Little Eloise has been here for six weeks. Long enough that she has officially outgrown her newborn clothes, but short enough that people in the store still open their eyes real wide and say “awww…” when they see her. Long enough that I will soon get my official “healed” stamp from my midwife and be sent on my way. Short enough that maternity jeans are still a frustratingly regular part of my wardrobe.
It’s a strange in-between stage. We are still getting our footing as a family of four, still figuring out what it means to have this new person with us. The toughest adjustment, by far, has been figuring out how to juggle the needs of both a two-year-old ball of energy as well as those of a newborn.
The first day I was home alone with both kids, I sent a frantic text message to a friend and fellow mother of two asking how on earth I was supposed to get through the day. Her first piece of advice was “Today, there is no such thing as too much TV.”
Hmm. This was not what I had been expecting to hear. The nurses at the hospital had advised me to set up special toy kits for each time of day I’d be nursing. Whenever I fed the baby, I was supposed to whip out one of the (many!) special boxes of wonder that I’d lovingly prepared for Owen. Theoretically, that sounds great, but I had certainly not done anything in advance to make these little kits, and the image of my life-loving toddler sitting angelically at my feet and working on his latest cross-stitch project while we listened to Beethoven and discussed current events just didn’t seem very achievable to me. In my post-partum haze, even sticking some play-dough in a ziploc bag seemed like too big of a challenge.
TV, on the other hand? That was something I could handle. I wouldn’t necessarily feel good about it, but the idea that it was ok to let Owen watch Curious George or Sesame Street while I sat on the couch for the seventeenth time that day to nurse his sister was liberating. Just hearing another mom admit that hey, we don’t all live up to our Pinterest ideals all the time, made it a little bit easier for me to let go of the idea that I had to have it all together from day one.
So, we watched TV. That first day or so, we watched more than he had probably seen in the previous two weeks combined. I felt some residual guilt, but more than anything else, I felt relief. I was relieved that, in some way – no matter what the AAP said about it – I was able to maintain control of a situation that was bafflingly, and sometimes cripplingly, new to all of us. For Eloise, it meant that she got fed when she needed it, and for however long she needed it. For Owen, it meant a special reward, and a chance to bust out his dance moves to the Elmo’s World song.
I’m hard on myself as a parent. I think we all are – we want to do right by these little people who have landed in our lives, and the idea that we could screw it up can be incapacitating. But that doesn’t mean that we have to be 100% perfect 100% of the time. Sometimes, our ideals have to take a back seat to our realities. Having someone tell me that it was ok to relax the idea of perfection that I carried in my head helped me get through the fog of those first few days and weeks with just a smidge less guilt. Six weeks in, I still don’t have any magical surprise boxes to give Owen every day, but we’ve eased back on the Elmo and are slowly figuring out our new day-to-day.
I’m no model parent, and we certainly aren’t there yet in terms of juggling two kids. Some days I’m not even sure that the “there” really exists. But, for whatever it’s worth, I want to share the spirit of my friend’s advice with the rest of you as well. Whether you have one or eight or no babies at all, I think we all could stand to cut ourselves a little bit of slack. So, if you are having one of those days or weeks when you really just need a break? Go ahead. Turn on Mickey Mouse for a while. Some days, there is no such thing as too much tv.
What about you? How have your ideals fit in with your day to day life?