Thursday, 30 April, 2015
There were so many things I wanted to write about when little Saski came along. And now she's almost 14 months and I haven't written any of them. I thought I would take the opportunity to do so now—but I must warn you, it's going to be a jumble mess of thoughts in no particular order:
- When you have your first child, you don't know what you're doing and you rely on everyone else to help you figure things out—midwives, nurses, early childhood workers, your parents, your in-laws, other parents, and so on. When you have your second, you already know stuff and therefore feel like you have more authority on parenting matters. Even though it's been a while, there was a lot I still remembered about babies, and with Saski, I felt way more in control than with Astrid. I was definitely “The Mum” and I didn't let anyone usurp my role as that. So when Saski was born, I was adamant about certain things—things like when it was time to push during labour, when I wanted to go home from the hospital (after one night; one night was enough!), when it was time for Saski to have a sleep, what she would wear, when she would do tummy time, when she would start solids, where she would go and when, etc. The feeling was great: with Astrid, I felt like people were constantly telling me what I was doing wrong; with Saski, I didn't let them. I felt less like a pushover and more like a mother. (If that makes sense.)
- Being more familiar with babies helped me understand Saski so much more. Astrid was baffling: I'd never dealt with such a little creature before and sometimes I didn't know what she wanted. Having had Astrid, I knew with Saski, and I was way more understanding of times when she was hungry, tired, teething, and so on. It's a bit of a shame that poor Astrid had to be the guinea pig for all my learning: I do feel like I'm a lot harder on her than I am with Saski …
- It's interesting seeing the differences in Astrid and Saski's temperaments. Of course one's offspring aren't going to be clones of one another just because they originated from the same parents! Even so, it surprised me just how happy and easygoing Saski is. Astrid was an “easy” baby according to standard metrics: she slept well, she ate well, she soiled her nappies like clockwork, however, she was always quite standoff-ish and temperamental. I remember holding her when she was only a week or so old and she was already trying to push me away because even at that age, she needed her own personal space. Yet she feels deeply—loves deeply. I know she loves me even in the midst of her four-year-old tantrums, though she can't express it through the anger and rage. In comparison, Saski was a very smiley baby:
(She was also born with more hair than Astrid. [And yes, it spiked up like that for a long time—until the weight of it caused it to sit flat.] Before she turned one, she'd already had three haircuts, whereas Astrid's first haircut was when she turned one.) She also fed well (unless she was teething; then she would refuse, which distressed me to no end until I worked out what was going on) and slept pretty well (not so well during the way but that was because we went out a lot as you need to when you also have a three to four-year-old). I thought Astrid was easy; Saski was easier—something that I thought was impossible. (I thought we were due to have the refluxy cranky always crying baby …)
- Second time around, I did some things the same (because they worked with Astrid, so why not with Saski?), but some things different. One of the chief things was the way I fed Saski solids: I did give her rice cereal first, then purées (like Astrid, though I didn't really have time to make the purées like I did with Astrid, so I tended to give her a lot of packet/jar stuff), but I started her on finger food much earlier. It was sort of baby-led weaning but sort of not, because I would still feed her purées after finger food. (I think I also started her a bit too early: I probably should have waited until six months, not five, as her digestion took a while to cope and she was in pain because of constipation.) The plus side is that she had a wider range of foods than Astrid did at her age, and she also got used to feeding herself instead of having me spoon-feed her. I think she also got the hang of eating much earlier than Astrid. I encouraged her independence with things like lifting sippy cups to drink by herself. However, now that she's become a toddler, she still exhibits strong preference for certain foods (e.g. meat) rather than the good stuff (e.g. broccoli):
(“Broccoli is the worst thing ever! Why are you making me eat it???”) I was also a lot more confident about leaving her with other people: I put her in crèche at the pool from very early on, and when she was able, I put her in crèche at church on Sundays. (I think perhaps it might have helped that before she was able to sit up by herself, I would go with her and play with her; I couldn't stay in the church because she was noisy and the cry room was boring, so this was a good alternative and it got her used to being there.) That said, she still cries when we drop her at childcare once a week.
- I am much more conscious of protecting my mental health, remembering how I was when Astrid was 12-18 months old. So I was deliberate in how I set things up for this year: Astrid goes to preschool three days a week and I put Saski in childcare one day a week to give myself a break. It's only 5-6 hours, but my goodness do I need it!
