but I definitely don’t get to relax. I throw on some “real” clothes — these days my uniform is leggings or skinny jeans, a striped Breton top or Oxford button-down shirt and usually Nikes, Fryes, Toms or ballet flats, depending on what I have planned for the day. (I’m thinking of adding some high-tops to my collection.) Then I’m a flurry of activity, either trying to get chores done, organize finances, prepare for cooking later in the day, or get a jump on my job. If I’m really mindful, I try to meditate a smidgen or maybe stretch a bit, but honestly, it’s hard to carve out that time. Oh, and I try to eat a second breakfast. (Yes, people, I’ve become a hobbit.) One thing I’ve discovered about post-partum depression is that I’m hugely sensitive to drops on blood sugar in a way I never was before, so keeping fueled is important for me on a lot of levels.
By now my sweetheart has woken up — he works nights — and as he gets up and we talk a bit, I get ready to head out for a few hours so I can do my own job. I’m lucky to work from home and have a partner who can care for him during the day. (Also lucky to be a freelancer who works from home!) But with the baby that usually means I never get anything job- or creative-related done at home. So I have to go somewhere else to do it, especially since I was a dumbass and thought I could combine a nursery with a home office. (Note to future telecommuting moms contemplating this: don’t do it. Get your own room if you can.)
Sometimes I ride my bike downtown to a local cafe; sometimes I go to a nearby McDonalds; sometimes the library or even my gym, which has a “Wi-Fi lounge.” And then I work, work, work, on job stuff and writing things and coding projects and blogs and, le sigh, it just never ends and never gets done. (I’ve gotten used to feeling like I never have time anymore.) But this is one of my favorite parts of the day and I’m truly sad when I have to stop.
But I do stop, because I have so much else to do! Sometimes I run errands after work or go to the gym, but usually I rush home to spend a few precious minutes with my sweetheart having, like, real adult conversations. And then my sweetheart heads off to work and I gear up for my next block of baby caring.
Usually by now it’s late afternoon and the rest of the day is usually kind of improvised — Baby can be unpredictable in the late afternoon, as many babies are, and I’m also starting to fray a bit, too. I try to eat something again — I try to keep it healthy, but let’s get real, I definitely go for chips or a cookie at times — and maybe I try stretch. Baby and I have a little “afternoon dance party” ritual, which tends to lift me out of the afternoon blahs. Sometimes I like to take him on a simple little outing — the mall, a store, the park, downtown, the museum, maybe another stroll, anything to get out of the house and into the world.
Sometimes I get lucky and he goes down for an afternoon nap. If that’s the case, I try to read a little or relax but usually I get started as much as I can on whatever evening project I have lined up: cooking, making baby food, laundry, whatever. Occasionally I just lie there on my sofa and try to catch my breath, because it’s honestly been nonstop since Baby woke up. Usually when Baby wakes there’s a bath somewhere in this block, as well as another book to read with Baby, some more playtime, i.e. I let him play independently while I get something done around the house, and his dinner. (Meals take so long now that he has big-people food!) And then finally I get him ready for bed, nurse him a bit and then put him down. Usually he’s a good sleeper and falls asleep nicely on his own, but sometimes it’s a struggle, especially if he’s teething.
By now it’s about 8 or 9 and I am SO TIRED. There has literally been no break in my day unless Baby takes a late afternoon nap. But I’m tired anyway because being a new mama means just being chronically sleep-deprived and running up a huge sleep debt. But does the day end? No! Theoretically you think I would just kick back with a big bubble glass of wine and some Netflix, but instead I’m doing dishes, trying to cook myself dinner, making baby food or doing whatever dumbass grown-people task I didn’t get to during the day. And also pumping milk. (Any breastfeeding mama will tell you that pumping milk is like its own part-time job…it sucks!) And maybe taking a shower because, hello, hygiene is time-consuming.
By the time I’m done with it all, I usually have less than an hour to read or maybe watch some Netflix or HBO TV. (Movies are a thing of the past for now; I’m all about TV.) (Also, I strangely find it comforting to play something I already know or am familiar with — maybe because I don’t have to concentrate so much.) Honestly at this point, I can barely function, I’m so exhausted. And so I just give up, get ready for bed and crash the fuck out. And sleep for a few more hours until I do it all over again.