Me, with two great conversationalists.
The most common complaint I hear about being a new mama? Abject boredom once the circus leaves town. Don't mistake me, most mamas breathe a sigh of relief once family, in-laws and outlaws ride off into the sunset, but a few days later magazines, Facebook, and daytime TV start to lose their charm.
Some mamas immediately join playgroups or mama and me yoga. But even these outings, as arduous as they can be the first couple of times, don't fill 24 hours.
Suggestions for Things to Occupy Your Mind
Stitcher. Video may have killed the radio star, but bad writing and political commercials killed the TV star. I love listening to podcasts, but know that it can be tricky for new mamas to download new episodes or spend time synchronizing devices. Stitcher is an application for mobile devices that works like Pandora radio. You download the free app and then have access to streaming podcasts. My favorites include This American Life, Fresh Air, Freakonomics, La Tavola Marche, and The Boob Group.
Handheld readers. The beauty of a Kindle in particular is that you can read a library of books with one hand, without turning on a bright light (some phones also work, but the lighting isn't quite as fancy). It is backlit and lightweight, and easy to manage while breastfeeding. Our local library lends ebooks which you can obtain without even leaving home. Bored in the middle of the night? Download something new.
Research. If you have the internet, the world is your oyster (but beware the undertow). Look for positive things, like vacations you'd like to take, graduate programs you might pursue, or how to win big at blackjack. Avoid the rabbit hole of medical websites. Do not research All the Things that Could Go Wrong, because there are plenty of panicky messages on message boards with truly insane recommendations for home remedies. Plan a mythical trip to Sweden, or learn what it takes to get a visa into Bhutan, but don't google "small red rash on baby's booty."
Also, if I may recommend avoiding games. Sure, they make the time go by, but at the end of the day you will have nothing to chat about with your partner or the other mamas at yoga. Learn a thing or two and make yourself an excellent conversationalist because you may end up talking to yourself at times, and don't you want to be interested in what you have to say?
Let me be clear: this post will not address paternity woes, suggestions for "keeping things fresh," or sutras of any kind. This post is an introduction to life once baby arrives and your current household transforms from a twofer into a threefer.
Think back to the time that you and your partner began to co-habitate. It probably started off all nachos and dance parties and then evolved slowly into dish disputes, towel arguments, and misplaced mail warfare. Then (as you are now expecting a baby) something probably took a turn for the better again. You devised some sort of system, whether it involves pre-printed lists on the fridge or not. Knowing that Thursday night is poker night for your partner, you take the opportunity to paint your toenails in your dainties and rock out to Stevie Nicks. And every other Saturday you hike into the wilderness together to talk about the Big Dreams you have for the future and other relevant relational business. Three kinds of time: mine, yours and ours.
With the impending growth of your family unit, you will begin to experience the same sorts of growing pains as you figure out your time alone, partner's time alone, the two of you together, you and the baby together, and your partner and the baby together. You've just doubled the flavors of time that are essential to a balanced and healthy home, and you have few positive examples of how this works successfully. In fact, most sit-coms and romantic comedies are based on the principle that when three people try to be in a relationship together it is both epically hilarious and desperately tragic all at once.
Tips for Doubling Your Fun
Define your six flavors of time. Before baby arrives, decide what time you need that is sacred, what time your partner needs, and what time your relationship needs in order for it to thrive. What are the activities that you do that fill in these three flavors? Write them down in a list so that you may refer to it after baby arrives (color coding is optional).
Recall your weak spots. Remember what you used to (or still) fight over? These may be the areas that crop up again. If they are simple, make a concerted effort to meet your partner half way by emptying the garbage occasionally or not returning empty packaging to the refrigerator. If the issues are more complex, like say sex or money, this might be an excellent time to enlist the help of a good financial planner or therapist.
Dream BIG. Start brainstorming the things you've always wanted to do with your child, both as a couple and individually. These are great lists to make, too. Once baby arrives you can start to try on or craft new traditions.
Give baby time to grow into. There is a magical seventh flavor that won't develop for awhile, but it is important to parent as though it already exists: baby's time alone. It is critical for the emotional health of your family that your baby learn to spend time alone. Now, I'm not recommending that your infant be left unattended, but I am suggesting that baby learn to entertain her as she grows without the constant feedback of an adult. This is where your child will explore and develop her personality. If you know how important your alone time is to you, you'll respect the necessary alone time of your child as well.
And that's the recipe for a successful threesome.
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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