Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Fabled Routine of Parenthood

Oscar, just a few days old

Almost all the women I know (and some of the men), myself included, anticipate that the birth/adoption of a new baby will bring chaos and sleepless nights and and lifestyle changes and general disarray. And this is basically true.

What gets many of us through this tough period is the knowledge that we will eventually get "into a routine." The baby will nap at predictable times without being held; the breastfeeding will fall into a 3-4 hour schedule; you'll take your walks at the same time every day, etc. And this routine will allow you to regain control of your life - the dishes will be put away, laundry will be done, you'll take regular showers, dinner will be served every evening. When you are a new parent, specifically if you are the primary care giver of the new child, you are hanging all of your hopes that this routine will surface.

Most of us think this routine will work itself out in a couple of weeks. The more realistic of us think it will happen in a couple of months. And that is pretty much, almost without exception, nowhere near true.

"It will be hard at first, but then we'll get into a routine," new parents say. Those of us that have been doing this parenting gig for a while try not to laugh, because we know how important the promise of a routine is. It keeps you going. You think, "Maybe tomorrow, we'll get into our routine," or, "Maybe it'll happen next week."

Five months later, you're still surrounded by dirty laundry and piles of dishes. A normal person would think the place smelled a bit funky, but since you haven't showered in a week, you don't even notice. In fact, you? You, my friend, smell of dirty hair and sour breast milk (or old formula, even worse.) I'm sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, but it is true.

And you know what? It's totally okay. Parenthood is a tough gig, particularly if you do it full time. If you're back to work in a few months, a routine comes a little sooner because you have no choice. But that doesn't make it easier.

My point is not to dishearten new parents or scare parents to be. Really, I just want to assure you that eventually, you do get into a routine. It doesn't come in a couple of weeks or even in a few months.

Okay, I'm going to tell you when the routine comes, but you have to promise not to cry, okay? Okay. The routine doesn't really fall into place until around six months.

I'm not kidding. And really, six months isn't that long. It kind of flies by. And, once you actually get into your routine, you almost forget the chaos. Almost. You'll shower more than once a week (like twice); your dishes will get done probably once a day; your laundry will get done weekly; your kid will nap regularly, your family will have sustenance. Really, it kind of comes together. Not really how you imagined it would come together, but it does work itself out.

I love my routine. I'm not kidding. I love doing the dishes and the laundry and defrosting ground beef for dinner. I don't mean I enjoy these tasks. That's not it at all. I love it because I can actually make it happen, because it reminds me how far I've come.

So, as you might know, I'm having a baby again in four months, give or take. Chaos will once again reign supreme in my home. I'm not sure how it works with number two. I know the Sprout's routine will not coalesce for six months, but I still have to keep things going because OSCAR.

I worry that I won't be able to pull it off. I spent a lot of time napping in my PJs all day when Oscar was born. I'm not really going to have that luxury (ha!) this time around. I'm not panicking, not yet. The fact that I keep my household running in the present gives me hope for the future. I've proven my competency. This new baby is like a promotion, no? More tasks, more responsibilities.

I think I'll be more zen this time. I have a better idea of what to expect. I think I'm up for the challenge. Well, at least today I think so.


Ami said...

Just like having 2 kids is like double the pleasure and double are going to be double the super'll be awesome!!

elizabeth said...

What do you mean there isn't a routine? Certainly it will be different for me. I plan to have it all worked out within a week. That, and I'm sure I will be into my normal jeans in a little less than a month. HA!