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I'm a working dad of a 3 m/o boy. My wife is on a leave and she will be a 'full time mom' for several more months. The newborn changed our lives to an extent that we don't have free time, at all (yeah, that must be a news for all of you in 'already parents' category, right?). Our baby boy needs/wants constant care and physical contact, even while sleeping (otherwise he'll wake up screaming, demanding another round of 'rocking'). When I get back from work I start taking care of him while my wife starts doing chores. Most of the time we have to take shifts to eat or go to the bathroom. At the point I managed to put him to sleep, my wife is already sleeping, I'm near the melt down point and have no more energies to do anything else. If I have some fuel left in me, well, than I have to do my part of chores.

To sum it up, at the end of the day, we feel exausted, miserable and grumpy. In our previous life we had a lot of free time for our hobbies/passions and it's so hard not to 'blame' the kid for it.

Notes:

  • Grandparents or a nanny are not a viable option.
  • I said 'blame' just to express the feeling of weariness, we wanted to have a baby and we're doing our best to take care of its needs and putting all our love and energy into it.
  • The baby is healthy, it just doesn't sleep more than 12h/day (and at night sleeps max 3h before waking up to get breastfed)

Can you suggest some ways to carve out some free time for ourselves during the day (I'm not looking for a full day solution - sure, I can take a day off but it's not a 'long term' solution)?

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    Obligitory Darius Rucker link: It won't be like this for long – T.E.D. Jun 30 '18 at 19:08
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    Just to back up what some of the answers say: take it from another father, the three-month point is almost certainly the absolute hardest time. You've been sleep-deprived for months (you may not have even been sleeping that well in the weeks before the baby was born) and it still feels like it's not getting any better. But babies develop in spurts and it really won't be long before the baby is sleeping much longer shifts at night. – Daniel Jul 2 '18 at 13:54
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    One thing to remember... your child isn't going to suffer any harm (mental or physical) if you put them down and take 5-10 minutes to gather yourself while they scream in a crib or safe place. You may even want to try this to help them to learn "self soothing" something that yours may be a little young for, but can start down that path to make it easier later. – Ron Beyer Jul 2 '18 at 20:30
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Welcome in the world of exhausted parents! The most important thing first: The great news is while right now you can't really see it, it will get better. What you're going through right now won't last.

Can you suggest some ways to carv out some free time for ourselves during the day

  1. Take turns: You'll have to live with the change the baby brings to your routine. Your activities as a couple will become significantly less frequent (I was about to write "nonexistent" but that might be overdoing it). But that doesn't mean each of you can't take some time off every other day. For example, give each other a free evening once or twice a week. Go drink a beer with a friend, get some more sleep, go running, do something for yourself with that time (maybe just an hour).

  2. Stop sweating the small stuff: Lots of things aren't all that important right now. For example, if the garden grows over because nobody mows it, or if dust collects because you only vacuum half as much as before, or if dirty dishes collect for a day or two before you wash them, it doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things. So drop doing things that aren't absolutely necessary (and I don't mean just household work -- maybe step back your work schedule too if that's possible). It won't be for long -- you can pick up speed again in six months or in a year.

  3. Try introducing feeding your baby with a bottle if you don't already. It might not work, or not reliably, but once it does, feeding becomes independent from having mom present. Also, sometimes formula will satisfy the baby for a bit longer than mother's milk.

  4. Simplify taking care of your baby: With our first baby, we tried to do everything exactly right. We measured the temperature of the bottle with a thermometer. We checked and rechecked and discussed everything we did because we weren't sure it was the right thing to do. Turns out they don't die if you get a few things wrong, as long as you get the important stuff right (never ever shake them in a fit of anger, for example, but don't worry if baby prefers to sleep on it's back, or it's stomach, or in whatever position -- there's no need to put it back in the "right" position every ten minutes, etc). All this fussing took an incessant amount of time. Then our twins came along, and we no longer had the luxury of spending all this time worrying about whether we did things the "right" way. Guess what: They all turned out fine.

