It's 6am (1 hour before what is supposed to be wake-time) and you awaken from screeching...I mean sweet little cries...from the bassinet beside you. You rub your eyes and allow yourself to get out of bed, just looking through exhausted blurry slits. After nursing your little one, you carry them in one arm, using the other hand to maneuver the coffee maker into appropriate action to assist you in functioning today. After your coffee is poured, baby fusses alert you that morning nap it approaching and so you commence donning a snugglie wrap or nursing or bouncing or inserting ear plugs or whatever your sleep strategy entails. When sleep finally takes over, your expectations are wounded with a now luke-warm coffee and at the first sip you get, your toddlers and older children enter the room - all with requests for glasses of water or mauling you for cuddles or (if you have a "morning child") bounding towards you with a loud voice that wakes baby. Your morning breakfasts are spent serving eggs encouraging everyone to "speak in your quiet voice" or once again bouncing baby on one hip using your last hand to pour milk into cereal bowls.
Babies wake, they give free smiles, they grow, the remind you of simple joys, they light up the room! They also interrupt, they get messy, they require attention ALWAYS (even if they are content), they cry and drain your energy. I haven't even touched on post-partum depression or self-image or hormones! Babies are a ton of work and stress and crazy but are, of course, absolutely worth every sleepless night and disaster of a day.
I am in a the baby world right now. I'm trying to be Mommy to all my kids, wifey to my hubby, homemaker, cook, teacher, friend...AND mother/nurse/cuddle/clean/bounce/rock/photograph a 3 month-old! These are not easy days.
Here are 5 things I'm doing (or trying to do) to manage the learning and function in my home at the same time as I care for a new addition:
1. Be Inclusive
Include baby in as much as possible! Naptimes are a great time to get things done, be it chores or one-on-one time with your other kids, but naptimes don't have to be the only time. Don't shut down schooling/learning because baby is awake. Juggle giving directions to your learners while making faces to a baby having tummy time! Fussy day? Bounce baby standing while you facilitate seatwork at the table! Baby is hungry? Nurse on the couch and read books with everyone. Yes, you can chill with school and take a break when baby is needy, but don't always assume that you HAVE to.
2. Be Informative
Teach your kids about baby or use baby to teach. Don't separate caring for your baby from your other kids. Bring them into bath times and diaper changes and playing on the floor. Count fingers and toes and talk about anatomy. Observe their eye colour and talk about genetics. Hold up toys and talk about baby development. This time can teach siblings so much about how we are made AND start the foundation of their relationship with their new brother or sister.
3. Be Adventurous
The most comfortable place to care for a baby is at home. You've got as many diapers, wipes and clothes changes as you could need...HOWEVER, don't use baby as an excuse hide at home when you could pack them up and go on a nature walk, eat lunch outside, take EVERYBODY to the library or the pool. Not every outing will be the hallmark of scenes. A diaper may blow out...or three, crying and whining might take over, naptime may not go as scheduled (and I LOVE me some scheduled sleep!). That's okay. Coping through imperfect situations is a healthy skill to develop in your children and in you!
We are in a generation with rising awareness of anxiety but we're surrounded by what hollywood and social media shows us GOOD parenting should be like. It's so easy, as a parent, to get stressed out in your reality and want so desperately the imaginary scene you play in you head. Comparing the two leaves you in tears, anger & depression. We need to take these moments that overwhelm us and stop the crazy. We need to breathe. In that time we need to DECIDE to release the stress ball that we were building, STOP thinking of the pressure looming over us & START with how we can move on. In motherhood, it's not easy to take a lot of time for yourself to sit and sort out the mess in your head but even if you develop a habit of a short pause where you let yourself "reset", this makes way for cracks of light to break through a dark shell of anxiety.
5. Be Flexible
So you planned to finish the unit by the end of the month but the first half of the month had enough crazy to put you behind. Plug away and push the end date or carry on and start the new unit next month. Don't get stuck sulking in your goals not met. You planned on getting the books done before lunch to free up the rest of the day, but the boob tube took over after breakfast and you spent the last 2 hours on the phone with your sister. Don't let your previous expectations make you think less of yourself as a mother. If you need to roll up your sleeves and do better, do it; but if you need to give yourself a break for once, give yourself (and your best-laid plans) no-shame break. No flexibility in your homeschool is a recipe for feeling like a failure whether you have a baby tagging along or not!
Basically what it comes down to is this: Don't hold back or think you are not capable of more than just surviving because you have a baby again...and don't get caught up in frazzle-town when you realize that the daily juggle isn't going like you thought. I have to remind myself of these every day!
Let's start today with a deep breath and new hope for quality experiences and enough hot coffee to make it twice around the clock!