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Can I handle taking care of a baby?

Feb04

by

Because Babies Don’t Come With Nice Leather-Bound Dayplanners
Hi there!
I’ve been reading you at amalah & here since the beginning of the school year (I even read the archives; I had a lot of time on my hands before the kids came back) and I love the amount of thought that you give to what you write about. I need someone to explain something about having kids to me & you seem like you would do the subject justice.
I’ve been with my husband for almost 10 years, married for almost 4 and we’re thinking about getting on the baby train. We’re both excited about the idea of adding to the family, but I’m stumped about how the day-to-day stuff works. I already feel like my days are lather, rinse, repeat. I hit snooze in the morning, usually run out the door 5 minutes later than I should, workworkwork, exercise, figure out what’s for dinner, cook it, clean it up, get maybe one small project done (like ironing or bill paying, not craft projects), then brush, floss, wash, moisturize and fall into bed ready for some good hard sleep. It’s a good, happy, full, fun life. I like it & I’ve almost figured out how to do it well. I do the food shopping & cook on the weekend, so that we have lunches & dinner stuff all ready to go for the week. My husband does an awesome job with the laundry. Food & clothing, we have down. We’re not so organized (there’s a some clutter) but nothing squallor-like & we’re working on that.
I just cannot fathom fitting something/one else in. Getting me out the door is a challenge – me being responsible for getting another person ready to go & where they need to be? Please. I will never have my keys & wallet with me at the same time.
I’m exaggerating only a little and I have faith that it things fall into place when they need to, but I have such a Need to Be Prepared, and from everything I’ve read, nothing can prepare you for what it’s like to have a child. The falling in love with that tiny person, the willingness to do anything in your power to make them happy and protect them. I look at the video that you made for Noah’s first birthday and get teary thinking “I want that. I [hopefully] get to have that.” And I feel so lucky that that is even a possibility that I get to pursue. Any words of advice on how to prepare to have your world rocked by that?
sarah

Um. Jeez. Why couldn’t I have just picked another question about primer?
So…technically you already know the answer to your question — you even typed it out, all pretty-like. “Nothing can prepare you for what it’s like to have a child.”
But this isn’t that unusual of a thing. Think back to every major life transition you’ve already been through: living with a roommate or by yourself for the first time. Moving in with a significant other. Getting married. Buying a house, renovating said house. New jobs, new cities, new friends. You probably did your best to prepare for each of these events, but were still probably a little blindsided at times (your new roommate is a FREAK! your new husband leaves towels on the FLOOR! the new kitchen cabinets just FELL OFF THE WALL!). But you got through them and are probably scratching your head as you read this, because…did I really just compare having a baby to meeting your college roommate?
Like everything in life, there’s stuff you can control and stuff you can’t and stuff you just aren’t going to be 100% ready for. Having a baby, I think, does have the built-in benefit of some biology and evolution factors — you’re just sort of…programmed to love that baby and think it’s the cutest and best-smelling and even in your darkest moments of sleep deprivation and inadequacy, you cannot imagine life without this little squawling, selfish creature anymore than you can imagine life without your limbs.
I’m going to make a guess here, even though I don’t know you at all beyond the words you’ve typed, but…the fact that you ARE worrying more about the nitty-gritty day-to-day scheduling of a baby more than the more existential “will I love it? will it love me? do I really, really want this?” is actually a sign that you are pretty ready and everything will be fine. The schedule just sort of falls into place — you wake up earlier because the baby wakes up earlier. You divide up diaper and daycare drop-off duties the same way you divide up laundry and cooking. It might take some time and there may be a fight or two along the way, but then you find your rhythm and you cannot imagine your life without the world’s screechiest and squishiest alarm clock.
And while this may make your Need to Be Prepared Self cringe, there will be THOSE DAYS. DAAAAYS. For every morning where I found a spare 15 minutes to lie in bed and bask in the joy and beauty and miracle of my son’s belly button, there were also mornings when I left his bottles in the foyer and got a parking ticket and locked my keys in the car and cried in front of strangers at daycare and got to work two and a half hours late and yes, that all happened in the same morning.
And yet. We lived. We eventually figured out an arrangement and schedule that worked for us. Jason does the bills and the laundry and takes care of the cars, I do the dishes and take care of the pets and make everybody’s doctor and vet appointments. We take turns cooking dinner and shopping and we both put Noah to bed every night. I stay home so Jason can work whatever hours he needs to; Jason gets up with Noah on the weekends so I can get some extra sleep.
But hey, as I type, this column should have been done an hour ago and I need to be in Baltimore in two hours and neither of us are showered or dressed and Noah is eating breakfast out of a Ziploc bag on the couch. So some days I still kind of fail at the daily grind.
And yet whenever I look at him, all I can think: I can’t wait to mess everything up and do this all over again.
You may also be interested in these…
- New parenthood is stressful. Practical tips for dividing the work at home with your partner. (Video)
- Practical tips for the adjustment to new parenthood. (Video)
- Recommendations for dividing childcare and housework with your partner. (Video)
- Why can’t I get anything done now that I’m a mom? (Video)

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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8 Responses to “Can I handle taking care of a baby?”