But in the end, there is no way around the fact that babies take an incredible amount of time, and some even more than others (our first one was a screamer - he did little besides screaming in his waking hours for the first seven months, took forever to fall asleep and never slept more than two hours at a time). So I'm back to my first sentence: It won't last. You only have to survive a few months, and things will get much easier. In the meantime, you'll grow as a person. At the end of it, you'll pity all the people who never had a baby and still don't understand what it means to be responsible for another human being.

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    Tagging onto this to say that as the mother of a 4 month old, you're going to see a HUGE leap in terms of the baby's growth and ability to play and be independent in the next month. Our daughter is just getting to be fun, and we're finding ways to unwind with her. For example, a nightly walk together is part of her bedtime routine, so we get some exercise, get out of the house, and can talk about non baby things as she's too busy looking at the world going by. – Marisa Jun 29 '18 at 13:15
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    Also consider hiring a biweekly cleaning service to help keep things in check around the house; we got one before I gave birth, and it took a huge load of stress and time off my back. – Marisa Jun 29 '18 at 13:15
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    Especially points 3 and 4 -- I don't think point 1 is feasible for many parents. As @Marisa said, outsource what you can (afford): primarily cleaning, but also groceries and laundry if possible (depends on your location I guess). – KlaymenDK Jun 29 '18 at 14:21
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    @KlaymenDK: Regarding point 1, I thought so too when we had our first child. Then came the twins when our oldest was not quite 2 yet, and the miracle happened and we had time to take care of all 3 of them. Then number 4 came along a few years later and again, enough time to keep them all alive. For me, that means that Parkinson's law also applies to babies: The work you have with a baby expands to fill all available time. So try to consciously reserve a free hour now and then. – Pascal Jun 29 '18 at 14:29
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    As SIDS was discussed: We also tried hard to get our first to sleep on his back, which he thoroughly and vehemently disliked. In our sleep-deprived state, we didn’t realize that if both parents prefer to sleep on their tummy, there might be a hereditary preference... We ultimately decided to minimize the risk by eliminating all other risk factors and thus lower the total risk to a (for us) acceptable level. Was the same for no. 2 - we tried it, failed and gave up (sooner this time). Raising a baby also means to learn what your individual child needs. – Stephie Jul 1 '18 at 7:29
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As a parent of 3 kids, now ranging from 12 to nearly 18, I can tell you - you will not get time for your hobbies/passions for some years!

Family, friends or babysitters are essential if you want to make time for each other/yourselves, but even those will really only help you relax in the first couple of years.

Getting a good chunk of time requires your children to be old enough that they can go to sleepovers, weekend camps, stay with their grandparents for the weekend etc.

Or... take up some different hobbies in the interim, that you can do whilst holding a sleeping child, for example, or that the child can be part of. Like painting, macrame, etc.

You will get time back eventually, but for now - your baby is fully dependent on you, so you don't have that freedom.

  • I hope we'll get some free time back, at least to stay in front of a PC/Kindle/tablet, I'm not talking about outdoor activities - couldn't hope for that much :) – ThinkTank Jun 29 '18 at 14:37
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    You'll get that easily. I worked on my laptop with a 6 month old tucked in the crook of my arm. One handed typing is slow but easy. – Rory Alsop Jun 29 '18 at 16:44
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    @RoryAlsop: Sounds very familiar to me. I still do that years later with my youngest daughter sometimes. She likes just being close and often falls asleep on my lap on lazy days. – Pascal Jun 29 '18 at 17:59
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I'm also in the thick of it right now (6 week old) and there are some strategies my husband and I use that really help that I haven't seen mentioned:

Do stuff while breastfeeding

I spend a HUGE amount of time feeding. So I have a breastfeeding setup with cushions, etc, that help me to feed with hands free, or at least with one hand free. I have a boppy pillow which helps a lot. (I sewed my own with a free pattern online). During this time I read, watch movies/TV, play PC games and listen to podcasts. All of the "free time" stuff that can be done sitting with one hand I save for my feeding time. This is also super useful if your baby is inconsolable and wants to use you as a pacifier. I can leave her at my breast for half an hour and not feel the time go by.

Cook in advance

Any stuff I make, I make double. Instead of making dinner for tonight, I make dinner for 2+ nights. It's a bit boring but it means I don't have to spend as much time cooking and washing up afterwards. Also, crockpot recipes are amazing.

