Monday, February 1st, 2010 • No Comments on More About Baby, Writing and the Meltdown I Will Have if I Don’t Get a Break Soon
Today was another one of those days when Patrick napped a lot and right on schedule, taking two 3-hour naps, a 1 and 1/2 hour nap and is now taking another short nap before I put him down for the night. Which will ideally mean one 4ish-hour stretch, one 2ish hour stretch and maybe a 1-2 hour stretch in the morning. But experience tells me it’ll be less because he’s napped so much today. (Which means I probably should have taken a nap myself to compensate for tonight, but a) I don’t always know he’s going to nap this well and b) I’m so happy to have time to get a bunch of stuff done that I don’t even think about sleeping.)
I read somewhere that babies tend to function on a 48-hour schedule and that if they sleep a lot one day, they’ll be awake a lot the next. That seems to be true for Patrick. He slept like this on Saturday, but was awake most of Sunday. It’s not so bad, especially if he’s not particularly fussy. It’s tiring, having no one to hand him to so I can get a few things done, which can be frustrating if there are things I need (or want) to do. But he’s getting more interactive (for lack of a better word) and I enjoy watching him watch the world. Of course, he often has long periods of fussiness on the days when he sleeps less and that’s no fun for either of us. I’ve also read that young babies shouldn’t be awake for more than 90 minutes at a time, otherwise they get overtired and overstimulated. There seems to be some truth in that and I try to put him down for a nap at the 90 minute mark if he’s not showing any signs of going to sleep on his own. It doesn’t always work.
I got some writing in on Saturday while Patrick napped, but it was impossible to write yesterday since his naps were in the 30 to 45 minute range. That’s just not enough time for me to focus on anything. (And I had other things to do during those short naps, like feed the pets, take a shower, do a load of laundry, etc.) What’s worse, it’s terribly frustrating to think he might sleep for a couple of hours and sit down hoping for a decent stretch of writing time and then have to quit after a few minutes. I’ve learned that if I get a day like today, with long stretches of time to be productive, I shouldn’t waste it. I’ve also learned that I shouldn’t expect to get two days like this in a row. So I know tomorrow will likely be one of those days where he’ll be up most of the day and some of that will be fussy time. Sigh.
I keep going back and forth over childcare. I never expected to be the full-time, sole care provider, and that was whether Jay was home or deployed. I need to write and I think I want to go back to teaching in the fall. I can write at home on days when he naps well, but that’s not predictable enough for me to have a real writing schedule. It will also get harder as he gets older and is awake more often. I’m not comfortable putting him in daycare, mostly for the health issues that seem to plague kids who are in daycare. He’s just so little and I’m not in a hurry to expose him to colds and illness when I don’t have to. Plus, I’ve grown rather fond of our time together—especially as he’s getting older and learning to play—and I don’t want to lose that.
I’m looking at part-time care, in my house. I can’t see taking him to someone else’s house—I just don’t think I would ever trust a stranger that much. I’m not even sure I trust a stranger in my own house, but I would feel like I have more control over the situation (and could spend part or all of the childcare hours at home writing/working, or drop in and out over the course of those hours). It’s expensive, having a nanny. The going rate here is around $10 to $15 an hour, which I know is cheaper than it would be in a big city. That’s not expensive out proportion to the work—I know that even an easy baby requires a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm. And I’m a big believer in the adage that you get what you pay for. I have no desire to skimp when it comes to making sure my baby is taken care of. I did balk at the referral fee that a nanny agency charges. I realize that’s how they make their money, but… wow. It’s a lot.
I wish I could hire someone I know rather than a stranger. I’m dragging my feet on this even though I really, really need the help simply because I’m having a hard time with the idea that a stranger will be in my house, taking care of my son. Whether I’m here or not, that’s just hard for me to accept right now. I know it’s just new-mommy apprehension, but it’s also my personality: I don’t trust easily and I don’t like having people in my personal space. But for the month of January I had five hours away from baby. That’s it. And those five hours (over three different days) were spent getting my hair colored, going food shopping and visiting friends and their new baby in the hospital. All three times, I felt like I was rushing through what I was doing (and driving too fast to get there and back) because I don’t like asking people for favors. I hate thinking that Patrick is crying and someone—a friend—can’t calm him. Not because I’m worried about Patrick (okay, a little), but because I hate inconveniencing others and I know a crying baby is no fun. So, even though I made the most of those five hours and enjoyed the brief breaks away, it wasn’t relaxing and it wasn’t enough. I need more.
I don’t feel like I can ask a friend to watch the baby while I go to Starbucks and drink coffee and write. Or go to a movie. Or get a massage. I feel like whatever babysitting offers I get from friends should be used to run errands and do chores, not write and relax. Don’t ask me why. I guess that’s another (annoying) aspect of my personality: I don’t like asking for favors. If I ask for a favor, it’s because I feel like there’s something I really need to do. And as much as I really need to have some time to myself, alone with a coffee, a book to read and my laptop, I won’t ask someone to babysit so I can have it. (Even if I had a long list of potential babysitters—which I don’t. I barely have a short list.)
So, at some point, when I’ve hit my wall (which apparently hasn’t happened yet, despite the constant state of exhaustion and occasional crying jags and feeling like I have absolutely no life and I’m never going to write again), I will hire someone to take care of Patrick for around 20 hours a week. That seems like so much time, in contrast to 5 hours in 31 days. I can’t even imagine it, right now. It would be so much easier (relatively speaking) if I had a job to go to. An office somewhere that was waiting for me to come off maternity leave and get back to work. But the writing and editing, and even the teaching, are flexible and subject only to my own self-imposed schedules and deadlines. I have to write. I just have to. And I know that some of my depression—because that’s what it is, no matter how I dress it up—is because I’m not writing and because I don’t have a regular schedule to do the work that is important to me.
Patrick is waking up from his last nap of the day and it’s time for a bottle and a story (and maybe a song) and those happy little sounds he makes while he eats, with his little hand resting on mine. I never get tired of those moments. For tonight, at least, the writing can waiting.