A friend of mine, a very competent, intelligent, organized woman was taking hew new baby out for the day, in the car, by herself, for the first time.
She had made a mental list of everything she needed, and as she loaded the various bags of things, she kept remembering other things she needed to bring. So she went back and forth from the house to the car quite a few times. Finally, she was all packed. Pleased with herself for remembering everything, she drove off happily.
A few blocks into the ride, she realized something was wrong…. she had forgotten the baby.
As every parent of a baby or of a young child knows, just getting out the door can be a major challenge, especially if you have a time constraint and have to be somewhere at a specific time. For those of us who are sticklers for punctuality, this can be very hard on our self image. Suddenly, once we have a baby, we’re apologizing for being late all the time. And our sense of being competent, organized, and intelligent starts to fade.
So what’s a parent to do?
First of all, recognize that most new parents have this experience. Babies have their own time, their own inner rhythm, or non-rhythm, that doesn’t coordinate with ours. They need to eat when they need to eat, usually right when you are ready to leave. Or you’ve just changed their diaper and they have a mega poop.
Or just as you are ready to go, their tummy starts to bother them and they start crying inconsolably.
This is what babies do and it is no reflection on you as a parent if they do it at an inopportune time. Learning to “roll with it” is one of the first lessons of parenthood. Learning to not be hard on yourself when things don’t go according to plan, is another important lesson.
Sometimes, the more you were in control of your life before, the more out of control you feel as a new parent and the more distressed you get when you “can’t get out the door”. Another step is to actually be a bit organized. If you know you need to be somewhere the next day, do some pre-planning.
Some parents have a core list of what they need to take with them each time they go out. They pack what they can the night before, remembering things like money for a parking meter, charging their cell phone, a spare set of keys, their baby carrier, and extras of everything.
If you don’t have one of these lists, it’s worth taking 15 minutes and getting it done, printed and put on the fridge, or in your diaper bag. When you are going to be going out, try to give yourself lots of time to go through the checklist, gathering the other things you may need (including snacks and water for you). Dads find these lists very helpful. If they are not the “stay at home parent”, they appreciate knowing just what to bring with them if they are taking the baby out for a while.
Some parents keep a spare diaper bag with extra essentials always packed in case they are in an unexpected hurry. This helps to cut down the “panic factor” if plans change suddenly. It also helps to tell people ahead of time that you’ll do the best you can to be punctual, but that babies needs are immediate and compelling and you may be late.
Once you get used to being a parent and your baby gets used to being in the world, you’ll find it easier to get where you want to go, and mostly be on time. Then when they are toddlers and preschoolers you’ll have all new time challenges. We’ll talk about that next time.