Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Fine Balance

I've come to discover that being a mom is all about the timing.

My day is an intricately choreagraphed dance, a delicate pas-de-deux (or rather, pas-de-trois, I should say). Extend the leg here. Flick the hand there. Don't forget to spot when you turn, or you'll get dizzy. Each step must be completed in sequence and on time or it all falls apart. Or I fall apart. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the nights that Mr Earth is not home. He is in rehearsal for a play which takes him out of the house at bedtime at least three nights per week, more when the show goes up.

The Boy and I had comfortable partnership going. A routine. Everything happened like clockwork. There were good nights and bad nights, but the difference between the two was the gentle ripple of hair in a stray breeze. Nothing that couldn't be righted easily. And if Mr Earth or I couldn't be home at bedtime, while it was unfortunate, it was no problem.

And then the Little Guy joined the dance. After stumbling around for a bit, we found our rhythm again. It's different, more complex, but finally manageable. Instead of a couple, we now have a quartet. While it may have all the grace of a do-si-do hoedown, it still works. Except for on nights when one of us isn't home. One child is left partnerless, and one parent left to take up the slack. Since I am still breastfeeding, that task usually falls to me.

The evening program starts at 6:45pm and usually lasts until about 8:45pm. It can be a very long two hours involving much crying, whining and general unpleasantness. Not all of this behaviour is due to the children. Bathe the Boy, diaper, pyjamas, story, milk, unwind with one (not-short-enough) tv program, brush teeth, pink eye medication, wash hands, all the while juggling the entertainment of an increasingly tired Little Guy. Then upstairs to bed, dump the baby in the crib, take the Boy to the potty, tuck the Boy in with songs and funny voices. Then pick up the baby, downstairs for special excema bath, apply creams, feed. Hear door open on the monitor. Stop the baby mid-feed and take him upstairs to see what's going on. Change the Boy's poopy bum. Go back downstairs and finish the feed, put pyjamas on and swaddle. Turn lights down low, let baby suck on finger while jiggling him to sleep and hope he doesn't scream too much. If he does, listen to Boy shout "I can't sleep (Little Guy)!" over the monitor. When assured that the baby is finally asleep, take him upstairs turn on the sound machine and put him down. Breathe a sigh of relief, and relax. And wait for him to wake up again.

I could compress this routine somewhat. I could bathe, cream, feed and swaddle the Little Guy while the Boy drinks his milk and goes to bed alone. That's what my mom would suggest. But it also leaves the Boy to essentially put himself to bed, and we lose that time to connect. And, he's three. I don't think he should be able to put himself to bed yet, even if he would do it. Not to mention that the Little Guy needs, nay demands, and absolute quiet and distraction-free zone when being put down for the night. So, I continue the fancy footwork, and hope that in time, it will again become like clockwork.

And tomorrow night, I go out for dinner with friends, and Mr Earth does the bedtime dance. And has to do bottle-feeding on top of it all. Wish him luck.

11 comments:

bren j. said...

Oi. Before the LG came along, I never could've imagined how LONG it would take to put one human being to bed! We've finally gotten to a point where Mr. J. can sit on the floor while I sit in the rocking chair and we can have a conversation while she falls asleep. It feels like it sucks so much of the evening away.
And you, NoMo, are a brave and gracious wife. I might start a revolt if Mr. J. was gone three nights/week!

kgirl said...

we have a great routine down now for bee, but it took 2 years to get there. since i'm doing things exactly the same with dove (i.e. letting her sleep in my arms all evening until i go to bed) that idid with bee , i'm sure i can look forward to another two years of high-maintenance evenings. strangely, i don't even mind so much.

Mac and Cheese said...

Ugh. You're making me tired, and kind of anxious.

kittenpie said...

Good luck indeed, Mr. Earth! I do wonder how all of this is going to work once the Bun comes along...

Kyla said...

Yeah, I know. It is a bit tricky.

womaninawindow said...

Oh boy! Sounds familiar. I lamented when my kids were too old to bath together 'cause no baths are twice as long! And we still tuck every night and say and do exactly the same things EVERY NIGHT! And as soon as we're turning to leave rooms they're out of their beds again! They tuck themselves in after that but they totally need and expect that every night ritual. (good for you for ignoring your mom!)

SciFi Dad said...

Speaking from (minutes ago completed) first hand experience, it can be difficult. However, I learned something very early on that made it a whole lot easier for my daughter and I on such nights: routine schmoutine. If I tried to follow my wife's routine too closely, it blew up in my face when I wasn't 100% the same. By making it clear that "Daddy does it different", I was able to screw up and keep things going without (too many) meltdowns.

But yeah, it's never easy for the employed out of the home parent to replace the at-home parent.

Mimi said...

Great post. Great great post. It's all about the balance ...

painted maypole said...

yikes. my hat is off to you.

i agree, though, that the dance is worth it, particularly the tucking in The Boy. you will not regret it in the years to come.

b*babbler said...

You? My hero right now...

That dance scares the hell out of me!

petite gourmand said...

I'm exhausted now....
wow I guess it really is easier with just one in some ways.