It has really struck me over the past few months how constrained my life is right now. By constrained I mean that I cannot, as a general rule, do what I want to do, when I feel like doing it. The reasons are as follows:
1) Pumping breastmilk. For the first few months of my son Mark’s life, I hardly left the house, mostly due to my pumping schedule. It not too easy to run errands or socialize when you have to factor in a 6-7 times/day pumping schedule! I am down to 3 times/day now, which is certainly easier to maintain, but is still a challenge. No matter what day it is, no matter what fun things might be going on, I need to pump before bedtime, which takes at least 30 minutes. Not such a big deal, if I could sleep in once in awhile. But every morning, after waking up I race to the pump, while every minute that goes by, I am leaking (wasting) milk into my nursing pads. Not to mention that having a 3-year-old and an infant isn’t very conducive to sleeping in in the first place.
2) Naps. Adam, 3 1/2 years old, still takes an afternoon nap most days, so that is part of our schedule with only a few exceptions. Mark, 5 months, was a very difficult napper when he was younger. Some days it seemed I spent half of my waking hours just trying to get him to sleep (typically 3-4 short naps per day). Things have gotten easier, but I protect his nap schedule (as much as he has a schedule) quite diligently. To say that I feel tied down to the house would be an understatement. If we are somewhere like church and he doesn’t get his morning nap, my life is a hectic hell until I can get him his nap; therefore, I am not too interested in skipping or delaying his naps! In fact, Sunday morning church has taken a backseat to Mark’s morning nap. If I have to arrive late or not at all, so be it. I realize that I am in the minority in my approach to this, but I am not willing (or able?) to handle the stress that results from missed or delayed naps.
3) Bedtimes. Adam needs to have lights out around 7:30 p.m. Mark is “completely finished” for the day around 6 p.m. most days, occasionally later. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in a restaurant or even at a friend’s house with Mark after 6 p.m. or even 5:30 p.m. And, of course, I don’t feel it’s fair to him to put him in that situation, unless it’s for something very important and/or very occasional (travel, important appointment, etc.). As a result, we don’t have much of a social life. If anything, one of us goes out while the other stays home and takes care of bedtimes. (As for a babysitter or grandparent putting him to bed… that is another topic entirely. We tried that last night, with disastrous results.)
3) Weight Watchers. In January, I joined Weight Watchers with at least 30 lbs to lose. So far, I have lost 17 lbs, and I am very happy about that. At the same time, anyone who’s done WW or any other plan knows that it takes dedication and structure, day in and day out, to make progress. I can’t just throw caution to the wind a few times or even one time per week, and also expect to lose any weight at my weekly weigh-in.
Last night, at a get-together at a friend’s house, all of the above-listed factors came into play in a very typical fashion. My MIL came over to babysit, and when I left the house, I was concerned about Mark [bedtime factor] because he seemed to be going downhill fast, with stranger anxiety and with getting tired. Sure enough, my husband, who was still home at the time, had to intervene and put Mark to bed because he had completely gone off the deep end.
I had left home early so I could go to Subway and get a Weight-Watchers-friendly dinner before going to the party. For me, I am much more likely to succeed if I can have a filling, healthy meal before being exposed to all sorts of fattening yummies. I spent a few hours at the party, and had only a few sips of margarita [pumping/breastfeeding factor] and almost nothing to eat [Weight Watchers factor]. Then I had to leave early (around 9 p.m.) so I could get home, relieve the babysitter, pump, and get to bed at a somewhat decent hour.
To an observer, I suppose I would appear to be rather a dull sort — no eating, drinking, being merry, or staying out past 9 p.m. In fact, I am a little self-conscious about how I am perceived, even though normally I’m perfectly comfortable being seen as the straight-laced one.
But the bottom line is, I cannot achieve the goals I need and want to achieve if I don’t consistently make decisions that respect the inherent boundaries of the above list. I have to take care of myself (sleep, health, losing weight) and protect my children’s sleep; if I don’t, there are prices to pay. I guess this is all part of being an adult and being a parent.