There’s a new person living in your house — a demanding new person who, though pretty small, seems to take up the whole house. And in between doing the new baby’s laundry, feeding him, and keeping him clean, you suddenly realize that you haven’t made dinner, showered, returned any phone calls, or even visited the bathroom — sometimes for an entire day — but it can all wait. You are compelled to attend to your new baby’s every need.
Welcome to the hardest job in the world: parenting. True, there’s no paycheck at the end of the work week, and for the first couple of years, there’s no real vacation time. But thankfully, the rewards of parenting are huge.
So how do you succeed in your new job as a parent? For some, parenting is an additional career, not a new one. How do you fit into your daily life all the things that need to get done when you have a new baby and, perhaps, a nine-to-five job? What do you do about the dishes piling up or the laundry overflowing? What, in short, is the secret to getting it all done?
The key is time management! Your new baby sets a difficult course of challenges and obstacles for you every day. Your job is to successfully overcome each and every one. Learning to manage your time “the baby way” will take time. But once it clicks and you team to prioritize your responsibilities, like any job, you’ll find it gets a lot easier.
As for the dishes? Let ’em sit. The laundry? Try sitting your new baby on top of a running dryer while you fold clothes.
Just remember the big benefit that goes with your new full-time position: the endless, unconditional love you’ll get from your children. What could be better?
The New Parent Shuffle
The New Parent Shuffle isn’t difficult to learn, and the steps can be a useful resource for delegating important parenting responsibilities. When new parents feel the effects of sleep deprivation, feeding, changing, getting up for the baby at night, or even playing with the baby can be deemed a “responsibility.” It’s a given that both you and your spouse adore your child and would love to spend as much time with her as possible. But add in outside factors such as work, sleep or lack thereof, and having to cook, clean, and shop, and even the most attentive parent might want to stare at the television rather than playing peek-a-boo after a long day. A little delegating can change all that and tighten the load for the stressed-out new mom or dad.
After the first few weeks with a newborn have passed, chances are that you and your spouse know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to taking care of the little one. But don’t let each other’s expertise in these skills delegate who is going to do them each time. It’s important to shake it up a little. If you’ve sung “Hush Little Baby” night after night for weeks, you’re probably aching to stop. A good idea would be to let your spouse step in and take over — the last thing you want is to think of singing to the baby as a chore. Both of you should have the chance to learn how your baby likes to hear you sing, and to increase your ability to comfort your child this way.
It is also important to create some rules. For example, whoever must leave the house for the office in the morning does the last night feeding before going to bed, then sleeps through until morning and promises to “take over” once home from the office.
Say you’re a stay-at-home parent who spends all day taking care of your baby’s needs. When your spouse comes home from work and offers to take your child for a stroll through the neighborhood, don’t object just because it’s bath time and you want to stick to a schedule. You’ve been the caregiver all day. Now it’s your spouse’s turn to spend time with the child. Let them go on their outing — or if the bath just has to get done, let your spouse bathe the child, and then they can go for their walk. Enjoy your quiet time alone, and use the opportunity to “refuel.”
It’s usually difficult for the primary caregiver to give up some responsibility-whoever changes diapers all day long knows it can be done better or faster. But the ability to relinquish responsibility is one of the most important factors in a successful partnership. Letting your spouse tend to the baby, even though you know you could do it better or faster or quieter, gives your spouse the practice needed to succeed, and builds confidence while doing so.
No Such Thing as Bad Kids
Do you have a “difficult” child? Does your daughter throw tantrums for no particular reason? Does your son refuse to eat? About 20 percent of children make their parents nuts with exasperating behavior. Having a such a child can leave you feeling exhausted, depressed, unsure about your skills as a parent, angry at your kids, and embarrassed by their behavior in front of others.
A study that was conducted years ago, rather than blaming parents for less-than-perfect kids, concluded that children are actually born with a set of “temperamental qualities.” These can be found as early as a few months! They determine, to an extent, whether your baby will be “easy” or “difficult.” Though your child’s temperament is influenced by other factors, for the most part, it remains fairly consistent for life. Perhaps your child’s refusal to eat is in part due to stubbornness — a trait that he will most likely carry throughout life.
No matter what your baby’s temperament may be, stay away from labeling it “good” or “bad.” It’s not your baby’s fault, nor is it yours or your spouse’s. It’s just the way things are! You yourself were born with a certain temperament — perhaps you get anxious in some situations. Chances are that you were anxious as a baby, too. The way you expressed that anxiety as a toddler might have been an inability to sleep without a light on.
Become sensitive to your baby’s temperament early on. You can then modify your approach to your child’s behavior to anticipate and avoid conflicts before they occur. You’ll be a lot more confident, a lot less frustrated, and you’ll have a happier, more loving, and more satisfying relationship with your child!