Ever notice how young children measure time with holidays and seasons? Ask a child about the calendar and they’ll tell you the special occasion they’re looking forward to next and what kind of fun and sweets will accompany it. They determine seasons by what is thrown on them as they walk out the door — a coat and knitted hat or sunscreen and bug spray. For little ones, summer is sort of that magical combination of both season and holiday — a long expanse of nothingness, filled with weekly swimming excursions and occasional periods of blessed boredom.
Then you become an adult and time conveniently organizes itself into neat and tidy rows on the wall calendar. Boredom is replaced with ‘To Do’ lists and stress. Your life morphs into five-day stretches, cushioned by weekends on either side, serving as much needed restorative bookends. A day timer or calendar app becomes your compass. Life feels scheduled, predictable and somewhat controllable.
Until you have a baby.
Bring a baby into the world, and you enter an entirely different time zone. The calendar and all it represents cease to have meaning.
You get a preview of this new time zone when you go into labor and every minute counts. Minutes between contractions. Minutes of pain. Minutes of pushing and pushing and pushing. The exact minute that your baby exits your womb, whether through C-section or through your cervix, is recorded in ink on paper.
Never has a moment in time meant so much. It marks the beginning of a new life for both you and your baby.
For the first few weeks with your newborn, standard time goes out the window. Days and nights are flipped. Hours fly by as you gaze at your little miracle. Minutes of sleep are welcome and crying spells seem to last for ages.
And then slowly, you and your little person settle down into 45 or 90 minute increments of nursing, sleeping and playing. Despite these repetitive activities, your schedule remains unpredictable and irregular. There are days when time creeps by, and you wonder how you can already be on your third meal by 10am. Many mothers find themselves staring at the clock, counting the minutes until their husband gets home from the office. After working in a bustling career, a day with an infant can feel never ending.
Don’t get too comfy. There will also be days when the hours stream by and you barely make it to the bathroom. When your partner walks in the door, you greet them in unchanged pajamas with a grimace that says, “Don’t even ask…” The dishes are unwashed. Dinner is definitely not made. Brownie points if you’ve brushed your hair or fed yourself. These days of nothing accomplished can feel overwhelming for women who took pride in being especially productive and efficient before becoming a mother. If you can remind yourself that ALL new parents have days like this, that you have the rest of your life to wash dishes, you’ll be a lot better off.
Here’s the deal: When we fly to another continent, we prepare ourselves for the jet lag. We give ourselves time to adjust to the new time zone and often add in hours for extra sleep. I always encourage expectant parents to consider making the same mental preparations before they have a baby. You are not only entering a new time zone, you are entering a new way of being. Be patient with yourself and the clock. If you can find a way to enjoy the zany time warp, do it. Howl at the moon since you are the only one up at 3am. Binge watch Netflix at 10 am, because you can.
Slowly, gradually your days will be more predictable. It will become easier to block out time for self-care and socializing. The calendar will take on a new relevance and you can resume tracking events on your day timer. In the meantime, enjoy this schedule-free time. Before you know it, your life outside of home will be jam-packed full again.
Here’s to Sanity and Day Timers,
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