November 22, 2011
I know what you're thinking, "28 is young to have a baby?!"
It really isn't. But I got to thinking about this whole mom thing after reading S's recent post about life with a new baby.
I had Dexter when I was 28 and although biologically that's a perfectly fine age to have a baby, I told most people that amongst my peers, it felt like being a much younger pregnant lady. Of course, I met lots of moms after Dexter was born, but I never felt like I fit in there either.
So on the one hand I was this big pregnant girl with the moving alien bump, having to fend off repeated comments about how massive everybody thought I was (people would double-take several times a day, every day). Again, I think this might have had something to do with the masses of parents I would see on a weekly basis, back when I was teaching at a music school.
Among my close friends, nobody really stopped to notice I was pregnant, and it was business as usual - which is a good thing!
On the other hand, once I had the baby and I was around other new parents, I didn't feel the same degree of connection that I could see the other ladies forming. I think a lot of that had to do with work and other circumstances. I went back to work after 3 months of summer off and all the other ladies had a year of mat leave. So that meant lots of fun classes and excursions, while I was coordinating child-care and teaching over 60 students a week. My wacky schedule made it difficult to participate in lots of the mommy things that were going on. That, and my disinterest in certain sorts of activities that require several different mommies driving halfway across town to meet up somewhere. Also, I was generally too caught up with day to day stuff like getting groceries or doing laundry in and around my students.
For a long time I felt like a weird hybrid. Still hanging out with the same friends and going and doing the same things, but always arriving late and leaving early, depending on Dexter's disposition. Then I found normal baby-talk really boring too. Do I worry that Dexter isn't developing properly? No. Have I purchased this super duper make-your-kid-smarter toy yet? No. Is the breastfeeding and waking and changes making me insane? No.
I often found lots of the mom talk to be sort of negative. Lots of complaining! And I realize that it's probably a result of being alone with a baby much of the time, and obviously one would seek to find comfort in others who are experiencing the same thing. And don't get me wrong, I am often complaining about stuff too, but usually not baby stuff.
I found that taking care of Dexter wasn't very difficult. It helps that he is really chilled out, and he slept a lot and would also sleep in his stroller on-the-go. That gave me a lot of freedom and mobility. Plus, living along a convenient bus route and close the train made it easy to take him out without missing my bike. I wasn't just left with the option of taking Dougal out and enjoying nature walks, I could get groceries and visit friends on foot! Makes a big difference when you can conveniently coordinate being out in the city.
But, I didn't absolutely fit in with all my peers either. Time management has always been something I am really into. It has always been difficult to make plans with people who aren't very organized, because I never had too much flexibility. This became even more apparent when Dexter arrived. Now it's even more unlikely that I am able to attend a party when issued an invite via text the day before. Sorry! And dinner parties where you arrive at 6 pm with the baby, but dinner isn't served until 9 pm? Not so good for us anymore.
Since those early days of feeling sort of displaced, I have since come to embrace having a diverse set of friends to share my new young-mom life with.
There are great advantages to having people hang out with you, who aren't scheduled to the same degree that you are. We host a lot of friends over at the bungalow because it's very convenient for us. It was not uncommon for a friend to be sitting on a step stool in the bathroom, with a glass of wine, while I give Dexter a bath. Actually, my friends are so well-trained with Dexter-care that oftentimes THEY just administer the bath themselves!
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might wonder how I manage to have the time to get out and do... all that stuff. It's only possible because I am comfortable delegating Dexter duty to others. It's a conscious choice that we live in Edmonton and didn't move away to a bigger city. We wanted to be near grandparents, who are a great help to us. And it's not uncommon for Dexter to get babysitting from our friends too (I work Saturdays). So you don't have to do it all yourself, if you have options. I think living in the same city as my parents has done immeasurable good for my balance of work and life with Dexter. Life would be very different if I didn't have the massive support system that I've created.
No matter which way a mom chooses to get it all done, my advice is always to do whatever works for you. Everybody's life is different, and the same goes for expectations. It took me a while to figure out where I stood with managing the various aspects of being a self-employed new mom married to a guy with a 60-80 hr a week job, and a good friend too. But I'm feeling much more comfortable and at home with my not-really-fitting-in perfectly in any one place. In fact, I have come to enjoy it. Most importantly, it's my life. And I like it!
Life with a new baby is... new. Every new mama will find her stride and her peers (regardless of whether it's the sort of thing that would work for me or not), and it's important to put the pieces in place to create whatever balance new mama needs. I think one of the best pieces of advice I got was: happy mommy, happy baby. It's true!
I've learned not to fret so much about what I'm doing the same or not the same as other moms. Dexter is growing up to be such a fine little gentleman, and I'm feeling great too. It might be a work in progress and things are always changing (adaptation is the name of the game), but having a little dude around is a wonderful opportunity, lots of fun, and the best life-enrichment program I could have imagined.
Being a "young" 28 yr old new mom? It was the best decision I've ever made. Even if it made me feel like a weirdo for a while. I've come to realize, it wasn't Dexter who made me a weirdo. I've always been a bit off the beaten path. And that's okay!