Writing Every Day When You Have a Six-Month-Old Baby

Of all the crazy things I’ve tried to do in my life, blogging every day this month while my six-month-old teethes is right up there.

I can barely form a sentence with my mouthparts, never mind write things down and have them make sense to a person who’s used to getting more than two hours of sleep at a stretch.

On the other hand, I can really use the outlet. I’ve been promising myself that I’ll spend more time with real people and less time online, but I tend to make that promise when the baby accidentally forgets to wake me up every 45 minutes all night long. In reality, talking to internet friends is about as much as I can expect from myself, given that it’s actually dangerous for me to operate heavy machinery at this point. I’m not sure it’s wise for me to drive to a friend’s house to see them in person.

Last night, Baboo woke up every 45 minutes unless she was sleeping on me. Ordinarily, I might try to catch a guilty nap in the chair while holding her, but she was committed to lying with her head hanging waaay out over the armrest, and I just didn’t dare. So I really have no idea if I’m writing actual human words at this point. Apologies if it’s just a keyboard smash and a loop of sobbing (mine).

Pictured: a woman who can definitely sustain a daily blogging practice.

MLMs Are the Worst, But Judging MLMers Feeds the Patriarchy

Becoming a mom means becoming a mark for all sorts of marketing schemes, but perhaps none is more constant than invitations to join multi-level marketing companies.

If you a female lady person in our society, whether or not you have kids, you’ve probably experienced these. When we were young, it was Tupperware and Avon. Now it’s Rodan + Fields or Young Living or LuLaRoe. Every time you turn around, some friend of yours is trying to get you to buy their essential oils or nail wraps or diet shakes.

Often, they’ll also try to get you to sign up to sell them as well, and for good reason — the real money in most of these programs comes from recruiting other sellers, not from hawking the goods yourself.

When you become a mom — or when a bunch of your friends become moms — you’ll notice that the pitches ramp up in intensity and frequency, until it seems like every time you open your email or Facebook, there are a handful of messages urging you to join this online party or sign up for that MLM program.

Other people have covered these programs and their problems in greater depth than I have time to do here, but suffice it to say that most people do not get rich working for MLMs. If you’re thinking about it, and you want more than just some free or subsidized skincare products, think twice. You’re much more likely to wind up with a garage full of unsold stuff and some crushing debt than you are to become a lady boss with a fancy car and hot vacation photos.

All that said … can we stop ragging on the women who participate in these programs? I’m sincerely tired of it. I get it — it’s annoying to be pitched all the time. But here’s the thing about MLMs — they exist for a reason. And that reason is that it’s next to impossible to spend time with your family while earning enough money to support said family.

That doesn’t mean that joining an MLM is a good idea. It is almost always a terrible idea. But it’s completely understandable why women want to believe that it will work out. If you’re reading this in the U.S., you already know that we live in one of the only developed countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave. Unlike many other countries, we also skip out on benefits like subsidized childcare, government-funded healthcare and financial support for families.

You’re on your own here. For most families, this means that every adult in the household has to work full-time and pay for childcare out of pocket. Some parents — usually moms — stay home, but that has financial repercussions beyond just giving up a few years’ salary.

I’m writing this in part because I’m as guilty as anyone of rolling my eyes at MLMs, but I’m going to try to stop. It’s not the sellers who deserve our scorn. It’s (many of) the companies who play on their desperation. And it’s a culture that makes it impossibly hard for parents to be with their kids and survive.

woman in white blazer holding tablet computer
Pictured: a woman who is just trying to live.

The Baby Isn’t Eating…

…and as a result, my husband may need to be hospitalized.

Teething is painful, and not just for the baby. Apparently, sometimes when teething is happening, babies don’t eat.

This is a big problem, because babies are humans and humans need food in order to live. But it’s an especially big problem for our baby, because her father is Italian and for him, watching his child not eat is like he’s being physically stabbed all over his body. He actually clutched parts of himself — his stomach, his arms, great handfuls of hair — while beseeching her to eat.

At one point, he went outside to cry and vape and I had a talk with the baby.

“Listen,” I said. “You can’t do this to your father. He’s Italian. You have to eat or he will actually collapse.”

The baby farted.

Here, I’d like to say that it would really help if either she spoke English or we spoke Baboo. As it is, we’re having a lot of trouble communicating.

There’s good news, though: it turns out that if you have a nice pediatrician, it’s totally cool to call the office and ask them to call you back so that you can yell, “We’re in the parking lot of the Botanical Garden and the baby hasn’t eaten all day and we thought fresh air would help but she still won’t eat and now her cheeks are all pink from cold. And now we’re pretty sure our baby is starving and also has frostbite. What do we do?”

That was me, BTW. And I was the parent who was less upset. My husband was on the verge of disintegrating with anxiety in the backseat of the car, where he was clutching the baby to his chest.

