The slow-fast experience of parenting
How does time go slow and fast at the same time?
Being a parent is a slow/fast combination of experiences. It’s good for you, unhurried yet goes fast, and allows us to enjoy simple pleasures yet also somehow can make us feel like we’re missing out. It’s a bit of a quandary.
The last weeks of pregnancy feel like the slowest. And somehow the fastest too. Unless you have a scheduled delivery, you’re aware of every nuance of your body, on high alert for signs of labor. You are literally off balance both physically and emotionally, tired, sleep deprived because it’s so dang hard to get comfortable, your mind is racing, rehearsing the list of what to do when labor starts. The days are long, the nights are longer and time is slows to a crawl. And then it happens. Even a long, long labor in hindsight seems fast. It’s a blip on the radar of the first year. At least that was my experience.
Actually I think it’s pretty good preparation for the first months of your child’s life, when there’s a convoluted feeling of everything going slow and fast at the same time. Minutes feel like hours as you feed, patiently wait for your baby to eat (taking mini naps the whole time), get a burp up, change the diaper and breathe for what feels like moments until she’s awake and hungry again. Then you turn around and 6 weeks have gone by. Then 3 months. Then a year. Your baby is growing and changing before your very eyes.
On a more macro level, the slow/fast passing of time from infancy to adolescence to empty nest is experienced by every parent.
In a world that moves fast, slowing down can require a bit of a mindset switch. As does the whole process of becoming a parent.
Here are a few thoughts about making this shift in thinking…
Understand that it takes time.
Before you’re a parent you’re pretty much in control of your life, all those details like when you’ll sleep, eat, shop, go out. After you’re a parent, well, someone else’s in charge. It’s a good thing that someone is so beautiful and captivating!
It takes a little while, but with some practice you’ll figure out how to get some balance back, how to adjust your schedule to reflect the new demands and how to let go of the control.
Be present with yourself.
Staying present in your own thoughts and feelings allows you to be open to those of your child. What does this look like? One way is to take note of emotional triggers. Does your baby’s cry make you feel a certain way – anxious, impatient or panicked? Notice those feelings, give yourself permission to feel them and then direct your thinking to your child’s needs.
You are in charge of yourself and your response to your baby. In a moment of clarity, give yourself the words to say to yourself in the heat of emotion. It might go something like this: “She is screaming and I want to scream too. I am irritable and tired. Now take a breath. Babies cry to communicate a need. What does she need? When the need is met, she’ll stop crying and it’ll be better for both of us.”
Your baby is going to give you many opportunities to grow. She’ll challenge you to examine your own issues. There’s nothing like having a baby to bring out selfishness that you were clueless about! You can embrace the opportunity to learn these things about yourself with dread, as an unpleasant chore. Or have an attitude of willingness to learn, to approach the challenges of disrupted routines, illness, tantrums, every minute of the day consumed, no time to yourself with empathy, creativity, self-care and discovery. You will be surprised at the things you can do to manage life with a new baby. Two minutes to catch a quick shower? No problem!
Enjoying your child and sharing in the wonder of watching them wake up to the world around them is crucial for your baby’s positive sense of self. She NEEDS you to be present, to respond to her gestures and coos, to smile and sing and laugh and play.
Smile even when you don’t feel like smiling. Sing even when you’re tired. Play even when you’re bored. Emotions will usually follow your actions.
Not feeling so joyful? Take the time to address your feelings and use whatever resources necessary to figure it out. Seek a trusted friend, mentor, counselor or ask your doctor for referrals. Sometimes these sinking feelings cycle through on their own, sometimes it takes intervention. Please remember that you deserve joy. And you know who’s better off when her parents are happy…
So in conclusion, I encourage you to take it slow. Give yourself permission to choose quality over quantity, real and meaningful connections, be present and in the moment. Give your baby plenty of time to explore the world on their own terms, giving space to make it to the next milestone on their own timetable.
Because the fast pace of life is happening concurrently.
You are exactly the parent your child needs! You were created for each other. Enjoy that sweet baby and let us hear from you!
Need some ideas for playing with your baby? Check out Davis and Hall’s book 1001 Fun Ways to Play.
Wondering how to help your crying baby? Check out our post on the reasons newborn babies cry!