Monday, April 09, 2007

Nine to Five for babies

I was talking to friends today about routine and how much Charlie seems to need his, particularly in the evening. Break it a little - feed him in a different room, forget his massage, have his Dad come into the room while he's eating - and it can take up to an extra hour to get him to sleep. With this in mind, I have kept tags on what we do during the day. As Charlie does have a sort of schedule give or take an hour here or there, I have chosen some median times, created a schedule and given it to the child minder as a work of fact rather than the work of fiction which it patently is - and it is now Ruling My Life.

I took the tube yesterday. It was packed. People were clambering on blindly no matter that the tube was over crowded and another train was on it's way. And, without a baby or a pregnant belly it turns out that no matter what I think, I am in fact just another human and not someone deserving of special treatment. This was a shock. I wondered, briefly, if I should buy one of those shirts that says 'New Mother' or 'Baby on Board' (after all, I still have considerable weight to lose) or perhaps start leaking milk into my blouse in order to get, if not a seat, then at least breathing space as horrified Londoners move away while pretending not to notice. Realistically however, the man grinding his crotch into his girlfriend, her, the other women in early summer sandals or the 30 men in identical suits would not have noticed had I been carrying triplets and wearing a feather g-string. No, they were too involved in staring at their shoes and trying not to notice that they were touching the private parts of at least three other people. They do the same thing every day. I know this because when I was taking the tube every day, even if another one was only 1 minute behind, around 95% of people on the platform would try to stuff themselves into a packed train. The next one would be nearly empty.

These two observations are related. People, it seems, need routine, whether they know it or not, whether it's good for them or not. Following a routine is comforting. We know what's coming next when we're in a routine. No big surprises. No big changes. We can relax. Sit back. Turn on the TV. Crack open another packet of biscuits. Slowly, slowly our routines settle us, de-stress us, relax us... and turn us into over-weight spuds with no will power, no social life and a craving for cheetos.

At the moment, however Charlie's routine is turning me into a fried potato. There's no point in me setting a routine and then hoping he guesses what it might be, I clearly have to follow it. As part of this involves feeding him bottles during the day I now spend a considerable amount of time trying to get a rubber nipple past his little clenched jaw and windmilling hands and getting covered in formula in the process. Well YOU try it. Then there's breakfast, lunch time, nap times... what there isn't, anymore, is time for me to get anything done. You know, like bathing, combing my hair, the little things.

So where do I draw the line on this? Do I shoe-horn Charlie into a routine just because the child minder needs one? Or do I come out and admit that the list I gave her was made up and that in fact, she can do as she pleases with his day because that's what I do? Is that just coming out and admitting that I am a Bad Mother because I sometimes let him play on the floor in his nursery while I skip neglectfully off to wash his nappies while he should probably be lying in a darkened room with his eyes closed?

It's clear that he blossoms on routine and therefore worth trying but it is also clear that he wants to do what HE wants to do and sometimes that means lying in his cot and screaming rather than having a nice relaxing nap. Despite this, I continue to try - however I worry, does this mean we are going to end up with a massive potato baby who freaks out if we want to go for a walk when he's supposed to be relaxing with his bunny? Or will we have a chilled-out baby who treats variation as the excitement it should be?

Also, when does routine become a rut? When does calming down my little terror and giving him a sense of security become me turning him into a commuter cockroach who expects nothing but the same thing each day? If I don't put him into a routine, is he going to get cabin fever in school and end up stabbing the teacher with a pencil crayon on his first day?

All these questions. I'd like to continue this post and perhaps find some sort of answer but House has started and we watch it faithfully every week... god forbid you ask us to change.

32 comments:

Lindystar said...

OK, First and foremost you should never stop watching House on a weekly basis cuz it's one of the two best shows on T.V.

Ok now that that's out of the way. Screw what the baby minder thinks about your made up schedule!!!! If she's got a brain she knows darn well that you nor Charlie is a robot.

Just tell her that you want him fed, clean and alive when you pick him up.

If you still feel weird about telling her that his schedule isn't always concrete, just tell her every other week or so that he's "going through a phase right now, and doesn't seem to follow my JAMA/Elite Mothers of Diety/Jesus approved schedule.

And don't forget to watch or TIVO House.

Thankyou.

BOSSY said...

Parenting is like Puppy Training: you need love, careful food, a schedule, rules, and the propensity to stick to it. That and newspapers for the piddle.

Chase March said...

We are creatures of habit. Everyone needs routines and although having raising a baby cannot necessarily be routine, I think you will find that you actually do follow routines. It might not be the same everyday and there are days where it will be thrown out the window. Being a parent is the hardest job you can ever do. A schedule isn’t really something that you can provide for anyone else who will watch your baby but I think it will give you both a starting point.

robyn said...

