As you know I have just spent a few days looking after my one-year old nephew. He was a breeze to look after – he ate well, he napped, he slept, he played, he was happy and he was laid back – yet I was still tired!
He has never really been away from mam and dad before so I was a bit nervous but babies can be pretty fickle – as long as they are looked after, safe and loved they are happy and there was barely a tear from him.
I knew I would be tired – meeting the demands of a busy baby was always going to be a bit of a challenge but I had forgotten the intensity of just how long the days on your own with a baby can be. I had no other adult interaction apart from some brief chat in the park and with a couple of neighbours – I was totally fine with that because it was only for a few days but it was a reminder of how isolating the baby days can be. Mums need interaction with other mums and it is important to seek this out. Even if you don’t have a ‘tribe’ just some friendly chat so you feel less isolated is important.
Baby days revolve around sleep, food and play- with several nappy changes and washes thrown in – as well as keeping the baby happy, settled and safe. And, while it was loads of fun, it’s also pretty draining as well because it is relentless – there’s not really any time for anything else.
When a baby is up at 7.30am and goes down at about 9.30pm – that’s a long day of hours to fill. And all focus is on those naps – and God forbid if ANYONE knocked on the door and woke him up! It took me back to waiting for the evening to come when my husband finished work so we could share the load and I could switch off a bit. It also took me back to the days when he worked away and how lost I felt during those times.
As parents we’re always thinking about the next step, so we are prepared to meet our baby’s needs. Which means there’s no switching off until they go to bed. And, of course, this doesn’t mean properly relaxing for some parents because babies/toddlers/children could be awake again throughout the evening and night.
It was a real privilege to spend this time with him but it was such a reminder of why early parenting can be exhausting, how we can do very little for us, how tough it must be when there is very little support around you, how important it is for parents to work as a team and how additionally awesome single parents are.
I talk about this often – mums need the time to just be – to have a bath, to read a book, to get out with friends, to go for a walk/run/swim – to just have some time to switch off and to not be on duty. When you are on baby duty, the baby is always with you, there is no break apart from precious naps – and that is why it is tiring and why the days are long.
Janine Smith | A specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting