The question on my mind today is, when is the first-time parent honeymoon over?
When you have a baby, you get a lot of positive attention. People bring you flowers, meals, do your chores. You even get a few days or weeks off work! When you return to work bleary-eyed or go grocery shopping without a shower or makeup, people look at you and smile. “Oh! A new parent! How sweet!” they say, then add the customary “Enjoy it while it lasts!” On the days you don’t have free food coming through your mail chute, you are happy to swing through the drive-thru or dial up the pizza place. Who has the time to cook or grocery shop with a newborn?
Eventually, though, things change. Offers of free meals dry up. Visitors are fewer and further between, leaving you with no-one to coerce into doing chores or favors. Your boss gives you additional responsibilities, asks you to stay late. The volunteer committee you joined before you got pregnant actually expects you to attend meetings again. You have to go to a work party but realize the night before that neither your postpartum nor pregnancy dress clothes fit.
The honeymoon has officially ended. People in your life expect normal output and productivity.
Yet as a first-time parent you are still struggling to figure out your new normal. The free food doesn’t show up, but meal time is still just as difficult to manage. You have to put on makeup in the morning, but your now increasingly-alert baby wants to play as soon as the sun is up.
The funny thing is, babies are constantly changing, and along with them, so do a parent’s responsibilities and routines. Every time our child develops a new skill, I feel like a new parent again.
Take feeding for example. By the time I learned how to nurse my newborn, he was in a growth spurt; we were back at square one. At three months old, he’s too interested in playing to eat, so now I have to monitor and record his feeding times, just like I did the day he was born.
Even though I have lost the lion’s share of my pregnancy weight, I feel almost as uncomfortable in my skin at three months postpartum as I did at three days. At three days, no-one expect you to have shed the weight. But at three months I feel undisciplined and lazy carrying around those last few pounds. Getting takeout after a long day feels like surrender.
There are, of course, so many benefits to being out of that crazy newly-born-parent phase. I can handle the cries, the sleep deprivation. It no longer takes me all day to pack for an overnight trip. In short, I enjoy my baby more and fear him less.
But I still feel really green at all this. I probably will until he’s grown. By then, even the process of letting him go will seem totally alien to me.
Does the first-time parenthood honeymoon ever really end at all?