By the time I caught onto my baby's schedules (yes, I've had a couple) they were already onto something different. Just took me time to catch on... anyway, wishin' you all the best :-D

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High Heels said...

The eldest of my three children earned himself the title The Last Emperor as a baby because of his expectation that every nice thing that happened should happen over and over again at that time of day regardless, or our lives would be over. In our desperation to get some sleep, we reinforced this by doing as we were told every time. Didn't want our first born to cry or be disappointed. Ended up exhausted.
Guess what? The next two children got what was on offer, and slept better and were far more adaptable. Is the baby safe, healthy, clean, fed and watered? Has he had a cuddle and a play, and does he know he is wanted and loved? Job done.

Pipe Dreamer: said...

Just discovered your site; love the way you write!

I'm a single father of a 12-year-old girl. Love her to bits and she wraps me around her little finger - except when it really matters, that is. Routine is a wonderful thing. I dream about it. (I also dream about winning the Lottery.) I plan my - our - days with a lot of thought. I find it really helps me to be sure of what is NOT going to happen! (My plans, of course)

The baby times are tough to figure out, but there is good news ahead. He's a boy. Boys are not multi-taskers. The time will come when you'll give him a cardboard box, a ball and a fake microphone - and that should keep him occupied until he's 18 or so and needs a car!

Have fun!

Greg said...

Love your writing..

Your child will forgive your "House" viewing... it means you enjoy quality television... if you need an excuse just tell people you are a "House"wife.

Yes, I hate myself. :)

Greg
www.denvertvguy.com

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're going to have plenty of problems with Charlie later on in life. If the simplest thing, like your husband entering the room, can cause a one hour problem, well, you are certianly headed fo rsome major problems on Charlie's first day of grade school. Good luck, really.

Anonymous said...

At what point exactly does your baby bubble brain burst? Those people on the tube have their own issues - they could have cancer, just got married, just been promoted/demoted, just lost a baby or found their long lost dad.

New parents, oooh, how selfish they are.

Conor said...

You know,, Sometimes I'm so glad I don't have kids yet. Routines are evil! Variety is the spice of life, as for school? Well if the teacher is any good at all, she/he will make the day interesting, an interesting day is never routine.

Having a plan for the day is nice, it's prudent, as long as you know when to use the plan to clean a runny nose, and make it up as you go along. I firmly believe strict routines are what make people monotonous types, that or professional chess players! Variety and spontaneity create actors, musicians, artists, inventors, entrepreneurs and lately creators of multinational success stories like Google.

A little imagination goes a looong way :-)

Sim said...

Thank you for sharing these experiences with your pregnancy and your baby. I enjoyed reading your blog and learn a lot of useful thing for when my little alien will decide to leave my belly and step into this world. I will come here often.

The Good Woman said...

I can only say that routine saved my life. I approached motherhood with ignorance and fear. Little people turn life on its head and routine became a lever of control in the chaotic early months. I was never sure if I had done things right until we tried a routine.

My approach was to come up with something that worked for me and my daughter. I knew approximately when she was hungry and how much sleep she needed each day and structured it. Getting her to buy into the plan was tricky at first and took a few weeks but once in place she was happier, ate better and slept more.

And here's the thing noone tells you about routine. It sets you free. I could always make appointments, agree to meet people, take her to baby and toddler activities because I knew what to work around.

You may have noticed this is written past tense. My daughter is now two and a half and doesn't need the routine as much anymore. She can articulate her needs (she talks!) and is very expressive and confident. But at 7pm she announces that she will now put herself to bed and I haven't missed an episode of House yet.

It worked for me!

Trust me, I'm a doctor said...

I really enjoy your writing style... it took me away from myself for a moment.

Cheers

David said...

Being a mum must be really weird. I used to study biochemical processes and it always amazed me how the female body turns into an incubating machine with the baby's needs on a primary note. What that biochemically then does to the mother must be really strange. I really enjoy this blog. I came across it by accident but I have promoted it on Stumble Upon, it deserves a wider audience.

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Charlie said...

Super Blog! Witty, well written and baby safe.

I'm Bill Corrigan and I approve this message! said...

You're a good mom.

Keep asking questions and pass that along to your kids...it will keep them happy all of thier lives...

You have lucky kids!

God bleass,
Bill Corrigan
Long Island, NY

Sparx said...

Wow everyone, thanks for the comments and suggestions and links... and critiques! Tunnel-vision comes free with this blog!

I love hearing from others out there with other, or similar experiences, it helps to shine light into the corner of my hopeless Motherhood brain...

