New parents often talk about days flying by at an alarming rate when looking after a newborn baby.
We all have days when we look at the clock and can’t believe it’s 4pm and we’re still in our PJs.
But what about the days that drag? Yes when you’re juggling visitors, cleaning, appointments and cooking it seems impossible to fit everything in.
Then the initial newborn buzz calms down and you’re kind of beginning to get a sense for what having a baby is all about, what happens next?
Of course there are the obvious things that need doing, like feeding and sleeping.The first six weeks are filled with thinking about and working towards getting these things “right”.
But once you have had a chance to draw breath and realise there are actually gaps in the day, what on earth do you do with them?
The baby just lies there, staring, then crying, then staring again. They’re too young to really play with toys. You can stick something in their hand for 10 seconds before they drop it but they don’t immediately start doing entertaining tricks with their rattle.
I remember getting the baby bouncer out for my little one and sitting her in it. I would tap the toys hanging in front of her to make them rattle or jingle. She would stare for a second and then look at something else, flapping her chubby little arms about occasionally.
Of course it is adorable, but get to day 30 of doing that activity and you’re likely to be, dare I say it, a little bit bored.
I don’t think we should feel guilty for admitting this. Newborns will not be winning the prize for the greatest showman – they just don’t do that much.
By the time you’ve tried a bit of tummy time (which probably ended in crying after 30 seconds), waved a few toys in their face and walked them around the kitchen showing them all the utensils, you’re probably out of ideas.
You can’t, and probably don’t want to, spend all day out at baby groups or meeting people for coffee. There’s only so many hours you can waste in Costa.
So all of this leads to question, is it acceptable to just (whispers) let them get on with it and ignore them?
The answer is yes, yes it absolutely is.
Engage with them, play with them. But you don’t have to fill their awake time all day every day with play and educational activities. It is totally acceptable to put them on their play mat to have a kick around while you sit back and watch Netflix.
The truth is that if you give your brain and body a little time to rest throughout the day, you will be a better and more enthusiastic parent for it.
I remember feeling guilty if I wasn’t by my firstborn’s side every second trying to fill her awake time with fun stuff. If only I had just relaxed a bit and let her entertain herself every now and then I think I would have been able to enjoy that phase of maternity leave a little more.
It felt wrong to ignore her, like it wasn’t what a “good” mother would do. But no one can be “on” 24/7.
Now that my kids are older, I still leave them to it when we’re at home for spells of time. This encourages them to use their imagination.
They create games between them, have little conversations with themselves, make up their own little worlds and just use their imaginations.
Leaving your baby to themselves does not make you a negligent parent. In fact you’re nurturing a skill and a part of themselves that’s so important, the part that’s OK to be on their own, in their own head, for a little while.
If your baby is crying, of course comfort them. But if they’re happy to kick and squeal on the floor for a bit, let them get on with it.
So if you are bored, a bit fed up and wondering whether it’s OK to switch on the telly for a couple of hours, I hereby give you permission to do so. No guilt required!
PS I have got a list of ideas for what to do with a newborn baby here if you’re looking for ideas!
You could also check out my list of 40 baby hacks.