Let’s face it. Taking a baby anywhere can be exhausting. We have been going to Puddleducks swimming lessons for two terms now, and you can’t help but wonder why you got up, packed a bag larger than most taken around the world by gap year students, spent twenty minutes getting both of you changed…twice… and having to go home without a bra after it fell in a puddle. All while your baby screams their fucking head off because you left them in the communal cot for three sodding minutes while you do necessary things like put on deodorant and tie your shoes. A trip to the shops means putting on snowsuits and wrestling with a baby that can get to hulk-levels of angry about having to wear mittens… and meeting a friend who doesn’t have a baby can often turn into one long apology as you ask them to repeat every single thing they say because it’s really hard to listen while you’re trying to feed a reluctant 6 month old blueberry yogurt and even harder when he keeps trying to launch himself out of his highchair because he wants to play with the zipper on coat hanging off the chair net to him.
Of course, swimming is actually one of the highlights of our week, we love it. And if I didn’t get out with Ivor I would go insane. But it does take its toll. After a couple of days of activities and meeting up with people I can often feel extremely tired and lacking in any kind of energy to do anything. When I do find myself at home all day the last thing I feel like doing is all of the washing, ironing and cleaning that’s starting to pile up. At first, I thought I’d relax at the weekend. I’d have Alex home to help me and I could take it easier then. The reality was that we find ourselves busy most weekends. With two sets of parents living two hours away and an elderly grandmother an hour away to visit, weekends are quite often spent packing the car up for a weekend away, or hosting visitors in Bristol. The rest of our weekends are taken up seeing friends, walking the dog, doing DIY, shopping and housework. So not so much for relaxation.
So how do you prevent “baby burn-out”? I follow the rules below:
1. Limit your number of pre-booked term-long activities
It can be easy to sign up to too much. There are so many options from swimming, sensory, music, storytelling, baby signing, playgroups. Edible play and messy play, as well as BYOBaby activities for you like fitness, yoga, dance and craft classes. But committing to too many activities can easily lead to burn out, and you inevitably missing classes you’ve paid for in advance because you’re just too tired to attend.
I once tried doing two activities in one day so I could squeeze something extra in (but still leaving myself with two free days). It was a disaster. Ivor suffered serious sensory overload and basically cried through most of the later activity.
Three seems to be our magic number. It’s enough to prevent me from rewatching Grey’s Anatomy for the third time out of sheer boredom, but also gives me two “free days”. Even if I meet up with my NCT group on one of those days, I still have a whole free day to relax. I can already see this might reduce to to two as Ivor starts crawling and running me a little more ragged. If your baby is a bad sleeper, you may only want to commit to one, everyone’s situation is different. Just find your happy medium and stick to it.
2. Make friends with other Mums
I don’t just mean popping for a coffee with a couple of Mums after Jolly Babies. I mean, make a some real, good friends. I did this through my NCT course and I honestly couldn’t live without them. They don’t care if I cancel because I’m too tired, because they get it. They understand that maybe you don’t feel like going to a cafe and dealing with the stress of keeping your baby on your knee for an hour while you fail to drink your £3.50 Chai Latte. They understand that sometimes a coffee in someone’s living room talking about your bastard episiotomy is an afternoon well spent. If you don’t take a course through NCT there are plenty of mother and baby groups and coffee mornings happening, and everyone there will be there for the same reason as you. There are also some great apps like MUSH that allow Mums to meet other Mums living near them with the same interests.
3. Have a “pajama day”
Okay so you don’t have to actually stay in your pajamas, but you get the idea. I’ve often felt guilt being on maternity leave that I should be doing housework when I’m not directly looking after Ivor. I’ve cried to my husband about this (who wasn’t in the least bit annoyed with me for not cleaning the toilet) and it’s taken a while for me to just accept that I need “pajama day.” Pajama day for me means that I chill out, all day. I might stick some washing in the machine, or wash up Ivor’s bottles, but that’s as far as it goes. Pajama day means leggings and my husband’s Woolley jumper. It means Dawson’s Creek box sets and an endless stream of coffee. It means taking time to wind down, relax, and not worry about it. Our pajama day is Wednesday. It’s nicely smack bang in the middle of the week. But more importantly if events conspire against us and we end up in town shopping for birthday presents or attending a “baby pottery painting” workshop I booked on a whim, or god forbid, building IKEA furniture, we can still “make up” pajama day on Friday. That’s right. Pajama day is SO important that I will take it on another day if we for whatever reason we have to miss it. Happy parents are far more likely to spend their week with a happy baby. So you need to take the time to allow yourself space to breathe.