- Looking after two requires a real expansion of mental space to accommodate another: when you get married, you have to learn to start thinking about your spouse as well as yourself in everything you do; when you have a child, you have to start thinking about her as well as yourself as well as your spouse; and when you have another child, your field of thinking must expand again. I still don't get it right all the time: often I will walk out of the house completely forgetting Astrid's hat or Saski's shoes or someone's water bottle or snacks. And I'm not always good at factoring in the extra time it takes to get two rugrats ready on time. I am fortunate that Astrid is older and is a lot more independent now: she can dress herself and feed herself, take herself to the toilet, put on her own shoes, put on her seatbelt in the car, and so on, but she still needs my help for certain things, and she certainly isn't at that point where she can do things like remember what to bring or think practically about what to wear because of the weather (several times I've had to tell her to put leggings on under her skirts because it's cold outside [she's currently going through a will-only-wear-skirts-and-dresses phase]).
- Which leads me to my next thought: looking after two at the same time can be exhausting—and not just because of sleep deprivation/night wakings. The good thing about two is that they often entertain each other: Saski loves Astrid and is often very amused by her, and Astrid plays up to that. Seeing them give each other hugs and kisses is the cutest thing in the world. The flipside is the demands of two make parenting incessant. With one, there are times when you can occupy your child to give you a bit of a break; with two, that doesn't quite happen. (People tell me they do enforce it, though: for example, they might have compulsory rest time in the afternoon where everyone has to sit on the couch and watch an animated movie, and it's fine if they fall asleep, but they can't get up and go running up and down the hall.) I can put Saski down for her day sleep, but Astrid will still want to do something with me. (And now that they share a room, I can't very well send Astrid there to entertain herself.) Perhaps I need to be firmer about saying, “No, now we're going to do our own thing for x number of minutes.” But I also need to balance that with making sure I spend one-on-one time with just Astrid so she doesn't feel neglected because she really wants and needs my attention too. On some days, their demands feel incessant, and I just move from one thing to the next to the next, never stopping. Some days feel out of control. Some days feel fine. It just takes so much energy. Currently with Ben's new job, I am pulling 11-hour solo parenting days 2-3 days a week and it is just brutal. Sometimes I think it's all in my head, but then other people confirm that it is hard (for example, my mum and Peter had them both overnight and told me later that it took three days for them to recover). This is why my day off is so important.
- Related to the above: this is why the writing is not happening as much as I'd like it to this year. I thought theoretically I'd be able to do it in the evenings and on my day off, but I was wrong: the day off is important because it is the only time in the entire week when I get to be alone in my own home doing whatever I like. (It's just that today I choose to blog.) So I need to make the most of it because it's time I will never get back. During the evenings, sometimes I am so exhausted all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch TV. And some evenings just have to be devoted to admin, otherwise the “wife work” builds up and gets out of control. It's amazing how much time caring for two littlies and a household takes up. I know I could push myself harder—make myself write when I don't feel like it or when I'm tired and exhausted and am just producing garbage. I'm sure that even if it's garbage, it would still be good for me and helpful to my development as my writer. And it's easier to take the easy option because TV and knitting don't require any energy; instead, they feed me—TV, with stories and the fruits of someone else's creativity, and knitting with the opportunity to be creative within a defined structure that doesn't usually require too much mental energy. Even though creative work is not progressing as much I would like and some projects have stalled somewhat, looking back over the first four months of this year, I know I have actually done a lot: I've
That's not bad for someone in my position! I think the key to being a parent and a creative is to keep pushing on: don't beat yourself up about what you have and have not accomplished, but view your situation realistically (don't compare yourself with others—partiularly those who don't have children! That's the worst trap to fall into!) and do what you can. I don't have nearly as much writing time as I did when Astrid was in care three afternoons a week (when she was, I managed to finish the first draft of Eternal Life). And I have to balance the near-constant intensity of parenting with inactivity (otherwise things tend to go south). So I do things when I can here and there, and somehow progress gets made, albeit slow.
- connected two short scripts with artists for another anthology project that I don't seem to have blogged about because it's early days (and oh dear, I didn't even post the free comic I did with René that I put up briefly around Christmas);
- scripted and drafted a third short comic that I will do myself;
- worked with Paul to get Eternal Life (Part 2) to proofreading (as I did the bulk of the lettering) and to print (but it's not up for sale yet because I am waiting on Comixology to approve it so that we can release the print and digital versions at the same time [though that might not happen; May is just around the corner]) and to Comixology;
- started work with Paul on Part 3;
- created a pitch for a short comic for an all-girl anthology (which was rejected, oh well);
- entered a writing competition about parenting;
- put together a workshop on collaboration in comics that I ran for the Sydney Comics Guild and will run for Comic Gong and (hopefully) at something else later this year;
- booked tables at a heap of cons and shows around the traps for this year.
(Ha! See what I did there? I squeezed a working update into a post about parenting!)
/Karen/ had a thought at 12:23 PM
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