So, after 9 months of blissful pregnancy, or hellish pregnancy, or something in-between, you find yourself with a perfect little baby. The baby is lovely and wonderful and … with you all the time. At first, it isn’t too bad. The baby is small enough that you can watch TV or read or listen to podcasts while you’re holding their adorable little sleeping form. But then they get bigger, and they need your attention … all the time. And if that wasn’t enough, you’re now trapped in your house with a baby that needs your attention all the time. Suddenly you find yourself in need of both alone time and time with other (adult) people and it’s almost impossible to determine which one you need more. So what do you do?
1. Go places.
I know this may sound counter-intuitive to some people, but just bear with me. While being out and about doesn’t recharge my batteries, every moment that I’m driving is a moment that I can have to myself (at least a little). The baby is strapped in to the back (and if yours is like mine, they will start falling asleep in the car pretty fast) and it’s just you and the radio (or silence, if you’d prefer). Driving is like a little relief and when I get where I’m going I can often get a few minutes to myself with my phone while my baby remains asleep. Every moment to yourself is priceless if you’re an introvert, so take advantage of all of them and all of the ways that you can get them!
2. Take advantage of your partner.
Don’t abuse them, or anything, but don’t feel bad about asking them to take time with the baby. Yes, they worked all day, but guess what? So did you! The difference is that they got to leave and you deserve some of that too. So let your partner be in charge of the baby for a little while and you go to another room, or floor, or an entirely different building and take a little time for yourself. Try to do this from the beginning, because all the rules are re-written when you have a child and you might as well start off the way that you intend to continue. This is also really good for the bond between your baby and your partner. If they are gone all day they are missing out on all of the bonding and getting to know your baby. By being in charge for a couple of hours a day, they learn how to read cues and can see the amazing strides that your baby is taking as they grow up. It also gives your partner agency. It lets them make choices about being a parent and they don’t end up walking on eggshells 6 months in, not knowing how to deal with a bottle or a diaper change.
3. Take advantage of friends and family.
You know those people who popped up saying that they’d love to babysit your baby? Take them up on that. Even if you don’t plan to do anything particularly interesting, take them up on it. If they didn’t want to spend time with your baby, they wouldn’t have offered. It’s a great way to get time to yourself that you desperately need. If you’re concerned about leaving your little one in the sole care of another person, see if they can come to you while you retire to another room, or if you can invade part of their house while you leave them with the baby. That way, you’re on hand for questions or problems, you can try to get some personal time, and you don’t have to worry about your baby (or your friends/family).
4. Use naptime however you feel like it!
Lots of people will tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps, and I often did this myself, but if you’re not tired, don’t sleep. Now that my son is older, naptime is the best time ever for recharging my batteries.
5. Find an online group.
It doesn’t matter if the group is solely online, or made up of people that you know in person that you can communicate with online (message boards, Facebook, etc.). What matters is that when you need to vent or share an accomplishment or get advice, it’s really nice to have a forum to do that without contacting individual people individually. These people will help preserve your sanity. If you can’t find a group that fits you, consider making one. Reach out to other parents that you know and form a group with them and then have them add other parents that they know. If you go the Facebook route, I would suggest making it a closed, private group so that you can be assured that you can say anything you want or need to.
6. If you’re in Minnesota, go to ECFE.
In Minnesota we have great classes for families with young children called Early Childhood Family Education. Just about every city has their own branch and they are pretty easy to look up (I got a postcard in the mail from them after I gave birth). At these classes, you learn about your child’s development, ways to play with your child, and possibly get to make some toys that your child might enjoy playing with. More importantly though, you find other parents in your city that you can talk with. This is almost invaluable, especially if you don’t have a lot of friends with children. If you go to age specific classes, you will meet and be able to talk to parents who are going through the same things that you are. If you go to classes with a broader age-range you will get to learn about what might be coming up in the future for you and your child. Both of these options are good ones, so I opted to go with a class that fit my schedule once we were out of the newborn phase. If you’re still in the newborn phase, I would highly suggest getting to a drop-in ECFE class (for children up to 6 months of age) as soon as you feel capable. I waited quite a while to go to one of these and I really wish that I had taken advantage of them sooner. When the semester ended and I was looking at losing the group, I took a huge leap as a socially awkward introvert and forced myself to offer my phone number to the other parents on the last day of class. While this was hard for me, it has also been extremely rewarding as it’s offered me a group of people who all have children who are similar in age to my son and they have offered a lot of support, as well as people to get out and do things with so that I don’t go stir crazy.
7. Remember to take care of yourself.
Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to stay sane. Your baby and your partner will be better for it.