Matt Stewart said...

DID YOU KNOW?... Babies are an excellent source of protein!!!

Joni said...

Hi, I'm a mom, too. I just stumbled across your blog. I love it!

Routine can be good or bad. If it's a loose routine, where things are done "about" this time or that, it's a good routine. It allows for spontaneity and visitors. A strict, Nazi-style routine, where everything has to be done at "exactly" the right minute...well, that's stressful for everyone.

I have two kids of my own (now ages 11 and 7). We tried the route of whatever the baby wants he gets with our first--and were so sleep-deprived! Once we got him on a schedule, we were all much, much happier. It's better for everyone when they kind of know what to expect.

As for the childminder...give her a rough schedule, but let her know variety is still the spice of life!

Good luck. I look forward to seeing further posts.

Serpentine said...

I'm not a parent, so don't consider this an expert comment, but in my psych class I heard that a baby's openness to new experience or need for routine is somewhat innate, so I don't think that if he is innately open to experience giving him a routine will take that away from him.

RekaJanel said...

I'm not a mother but i've been (am) someones child so here are words of encouragement:

It's gonna happen...routines happen, as much as I hate them. There are just certaint "things" that we have to do everyday to get to the next "thing". Remember you were once a baby w/a routine (maybe) & you are fine. It's only routine cause he's gonna get hungry at the same time, as he will go to the bathroom, and get tired at the same time. YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOTHER. I can tell just through words you love, adore & Cherish him. Cheer up ...Motherhood is about experiences & you'll always be his mommy :)

Xandria* said...

i'll echo most comments above and let you know that i enjoy your style as well...i'm a newbie so check me out if you'd like....haven't posted much yet...but there is tons on the way!

Be Blessed!

X*

musemother said...

Dear sparx
you write with amazing honesty and humour! it sounds like you have a very intelligent and highly sensitive baby - I had two of those! they are now annoyingly articulate teens, very capable at defending themselves from my very capable mothering. I do remember routines that helped, and others that drove us both crazy (trying to make a baby sleep when he doesn't want to makes us both crazy, for eg). Both my kids gave up naps at around 18 mos. I sure could have used them...and now I finally get a chance to nap when I want :) hang in there long enough and the perks of motherhood will come through.
truthfully, who needs another commuter cockroach?
best,
musemother

The Mad Momma said...

well i have two babies.. a 2 yr old and a 1 mth old... they are ppl ..just like us... some of us like routine, some of us dont.

my 2 yr old hated it.. refused to stick to a schedule and drove me mad. so we just let him go with the flow and he bloomed.

with baby # 2.. i am an older mother and i figured, what the heck, dont make a routine.. what do u know.. .she loves a schedule!!!

so go with ur gut... and boo to the anons who want to bash mothers ... if they had the courage of their convictions.. or balls.. they'd at least leave a name and a way to get back to them!

all the best

R2K said...

: )

Raj said...

All I wish to say is that you write very well and that you shouldn't stop posting, keep it up and keep the humour in there as well.

sufferingsummer said...

I'm stuck in the same place...with routine, my daughter shows obvious signs of needing it and i show obvious signs of dreading it each day...still it has worked to get her to sleep consistently and now that we are into it a little ways we can deviate from the routine here and there and she doesn't fall apart.
Wish I had some good advice, hang in there and follow your gut...just trust that you know Charlie better than any baby minder ever will so if he needs it great but if he doesn't well...the baby minder might need to learn to adjust a bit.

Dave Ross said...

What a fantastic blog, congratulations. As a father of 4 boys now 20, 15 and 11 year old twins recollections of this kind of obsessional behaviour is extremely evocative. Just when yo think your'e an expert along comes something else to tell you different. Routine is important but evenyually just getting through to the end of the day takes over. Grabbing enough sleep to make normal life possible, counting the number of wipes it takes to completely clean a shitty arse. Then there's twins, routine..forget it, one's awake, one's asleep, one's hungry, one needs to be changed and then your middle son needs time. Oh the life of a middle son, when do you find time for your middle son? My advice, enjoy every minute it goes in a flash, don't over analyse, don't blame yourself you're doing your best and always, always, always make sure they go to bed happy and content with a story or a song or soemthing stupid. I developed a knack for every conceivable accent and a character to go with it that ensured most nights they went to sleep with a real belly laugh and thinking their dad's ok.
Now I'm 41 and blogging about adult stuff as I don't converse with adults any more. Good luck.
http://daveross.wordpress.com/

Gone said...

As a boy of 20 years old, I like your words.
From Wuhan in China

The McGuffin said...

Nice story...