The answer to my questions turned out to be: she doesn’t have frostbite, because it’s too warm out, just put some Vaseline on her cheeks, and give her Tylenol and feed her with a syringe if necessary. (But please, if your baby isn’t eating, call your own pediatrician and see what they say.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to feed my baby with a syringe and my husband with a highball glass.

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“Fuck this botanical garden fucking bullshit.”

A Bad Morning With the Mean Old Teeth

Baboo is passed out on my lap, with her head hanging over the armrest the way she prefers it.

She’s always been an upside down baby, and when she’s stressed or in pain, she’ll do everything in her power to arrange herself so that her head is hanging lower than her body.

Cause of stress today: the teeth, the teeth, the goddamn teeeeeth. I don’t mean to be impatient, but I swear to you that she has been teething for four-thousand years … without any actual teeth appearing. The calendar says two months, but what does it know.

I think this process takes so long and is so painful to all involved so that parents don’t weep when their little babies disappear. Two months ago, I would tear up at the idea of her sweet little gums being all hidden by teeth. Now I can’t wait for them to bust through so that she can stop suffering.

I’d also like to say that I think it’s mean that we basically can’t give kids anything for their teething pain now. The doc said Tylenol, sparingly.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Not everyday,” she said.

Unfortunately, Baboo is teething every day, which means that we’re spending a lot of time trying to distract her. We use frozen teething chew-toys and rub her gums and distract her with stories and toys and new things to look at. We walk her up and down and put her in the bath and take her for a walk outside or a ride in the car.

None of that changes the fact that she’s in terrible pain and there’s not much we can do to relieve it. Homeopathic treatments and numbing creams either don’t work or have harmful ingredients; Tylenol is to be used sparingly; no one will give us baby Percocet, which is what she really needs but apparently “doesn’t exist” and “would be illegal.”

I told my dad about all of this and he was incredulous.

“Are you trying to tell me that when I was a kid, I got paregoric and your mother got whiskey, but now you just give them cold stuff to chew on, like we’re cavemen?”

“Yup, that’s about the size of it.”

Modern medicine has discovered that modern medicine is dangerous, in this case. So we’re all suffering through.

Daily Schedule: 6 am – 10 pm: Survive

Every day that I’m home with Baboo, I do one thing.

It’s not the same thing. I don’t, like, have a secret to impart that will help you optimize your time with your baby. I’m just saying that when I look back on the day, I can get about one thing done in addition to the basic baby maintenance activities that are required.

Today I went to a moms’ group. Other days, I’ll vacuum or go grocery shopping. Still other days, I’ll wait until the baby falls asleep or becomes absorbed in something and steal a few minutes of work.

But I only ever get one thing done per day. A few times, I tried to do more than one thing, but I always wind up regretting it. So now I’ve solved all my parent problems by lowering my expectations.

OK, now add just one thing per day, because that’s all you get.

Election Night

A very brief update, because I am exhausted. I wrote this last night as the returns were winding down.

This was a rough night, but I’m starting to be able to feel my face again.

Also, my little baby is such a sweet girl. I was trying to be cool, but I think she figured me out. She kept petting my face. (I’m giving myself until tomorrow afternoon before I start worrying that having an anxious mother is ruining her.)

In short: I’m sad, but not surprised, about Beto and the Senate, hugely relieved about the House, and ready for sleep. Hold your loved ones close.

Pre-Electoral Tension Syndrome

My period-tracking app tells me that Aunt Flo is coming in two days, and that I might be experiencing PMS.

If I’m feeling anxious or tense, it says, I should try boosting my mood with “exercise, my favorite foods, or shopping!”

So, obviously, I threw it into the ocean and am now sitting here grimly sharpening my knives.

I don’t really want to talk about 2016, because I’ve been thinking about it for two years, but here on the morning of the midterm election, I am plenty anxious and tense. There is no champagne waiting in the fridge, no matter what happens. There will be no watch parties, just in case.

Instead, I sit here with my snoozing babe in my arms, teeth clenched as I watch the sun come up through the front windows. Think of a slightly plumper Furiosa, and you’ll have the right idea.

I cannot wait to go vote. I did everything in my power to help save this godforsaken country, some 40 percent of which is okay with a white supremacist misogynist tearing babies from their mothers’ arms. I hope we’ll save ourselves despite them.

But no matter what, I won’t rest. I used to be someone who didn’t really care that much about politics. I voted in most elections, the same way I recycled — because it’s the right thing to do. But I didn’t pay much attention beyond that.

These past two years, I’ve paid attention. I’ve read the papers and watched the news and called my reps and marched and donated and sent postcards to get out the vote. And I’m not going to stop, even if we win it all. I’m not going to stop if we lose.

I’m awake now, motherfucker. I’m awake and I cannot wait to go vote.

