Thursday, 26 January 2017

Harry: my baby, not an inconvenience x

"Say what! You mean I'm meant to have a schedule already..."

Harry loves to bite his hands, my hands, my shoulder, sometimes his teething rings but mainly body parts. It's part of his daily routine. Along with feeding, sleeping, playing with Donald the Dragon, Kevin the Koala and the sensory basket. 

When people (strangers...usually in the supermarket, baby groups or baby weigh ins) ask me if Harry is into a routine, I reply with fairly vague statements about playing on the rainforest play mat, teddy bear mat and sensory basket, Pilates on Wednesdays, bath time with Daddy, baby massage when we remember, reading that's not my hamster/tiger/snowman....and something about going to be around 10pm and waking several times before we get up about 8am. (**cough**10am**cough**). 

Not quite satisfied with my response about how my little time zapper spends his day, they'll delight me with a minute by minute account of their little one's 'routine', which of course involves 'sleeping through', while they get to spend their evening in exactly the same way as pre-baby and the odd war story about when they had to get up for their little darling twice, yes, twice one night...! The horror!

I don't mean to offend. This isn't intended to start a Facebook tit-for-tat on parenting styles, but what has struck me is what appears to be the incorrect use of the word routine when it comes to babies, the obsession with sleep, subjective views on sleeping through and the pressure this puts on parents. 

Routine can be defined as "a sequence of actions regularly followed". 

Schedule, however, can be defined as "a plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times".

When people ask about a baby's routine, are they actually asking for details of their sleep schedule? Why don't they use the word schedule? For me, schedule sounds harsher, stricter, something that older children and adults have. 

I think about my step-daughter's ice skating and she has a schedule of training; it's determined by the coaches, fixed, same each week, requires discipline and promptness. Her routines, however, while still demanding, are varied, have flow, beauty, go to music, change depending on individual ability and context, allow for personal development and growth. The schedule places demands on us as parents to get her there on time for example, the routine is for her to enjoy and embrace and make her own. 

Maybe it's just semantics, maybe I'm nit picking at the use of the English language. And maybe I'm a new mum surrounded by pressures and expectations, surviving on not quite enough sleep and feeling as though I should have a schedule in place by now; after all, if that's what everyone is asking about and interested in, surely I'm doing something wrong by not having one? 

No one asks about what Harry enjoys, what makes him smile or giggle, what toys he engages with, is he, it's all about his sleep schedule. It's lovely when people ask out of concern for me as a Mum, checking in whether I'm getting enough sleep, but mostly it just makes me feel crap. 

No, he doesn't sleep through every night, yes the four month sleep regression is a real thing, yes I wake several times a night to comfort or feed him, my neck is stiff from sleeping in a not quite upright but just enough to reach him position. No he doesn't have a bath at the same time every just doesn't quite work like that with, well, life to get on with. I can't remember the last time Scott & I watched a movie at home together, or I had a dinner not interrupted with Kevin the Koala or froggy thrown at my plate 37 times. 

Sleeping through according to this link (  and many others agree, is 5 hours. Harry frequently will achieve that but am I the only one who gets the impression five hours doesn't satisfy the chatty mum at baby group? If I say that he maybe slept from 7-12 and then fed a couple of times they smile sadly for me and start with all sorts of helpful advice to try and achieve this arbitrary utopia of 12 hours straight. 

Despite the look of pity (judgement?) from people, despite feeling pressured to do things differently, you know what, I really don't mind. I didn't have a baby for life to carry on as normal, if I wanted 10 or the hallowed 12 hours interrupted sleep forever I wouldn't have had a baby. 

I love my nighttime cuddles with him, I love hearing his snuffly breaths as he calms down in my arms, I love seeing Scott bounce him around singing random lyrics at 4am. I'm tired, of course I am, sometimes I don't quite have the energy for another round of wheels on the bus and sometimes I go for long walks just to get him to sleep and give me a little rest from my own voice. But, Harry isn't an inconvenience to me, he isn't a problem to be solved or fixed. He's a tiny, new, human being. He's my baby. And hey, motherhood is the reason under eye concealer was invented, right?? 

Harry has a lifetime of schedules and times to stick to, for now, our little routines and loose schedule of baby groups is just perfect for us. And I'd rather see him smile at me as I pick him up for the umpteenth time in the evening than watch a movie that will still be around when Harry no longer needs me at night time.

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