As I wrote in my previous post, the unpredictable schedule of a newborn had me reeling. Before going on maternity leave, I had worked every year since my college graduation: 15 years of full-time, two-weeks-of-paid-vacation-per-year, work. Needless to say, I was really used to being on some sort of regular schedule that also included the occasional after work cocktail (or two) with co-workers. That all changed the week my son came home. I quickly learned that newborns sleep in three-hour spurts and when they wake up, they want to be nursed, changed, swaddled and held until they fall asleep again. Then, they wake up three hours later, and it starts all over again.
As I got closer to the end of my three-month maternity leave, I was worried about how, after two months of living the newborn “lifestyle,” I was going to wake up at 7a.m., take a shower, get dressed and actually go to work. Someone (and, if I hadn’t been so sleep deprived, I might actually remember who) suggested I should start running my days and nights at home as if I was already at work, i.e., getting up early and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. I couldn’t quite make a morning routine stick until I actually got back to work, but the nighttime ritual we started stuck like glue. Every night at 6:30, my husband and I would give my son a bath, get his pj’s on and read a few books together before I nursed him to sleep.
After eight weeks of seemingly endless days that all blended together, I loved bath time because it signaled the end of the day. No matter that my son would wake up at 10 p.m. (and again at 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.) to be nursed. I now had a definitive end to my day—and the start of an actual schedule.
After I was back on the job, that bedtime ritual became one of my favorite times of the day. Of course, I was happy to reconnect with my son after being apart all day. And, after a full day of work, I was exhausted and my son’s bath time meant that my own bedtime wasn’t far away. Plus, who doesn’t love a chubby baby in a tub of water?
But, what I like best is that bath time has evolved into permanent mama-and-me time. When I say, “Time for a bath,” my now 2-year-old waits for me to walk to the bathroom with him and helps me turn on the water. We don’t always talk when he’s in the tub—most of the time I just sit quietly and throw in a few “good pouring” or “wow, bubbles” when needed. I’m not disinterested. In fact, the quiet gives me time to really be with my son: Bath time is when I discovered that he had a beauty mark on his left butt check; That it’s laugh-out-loud funny to a 6-month-old when you squirt water at his tummy with a purple plastic alligator; and, that little boys are just as enamored with their penises as, well, all boys are. Bath time is now followed by teeth being brushed, four books of his choosing (check out my son’s current favorite, “Press Here,”) and a round of songs sung only at bedtime. Our nighttime ritual anchors my workday—and I don’t miss the post-work cocktails one bit. (Well, maybe just a little.)
How do you stay connected to your baby before or after work?