Well, that wasn't such a chore, now was it? Well, actually it was but putting a brave face on things is always a good idea – calms the nerves, keeps up morale. But the bottom line is my first week with Kiley is behind me and I can proudly say I came through the ordeal with all of my limbs and at least half of my sanity intact. And believe me, that is an accomplishment. Okay, the limbs are pretty safe for now I grant you, at least until she has teeth. But the sanity? That's what you have to worry about.
Not that childcare doesn't take a physical toll, believe me it does. Five ten-hour-days with an infant is like running one of those iron man triathlons. It requires a variety of skills, which tax a variety of muscles. And I'm not kidding. I have muscles that are actually sore! I didn't expect this. My trapezius is killing me and I didn't even know I had a trapezius. I thought that was a guy thing. But no, we all have them. It's that muscle that goes from the neck to the shoulder, I Googled it. How in the world did I hurt that? Sure I pick her up a lot but she only weighs ten pounds. Heck, the flab hanging off the back of my arms weighs more than that. Maybe it's from holding her above my head so she's looking down at me twenty times a day while crooning –"Oh look at those cheeks, look at those cheeks, look at the chubby cheeks on this chiiiiiild!" Whatever the cause, I'm glad I have a heating pad, a good supply of Ben-Gay, and the whole weekend to recover.
But like I said, it's your sanity you have to worry about. Let's face it, a big part of childcare is mind-numbing drudgery, especially when they're infants. Infants do only four things really well: eat, sleep, poop and cry. Oh sure, occasionally they do something adorable that makes it all worth while – a smile here, a coo there – but these are merely aberrations from the basic pattern of eat, sleep, poop and cry.
So the main goal of any good sitter is to maximize the positives in this pattern (eat and sleep) and minimize the negatives (poop and cry). Now to do this, you first have to realize that eat, sleep, poop and cry are just a more complicated version of rock, paper, scissors. As we all know, rock breaks scissors, scissors cuts paper, and paper covers rock. It's like a snake eating it’s own tail. Now, if you think about it you'll see that eat, sleep, poop, and cry have similar, though more complex, relationships to each other. Eat leads to poop and sleep, poop leads to cry and sleep, sleep leads to cry and eat, and cry leads to eat and sleep. This is a little complicated, I know. In fact, I made up a little diagram delineating these relationships and taped it to the wall above Kiley's crib so I can keep it all straight. You would be wise to do the same. Now, sometimes these relationships can become slightly altered. Paper never breaks scissors but sometimes cry and sleep can both lead to poop. This is nothing to worry about and the original pattern will soon reassert itself. However, eating should never lead to crying. If it does there is something wrong. I repeat: If eat leads to cry SOMETHING –IS – WRONG! And whatever it is it usually requires poop to cure it.
Now the most desirable of these four activities is sleep. Babies are at their best and easiest when they are asleep. While they are sleeping, as long as you are in ear-shot of them you are doing your job as a care-giver, which affords you the opportunity to do all the other things you need and want to do. So you want to gear your activities and that of your baby toward maximizing the time they spend sleeping. Luckily, God has helped us in this endeavor. Babies were designed with a need for lots of sleep. As you can see above, or by referring to your diagram, of the four main things babies do, three of them lead to sleep. And so, if you can manipulate those three activities, eat, poop, and cry, into the most advantageous order you can maximize the amount of time your little loved one spends sleeping. That is good for you and good for her.
Hang in there I'm almost done. Babies sleep best and longest if they fall asleep right after eating. Falling asleep right after crying leads to shallow, short sleeping. Pooping while sleeping can wake them up. So you want to arrange things in this order – cry, poop, eat, and blessed, gentle sleep. You have to rely on luck for the timing of poop but the other two are pretty easy – they wake up crying (entertain them a little bit); if you're lucky they'll poop right away (entertain them again); feed them (entertain them a little more); and once again they're off to Hushabye Mountain and the pattern starts all over again. Ta-Da!
And there you have my foolproof system for baby management. Easy, right? Am I making any sense here? Of course not! Like I said in the beginning, it's your sanity you have to worry about. After just the first week I've already lost half of mine. I'm making up diagrams about poop for God's sake! Next I'll be taking advice about mothers-milk versus formula from my neighbors dog or something. Am I going to make it? I don't know. But there's one hopeful sign. Kiley has been gone for less than two days and I find myself thinking about her all the time. What is she doing? Is she eating good? Is she sleeping good? Is that rash clearing up? Does she miss me?
Does she love me?
I'll keep you posted. Wish me luck.