Babywear

I have a baby wrap that's just a long stretchy piece of fabric I use to carry our daughter. It takes a bit of practice to get right but she loves it and easily falls asleep in it and I can get a bit more done. I usually wear her while sorting laundry and tidying up a bit. I don't really cook in it or wash dishes though.

One day a week, don't do chores

I have found that if I try to get most stuff done on the other days, and cook in advance, I can fit in one day a week of 'me time' in the evening when I do stuff for me that I can't do while feeding her.

Do stuff together

I know that it feels like you have NO TIME but my husband and I try to watch a TV show together for half an hour in the evening while I'm feeding her. It is a team activity and helps us to feel a bit more sane. We also try to walk (my husband carries our daughter in the wrap) and that helps her sleep and we get to talk. We don't get to do it very often (once a week on a Sunday usually).

Check that you're not keeping your baby up too long

A 3 month old shouldn't be awake for longer than 2 hours between naps. If he's up for longer than that he'll be cranky and overtired. With my daughter I watch my cues for tired (rubbing eyes, yawning) and get her sleeping as soon as possible after that.

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I agreed with Rory, family and friends are essential if you can't afford a babysitter. The only time me and my wife sleep fully is when her mother takes care of our baby and we go to another room to sleep.

But we do a few more things at home when we are alone:

Shortcuts to my wife when I am working: We make food for all the week in one time, and put that in the refrigerator, this way she has lunch for the whole week only by using the microwave.

My baby is on formula, so I fill all the bottles with water and buy a recipient that has compartments wherein I can fill the formula already measured, so it's fast.

She can also buy a sling or baby-carrier, if the baby is awake, she carries him around the house to make something, that will unload both of you later.

When I come from work: We finish all the baby and our final routines, we do bathe him, we eat dinner, brush our teeth, so when the night comes, as soon as he falls asleep, we go rushing to our bed.

We try our best to make a big routine after I come from work, we believe this helps him falling asleep.

And about the house, we change to a very organized home, form something like, we do what we can, if we can, our focus is the baby and us at this stage of our lives.

  • +1 for "when the night comes, as soon as he falls asleep, we go rushing to our bed". We did the same, especially me (the mom) as I was also breastfeeding in the night. I took full advantage of the 8pm to 11pm (sometimes 1am) sleep, it helped tremendously. – iulia Jun 29 '18 at 14:22
  • We have a sling suitable for him and we use it sometimes but he rarely wants to stay in it. As for the 'go to sleep as soon as he does', I'm personally not used to go to bed before midnight - when I tried it I ended up staring in the dark, tired and awake. – ThinkTank Jun 29 '18 at 14:43
  • @ThinkTank - that just means you're nowhere near tired enough yet :-) But it's actually an advantage: It means your wife can get some sleep until midnight. That's how we dealt with our first one: She went to bed at 8 pm and I looked after him until 2 am, and she took over while I went to sleep where I couldn't hear any crying or screaming. – Pascal Jun 29 '18 at 14:48
  • @Pascal The only catch with this is that with the breastfeeding he wakes up every 3 hours. With the bottle the things got way better (he slept even 5h straight) but than the day after he was clogged up and couldn't poo for days (with mom's milk he did it even few times a day). – ThinkTank Jun 29 '18 at 14:56
  • @Pascal Hehe, you might be right :) Actually, I'm more worried about my wife's sleep, I got used to 4-5h of total sleep/day. – ThinkTank Jun 29 '18 at 15:02
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Just to add to the existing answers: consider getting a baby sling.

A good baby sling will free both of your hands when the baby is awake and able to hold its head (which should come soon if yours doesn't already). So instead of needing to cater to the baby and then doing stuff, you end up being able to do both at the same time with the baby happily watching what you're up to. That frees up lots of time.

As a bonus, keep in mind that kids learn to participate at doing stuff in the house as toddlers. If you're not actively showing and making them participate in household chores from the get go, you're setting yourself up to have a kid that will only participate in chores if asked.

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One thing that nobody else has mentioned yet that worked great for me is to get a baby swing. I found that I could put my baby in here and it would rock him to sleep and keep him asleep almost as well as I could, meaning I actually had a bit of down time.

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