Time Management for the Work-From-Home Mom

I am thumb-typing this blog post with my left thumb while a baby sleeps on me. And that’s basically everything you need to know about time management from the perspective of working moms — especially the ones who work at home and have small babies.

The problem with balancing work and parenting is that it’s impossible, at least in a country that doesn’t subsidize childcare or offer maternity leave or meaningful financial help for families. Your choices are basically:

  • Someone, most often mom in hetero couples, stays home. You miss out on her earnings in the short-term and take a financial hit for years after when she returns to work and gets mommy-tracked.
  • Both parents work full-time. You pay for childcare, which will most likely cost more than either your rent/mortgage or a college education.
  • One or both parents goes part-time and you either pay for a bit of childcare or stagger shifts. You are poor and/or never see each other or spend time together as a family.

We chose the last one. We’re lucky, in that Adam works three 12-hour days a week and I’m a freelancer, so I have flexibility. We’re not lucky, in that making this work means that I’m often at my desk at midnight or (mom of the year here!) plunking my six-month-old down in front of Netflix so that I can squeeze in half an hour of work.

When I was pregnant and people asked about my childcare plan and I told them about our alternating schedule, everyone agreed that I was insane. However, childcare for an infant costs about $400 a week where we live and we just don’t have $1200 extra dollars a month.

Plus, it took me years to get this baby. I’m not bagging on childcare at all but I’d like to spend as much time as possible with her, now that I have her.

So, for the foreseeable future, we’re just going to be pretty tired.

I Cleaned My House This Week and That’s a Big Deal

If I had been as productive before I had a baby as I am now, I would have written five books by now. But for some reason, this level of multitasking requires a baby.

If you give me 15 minutes, I can clear a sink full of dishes, wash and sterilize six bottles, or empty my inbox. If you give me an hour, it turns out, I can clean my house.

This partly because I’m faster now that I feel the pressure of an impending diaper blowout or baby meltdown, and partly because my standards are lower. Like way, way lower.

A few weeks ago, Adam said to me, “I’m really enjoying how relaxed we’ve gotten about housekeeping stuff since the baby came.”

I whispered, “I feel like I’m dying.”

I’m considered a pretty relaxed housekeeper by family standards. But keep in mind that my dad has been known to stress-clean the shower with nostril-curdling amounts of bleach. In contrast, unlike my folks, I can go to sleep with a sink full of dirty dishes. But I never feel peaceful once I notice that piles of stuff are accumulating in the living room again.

And the piles accumulate. Mail on the table, shoes by the door, packages and shopping bags by the coat rack. It all builds up and builds up until I go insane and either clean it or report to Adam that my happiness is suspended until clutter goes away, and he starts tackling the piles.

This week, I attacked the situation myself and now I’m sitting here rocking the baby back to sleep after a night feeding and I feel like I might live. It makes things feel a lot more manageable, not seeing crap everywhere.

person wearing pair of yellow rubber gloves
Pictured: a person who is not me.

Your Baby Doesn’t Sleep, So Just Stop Lying About It

My baby is sleeping on me right now.

This is semi-against the rules, because we’re trying to get her used to sleeping in a crib so I can get more work done. But she’s teething and I hope to God one of these teeth break out soon, because we’ll all be in the funny farm by next week otherwise.

Baboo is actually a pretty good sleeper, as these things go. She generally goes to bed around 9 or 10, after only two or three hours of coaxing and cajoling, and sleeps until 5 or 6 am, with only one wakeup during the night.

This would be plenty of sleep, but I’m a freelancer, and I generally have about two hours of work to do after she goes to bed. So I don’t go to sleep until midnight, and am typically running on about four hours of broken sleep after my nights on.

Adam and I alternate, to spread the suffering. But while his job involves long hours and impossibly early wakeup times, it doesn’t require working late and then getting up at the crack.

So I am beat. It’s pretty bad, you guys. It’s at the point where I’m afraid to drive a car or operate heavy machinery. The other day, I swear to you that I fell asleep while I was pushing the baby carriage. Just blacked the fuck out for about a minute and a half and woke up a block later.

I told Adam that and he said, “OK, we have to make some changes. You can’t be that sleep-deprived all the time.”

“Sounds good,” I said. “Like what?”

We eventually settled on trying to get Baboo to sleep in her crib at naptime, which she’d prefer not to do, because it’s nicer to snooze on Mommy and Daddy. But then I started breaking the rules because I’m weak and her tooth hurts.

Meanwhile, several people have been kind enough to share with me that their little angel sleeps 15 hours a night, in a crib, uninterrupted, and takes naps at the snap of a finger.

Actually, I’m reasonably sure some of them claimed their baby was clicker-trained, like a particularly smart show dog. But again, I’m sleep-deprived, so take my memory for what it is: very shoddy and not to be trusted.