You’ve figured out what works—congrats! Maybe your baby sleeps in a crib. Maybe you co-sleep. Maybe you’re bottle-feeding or nursing. But you finally know what your baby wants: They want to wake at a regular time (usually too early). They want to eat, they want to be changed, and they want to nap. This leaves you with enough time to race through a few chores when—surprise! It happens all over again. The routine does not vary. Life has become a little bit less confusing but a whole lot more boring.
People say, “It’ll be easier once you find a routine.” And it’s true. But they don’t tell you, “You will also have to stick to this routine, and sometimes you will want to scream, because while feeding/changing/sleeping is very interesting to an infant, it’s far less so to the adult who has to oversee it.” This has nothing to do with love and everything to do with babies lingering over their meals like old French women over lunch. It has nothing to do with gross-outs over diapers; instead, it’s about those chores that will never be done. There you are, deciding what’s for dinner, laundry piling up, for the third day in a row that you haven’t left the house or changed your sweats.
Someone’s going to sing that song about cat’s cradles and silver spoons. They will warn you that babies grow up and you’ll miss these days because that sweet baby will be a miserable teenager one day. Shove an infant their way and say, “Here, you clearly miss your baby, so hold one for a minute while I shower.”
Babies do grow up, but this does not mean they automatically spark joy. People who insist they should have forgotten the inherent tyranny of infants. Teenagers want things. Infants demand them. You can walk away from your 13-year-old; a crying baby creates a visceral, measurable hormonal flood that sends you scrambling to fix it through any means necessary.
Like most of you, I survived the baby doldrums with electronics: a Kindle and a phone. Sometimes, when I had a sweet, cuddly baby at my breast, I also had my eyes plastered to a screen. What, was I supposed to stare at my kid’s face for hours at a time? And don’t say, “Yes you were. You were supposed to stare at that precious little squish to promote prosocial interaction and help them learn to be a perfect human.” Hours. Literally hours, every single day, on the couch, unmoving, a cup of ice water at my elbow. You’d have to be a Buddhist monk not to reach for your phone or cue up an episode of Abbott Elementary.
It’d be one thing if this were just a few weeks. But the routine becomes your life—and it can be extremely isolating. To avoid disrupting the schedule, you have limited time to accomplish outside activities. This is a logistical nightmare that people without infants simply do not understand and willfully forget once their children grow up. Car nap? No car nap? To feed at Target or not to feed at Target? Will your child sleep in a baby carrier? Will your baby startle awake like a zombie in the middle of a grocery store run and demand to have their diaper changed? Will your mother-in-law banish you to a back bedroom to nurse (and how will you feel about that)?
Just take them wherever you go! some will say. But if your kid’s one of those who clings to their routine, all those admonitions to get out more can set your teeth on edge. You’d be thrilled to get out more. You’d give anything to be among the people. You’re also dying to go to Europe, but that is not happening in the foreseeable future. “I would love to see people,” you can say. “Would you like to come over and hold my baby?”
This is an important—and necessary—request. Don’t say, “I can’t have people come over. My house is a wreck.” Of course your house is a wreck. You are stuck in an infinite infant time loop! Real friends will notice your laundry piles and start folding. If your friends care about dirty dishes, look for ones who don’t. (In addition to Facebook groups and local message boards, there are apps like Peanut to give you an assist.) Surround yourself with love and positivity, not judgment.
Only when you’ve accepted and settled into your mind-numbing groove will it… change: Your baby goes from two naps to one. Your baby transitions to solid foods. Your baby hits some vague developmental milestone and decides to stop sleeping entirely. This shift in routine is also routine, and it can drive you batty. You’ll have a month of boredom, then two weeks of catastrophic disruption, and on the cycle goes. Welcome to parenthood. Sometimes they make funny T-shirts about this stuff. They aren’t that funny, not really.
Parenting is hard. You can love your kid to pieces and still get bored. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent or that you’re not cut out for this or that you should throw your arms in the air and re-examine your life choices. It’s just a slog sometimes. I wish I could offer a solution that wouldn’t sound like manic pixie stupidity: Dance in your kitchen! Bake some muffins! Sing along to your favorite music! But there is no magic bullet. Routine is hard and you have to find your own way through it. You’ll make it. You’ve got this.