Thursday, 10 April 2014

Babies are time vampires

I have been deliberating over the subject for my next post for about ten minutes, which means I've wasted ten minutes of my son's precious nap time already so am just going to launch into a rambling diatribe about housework, washing baskets and babies being time vampires.

A friend once said that maternity leave should be called laundry leave as all you seem to do is the washing. This is very true; with newborns frequent and often explosive bowel habits, elaborate projectile vomiting and dribble, both their clothes and yours are constantly thrown into the washing machine. No one tells you this ...but babies are time vampires ... cute, finger holding, heart melting ... but time vampires none the less.

It's hard when they're little but at least they sleep ... a lot. A quick tidy round the house is possible, putting laundry on is possible, even making a sandwich is possible although fatigue sometimes gets the better of new mothers and sleep seems like the best option. 'Sleep when they're sleeping' however is possibly the most irritating sentence ever uttered and one that certainly doesn't help when you're onto baby number two like many of my friends are, or have twins with conflicting sleep schedules.

I don't think I ever slept when my son was sleeping when he was a newborn. Between the washing, housework, over-active brain and listening to make sure they are breathing, any snatched moments of sleep are broken, fretful and hardly worth it.

Of course when they start moving around things get tougher. Safety issues in the house that you've managed to ignore or just haven't noticed suddenly become pertinent. The stairs that you have happily climbed for years seem like a death trap, every plug socket now morphs before your very eyes into little open monster mouths ready for little fingers to get trapped in, the cleaning cupboard an evil witches cauldron of potentially fatal poisons and potions.

So you start to safety proof. Stair-gates go up thus hindering even the quickest trip upstairs with a washing basket and you learn to carry both baby, washing and yourself safely up the stairs without breaking a sweat ... or your leg. Every crumb, plastic clothes tag and stray coin is swiftly swiped from your little ones grasp and deposited in the bin or your rapidly filling pockets.

But, back to the washing basket; my son is nearly 21 months (he was 20 when I started this post - see what I mean ...!) and I don't think I've seen the bottom of the washing basket in all that time. It is a mystical place that I sometimes think may not even exist, I actually found a pair of maternity trousers a few months back which means maybe I am nearing the bottom. Exciting times.

Once the toddler-times commence keeping the house ship-shape becomes nigh-on impossible. They tip out, they pull out and they drop crumbs and until they get past the age of 3 or 4 they don't really have any proper sense of danger (probably not really then either) so it's hard to leave them alone without returning to find them standing on the dining room table or about to pull a lampshade off the corner unit. I recently turned around from a brief attempt to put my make-up on standing in front of the living room mirror to find my son with brown felt-tip crayola lips and teeth "I try!"

Toy boxes are tipped, drawers of clothes are emptied and as much as you try to tidy as you go along throughout the day it is a futile and pointless exercise.

Of course there are the nap times, which become fewer but can sometimes be just the hour you need to clear some debris from the living room floor before you child's next play-date and chaperon arrive.

When you work from home as I do nap-times can create a dilemma; start on the writing work so it won't end up seeping into your evening? Tidy up? Sometimes the lure of Facebook and Twitter is just too great, half an hour of mindless social networking often a much needed escape from the exhaustion of motherhood.

It's not just time that babies seem to devour, it's brain-power. The well-worn phrase 'baby-brain' doesn't really begin to describe how hard it is sometimes to accomplish the things you took for granted before like skimming through the papers, reading a book, paying a bill, sending a card, phoning the bank. I was an avid reader pre-baby and have managed to read just one book in two years.

The tiredness, laundry and little person tugging on your jeans is not the only reason; it's a lack of enthusiasm. Whilst I can get my brain into gear to accomplish a writing job, play a robust game of 'I'm chasing you!' with the little one or sing a few songs in a toddler class I just can't muster up the enthusiasm to read a book.

This doesn't make me sad, it's just a matter of fact at the moment. Some people say you loose your identity when you have a baby, to a certain extent it's true but it also suggests that you have given something up. I say it is merely a different incarnation, just like every new phase of life, that can be fought against or embraced with joy.

One day I'll read a book again, one day I'll go out for an impromptu drink with friends without having to arrange a baby-sitter or quick after-work baby-swap with my other half. One day he'll be off to Uni or moving in with his partner (my son that is, not my other half hopefully ...!) and I'll have all the free time in the world. Until then, this is me, this is my life ... and I know I won't regret a single moment.

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