One of the first things I learned after Brody was born was that there are certain things about the experience of caring for an infant that can only be learned by first-hand experience. You can read every parenting book ever written, talk to friends and relatives with children, and even spend time around young children but there are certain things you can’t fully understand until you experience them for yourself.
After we had Brody, I discovered that one of these unlearnable things is the overwhelming experience of the 24/7/365 nature of parenting. Caring for an infant really is an around the clock job with few opportunities for a break or time for yourself. This is especially true in the first few weeks, when babies haven’t yet settled into a routine. Daily life at this early stage was a continuous cycle of feeding, changing, and comforting our new little baby Brody. And I was still working nine to five for the first few months, so I had it easier than my wife who was home caring for Brody during the day.
The daily routine of caring for an infant is itself demanding but what really makes it overwhelming is that there is never really much of a break – it just keeps going. As Brody grew into more of a routine as the months progressed and things became easier and a schedule became more predictable it was still very demanding and seemingly non-stop. It was really mentally and physically exhausting.After a few months as a parent I’ve learned that it’s important to take breaks and spend time away from Brody, even if it’s only for a short outing. I’ve found that making some time for myself is a necessity; without it I would probably burn out from exhaustion. Having a break for some “me time” helps me feel refreshed, which in turn makes me a better dad. My wife and I try to work together to make sure each of us get some time out of the house to have free time away from Brody to do activities we enjoy; she likes doing crossfit and I like cycling. Going out for a quick break on my own not only leaves my feeling recharged but it also puts me back in touch with my other interests and hobbies, which hopefully I will be able to share with Brody when he’s older.
On a related note, what I’ve also noticed is that even though I know that it’s important to spend a bit of time away from Brody I sometimes feel guilty about it. Sometimes I feel like maybe I should be spending time with Brody instead of taking some time for myself, or if I do take a little break I should try to keep it as short as possible so I don’t spend too much time away. In my next blog post I’ll talk about my wife and I’s experience wrestling with the benefits of taking some time away from Brody versus our desire to spend as much time with him as we can. Guilt sometimes accompanies the feeling that we are putting our own needs ahead of Brody’s.
In closing, I should clarify that I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining. Staying home to look after Brody is amazing and I’m grateful for all the time we get to spend together; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s just that sometimes it can get a little tiring and a little break can make a big difference.