We’re two weeks into our “new” family dynamic now. One of the major things that you have to do is find a “new normal” with this new family member!
All babies are different, and they don’t just fit into your routine as it is. The family dynamic changes — must change — with the addition of a new person. The family is a compilation of all the people in it, so things change when a new member joins, no matter how small.
I didn’t understand this when I was expecting my second. We had a good routine going — a pretty good daily routine, and our special Friday nights. My husband would go out to a board game club, I’d spend a few hours playing with my daughter (then about 17 months), put her to bed, and enjoy a couple more hours to myself. I assumed this sort of thing would continue after my (first) son was born. Nope! We’re two years in and our routine doesn’t resemble anything like it did before his birth…my husband doesn’t even go to his board game club at all now.
Things Must Change
Your new baby may be tiny, but s/he is a brand new person with his/her own needs and demands. Some babies are needier than others, of course. My second baby was extremely demanding as an infant. He wanted to be held, he had issues with dairy (so he didn’t feel well until that cleared my system), he woke up a ton at night and never went to bed until after midnight…. It was almost impossible to get anything done or have any time alone until he was well past a year old.
That isn’t true this time. My new son is very flexible, very chill, already has something of a routine (which is similar to our existing one, not because I guided him that way, just because that’s how he’s naturally doing things), and it’s been an easy change. Minor changes, really, since he is so flexible.
Whether you get a demanding baby or an easy baby though, things will still change. I still have to make sure that I’m getting stuff done (chores and time with the older kids) while Jacob is sleeping. I have to keep my wrap around to wear Jacob in case he’s awake when I have to do something (like make lunch), because although he’ll sit in a bouncer for awhile, he’ll eventually get bored or the big kids will be too rough with him. (Earlier one of my kids smacked the toys on the bouncer and ended up hitting him in the face. They love him a little too much sometimes….)
Plus, you’re simply juggling another person. If you want to go anywhere (I’ve actually taken all three kids out by myself several times now), you have an extra person to get dressed and strapped into the car. You have to find a new way to keep everyone under control and safe in a parking lot. There are lots of little details to work out!
Spend your days snuggling and getting to know your newborn as much as possible. After a few days or weeks, some pattern will emerge in your new baby’s routine. Some remain “unsettled” longer (my first wasn’t anything resembling ‘routinized’ until she was about three weeks old), but eventually you’ll notice general times the baby wants to sleep, be awake, eat, etc.
Once you have baby’s general routine in mind, guide the baby towards a loose schedule that works for your home. My kids are generally up around 7 or 8, but Jacob likes to sleep until 9. Once I’m on my own, I could use that first hour or so to get them breakfast and spend time with them, before I have to get Jacob and feed him. He still sleeps quite a lot, but he does seem to take a long nap in the afternoon around the same time the other kids do. I like this, because it means I can sleep a bit too if I want!
It takes time to figure out how it will work, and things may need juggled as time goes on. Perhaps you need time to homeschool your older kids, so you’ll either have to do it during a nap, or while entertaining the baby nearby. But it’s something to think about. And it doesn’t happen in a day or a week, necessarily. But it will come.
Keep Things As Normal As Possible
When it’s your first baby, everything will change, no matter what. And you really can’t keep things very “normal” because before you weren’t parents…and now you are. I found this very disconcerting when my daughter was born. A few nights I stayed up when she was asleep to just sit and talk to my husband alone for awhile. It helped me feel more normal, while everything around me was changing.
Once you have kids, though, you have to consider the older ones as well as the new baby. Try to keep their routine the same as much as you can. Stick to the same nap times and bedtimes and meal times, if possible. If they have any set activities that they do (like a regular playgroup or a dance class), make sure that they can keep doing these things, even if someone else has to take them for awhile. They’ll feel better if you can keep things normal for them, and they’ll act out less.
My kids have been pretty good on days where we keep things normal — and not so good on days when their routine gets disrupted!
No Major Changes…UNLESS….
Pretty much everyone will tell you that you shouldn’t make any major changes in your older child(ren)’s routine when you have a brand new baby, because that’s change enough. That means not starting any new activities, not moving to a new bed, not potty training, and so on.
That’s generally good advice, but as always, you have to follow your child’s lead. Sometimes starting a new activity can be a good thing — we’re starting AWANA now at church, and the kids couldn’t be more excited.
And, Daniel’s just about potty trained himself. I’ve known he was ready for awhile, but didn’t want to train him just before baby came, only to have him regress. But on Tuesday he just started taking his diaper off, saying “Potty” and then going. By Thursday, he was naked all day and had only a couple accidents. It’s not exactly the ideal time to potty train him, but he simply decided he was ready and we needed to go with it.
Life does just keep going. We’ve had some stressful times — Ben has bad poison ivy, that nothing’s really helping, and we even broke down and went to Urgent Care one morning — but life doesn’t stop. It slows down some, because we all need extra rest and time to snuggle, but we’ve gotta keep going, too.
All in all, new normal takes time to emerge, but it does come.
How do you find your new normal after a new baby arrives?