I love children. My biological clock has been hammering away on my heartstrings for over a decade, so I delight in the opportunity to borrow the children of my friends and family. Typically, however, this borrowing is for a few hours, not a few days. I’m the babysitter who when parents come home the kids are either sleeping or quietly playing and the house is in relative order; the parents wonder what I did.
This past week I spent a four days with an 8-month old, Alora. Two of those days was at her home with her mother and 3-year old brother. Two nights and two days were in Syracuse with me. Watching a baby for a few consecutive days is much more exhausting than a few gleeful hours. Add to it that the 8-month old in question is cutting numerous teeth and not so happy about it at times.
Trying to keep track of the feedings (I should have created a chart), minimize the fits when she’s being changed – or keeping her from rolling over mid-change, and to stick to some sort of a schedule for going to bed was harder to manage when pairing my schedule along with hers. The latter part was a big mistake though. When “parenting,” the child’s schedule comes first. Something I knew, but didn’t put into practice – which came back to bite me in the butt.
Night number one was a Thursday, which is customarily Trivia Night with friends at the local university bar. Remember the scene in Sweet Home Alabama when Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) sees a friend in a bar and says, “You have a baby…in a bar!” Check. Alora seemed to enjoy it – or at least be so overwhelmed by all the new sights and sounds that I am not sure she even blinked once in the first five minutes. There was a lot of smiling and looking around. Mistake number one was not taking her home right after trivia (or possibly even taking her to begin with, since it was already past her bedtime). By the time I got her home though she easily conked out and slept until about 630am and went right back to sleep with another bottle until 730am, at which point it was time for more substantial food, which put her back to sleep until around 1030am.
I had a doctor’s appointment and didn’t want to wake a sleeping baby (that never seems wise) that morning. Luckily my friend was willing to watch her while I was gone (watch her, but not change her – thankfully not an issue). I had intentions to take care of some errands during the day, but life with Alora made those plans obsolete. It’s surprising how much time feeding, playing, napping, and more feeding take up. We did make it to a work dinner the second night – the new Pascale’s – which went quite well. A little of her own food and the restaurant’s cold raw baby carrots to teethe on and she was good to go. She lasted just over two hours before getting a bit fussy – but again, I was out past the time for her to get ready for bed.
Night two… nightmare – seems that all those bad decisions on my part caught up with me. Alora didn’t sleep so well the second night. I got her to bed later than I should have and she kept waking up whimpering a bit – at 330, 445, 515, 630, etc… – she never got a full four or more hours of sleep after her initial rest that evening. The next day she was ok, but definitely more cranky than day one and her naps didn’t last as long as the previous days I had spent with her.
What I learned in the course of these two nights and two days solo (with assistance) with Alora is that I’m not ready for parenthood – at least not until I can afford some serious help. I was exhausted and it was only two days.
Parenthood isn’t something to be entered into lightly and people who think that “it’s time” for a baby aught to borrow someone else’s for a few consecutive days. Parenting is hard work. Don’t get me wrong, it is rewarding and hearing Alora laugh and get all excited about the first scene in Curious George was absolutely adorable. However, those bits of cute aren’t substantial enough to warrant entering into a lifetime contract.
As for single parents, I think they’re all automatically going to heaven – particularly those who are good parents: stay-at-home parents rank right up there as well.
To those who have friends or family with children nearby, volunteer to help them out, even if just for a few hours a week. For them, taking a lengthy shower, being able to read a magazine, or even having time for hot tea is blissful and seems to help to recharge the batteries. Perhaps there will be some karmic prize for you as well. At the very least, I’m sure you can get a giggle or two out of the gig from that sweet little one.