  1. Aimee Feb 04 at 12:14 pm Reply Reply

    Sarah- when I was reading your comment, it was almost as though my thoughts and concerns were transmitted directly onto the page. Thanks for sharing with us. I’ve been thinking the same thing for a couple of years now, but couldn’t put it into any series of words that made sense. Anyway, I hope you take the plunge and have a baby. And please write back in when you’ve got some hints about how to handle the day-to-day nitty gritty schedule.

  2. imagine community Feb 04 at 1:41 pm Reply Reply

    As the parent of a four-year-old, I can only agree that it’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. In our case, hubby works part time from home, which makes it possible for me to work the hours I need to (as an English professor). It’s the flexibility more than anything else: somebody needs to be able to drop everything if the kid needs to go to the ER or throws up in the middle of the day at day care / preschool.

  3. Jezer Feb 04 at 3:35 pm Reply Reply

    Ooh, boy. I did the same thing before Alex was born.
    I’m the kind of girls (*cough* Control Freak *cough*) who is IN. CONTROL. of the day to day nitty gritty stuff. In fact, that is the part that worried me most about having a kid, and as much as I hate to admit, it’s the part that kicked my ass in the beginning. I struggled to establish a schedule probably too early, and I drove myself insane because I couldn’t get a handle on anything more than staying on top of the dirty diapers.
    My two cents: When you DO finally have that squishy little being in your arms, don’t try to be in control of ANYthing. It will be futile. And frustrating. And depressing.
    And that part about how it all falls into place and you WILL figure it out? Let that become your mantra. It’s the truth.
    Having a baby is the most inconvenient, life-disrupting, uglifying experience a family could go through, and it is absolutely WORTH IT ALL.

  4. kristi Feb 05 at 1:46 pm Reply Reply

    Best advice I ever got (which came after my baby girl was a month old…and this type-A+++ mom was a MESS!!!): It all magically gets better after 4-5 months. If you can just make it through the first 3-4 months, you’ll never regret a thing. As my little girl is now 7 months old…I can’t believe how true that is! It really is a roller coaster ride, that if you can just get through that first HUGE drop, you’ll LOVE the rest of the hills and turns.

  5. psumommy Feb 05 at 9:06 pm Reply Reply

    If you want to have children, there will never, ever, never be the ‘perfect’ or the ‘right’ time to have them. Never. Until they’re born, then suddenly, right there and right then is the most perfect time to have that child.
    Everything is in an uproar for a few months as you get to know each other, but it just works. You figure it out, and then, after those long, frustrating, zombie-like sleepless nights are over, you cannot, for the world of you, figure out what on EARTH you did with all of that time you had before you had a child. And for that matter, you cannot remember you life before that child was born. It simply doesn’t make sense in your brain that at one point, you weren’t a mother.
    I’m a mother of 3, with a 4th on the way. If that helps you any. :)
    Oh, and while I’m at it…I STRONGLY recommend reading the book “I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids”. Fantastic, wonderful, amazing book about motherhood.

  6. mrspooley Feb 06 at 1:35 am Reply Reply

    Amy – you’ve done it again, put into words just how I’m feeling but can’t explain about my baby. We still haven’t found a long term rhythm but we’ve had a few week long grooves to settle into.
    Sarah – even if you do read everything and prepare to the extreme… you’ll still discover that your baby has a personality and temperment of his/her own. And you have to wing it. Winging it is more fun anyhow because you let go of how it’s supposed to be and you start enjoying how it is.

  7. sarahbeanne Feb 08 at 2:03 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you all so much for your words of advice & reassurance. I’m a smart person, who in her professional capacity sometimes has to give parents advice on what to do with their kids, and I have to tell you that the idea of adapting to the situation never occurred to me. The removal of the ability to Capital-P Prepare is really liberating.
    Hearing “the fact that you ARE worrying more about the nitty-gritty day-to-day scheduling of a baby more than the more existential “will I love it? will it love me? do I really, really want this?” is actually a sign that you are pretty ready and everything will be fine.” calmed me down a LOT.
    Commencing the going with the flow & winging it. I’ll let you know how it goes! (and oh god, I hope my mom isn’t reading this – we’re still in the discussion stages, mom!)

  8. Lark Apr 22 at 5:50 am Reply Reply

    Great work.

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