Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Seconds

A good second...Maldives, 2007
I'm a big fan of Tracy Moore's Jezebel column, Motherload, so I don't know how I missed this piece last week: "For How Many Seconds, Exactly, Can You Leave Your Baby Alone?"

Moore describes an e-mail about motherhood she received from a friend while she was pregnant. The new mother described, essentially, not having a second to herself to so much as shower (without her husband watching the baby.)

Initially scoffing at the idea of not being able to shower, Moore and her husband sat around expressing their disbelief: "It's not, like EVERY SECOND. I mean, like, it IS, right? But you know, you can still like, DO STUFF for, like, a SECOND, right?"

Fast forward several years from that day, and Moore now writes: "I can say with unassailable authority that many inexperienced parents (ahem, me) find they are probably not really prepared for exactly how many seconds of their time a baby takes up in the first few years of its life. The answer is all of them. It takes up all of the seconds."

All of the seconds.

I am not going to fall into the trap of saying this can't possibly be the case.

A dustup ensued in the comments on Moore's piece when one woman dared to ask if it wasn't possible to shower while the baby was in a playpen. "Dude, remember the '80's. When a lot of us grew up? I was the oldest of five children, and from what I recall my parents had WAY more seconds to themselves [than parents say they have now,]" she wrote.

She was immediately pronounced naive. So...not going that route.

But this isn't the first time Moore has touched on this subject in a way that leaves me a little perplexed. In another recent essay, she describes how she can't go to the bathroom without her toddler daughter insisting on sitting on her lap. On the toilet.

Really? The toddler can't wait outside the door for the 30 seconds it might take?

So instead of getting philosophical, I am getting practical...I ask the mothers out there a few logistical questions. Help!!!

1) Don't kids nap?

2) Why can't you leave the baby in a crib/playpen/bouncy thing and shower? Why is it that new mothers seem unable to shower? Is this for real? What's the shower thing all about? I mean, aside from the general exhaustion and the fact that you may feel uneasy showering with a baby screeching in another room?

3) A Brooklyn friend once told me that she wouldn't sit on her stoop (one flight down from her apartment) with a baby monitor and a glass of wine, even if the baby was asleep. She didn't feel comfortable doing so, and that's fine. But I ask (forget the wine): how is this different from being on another floor of a house with the monitor? Can't I sit on the stoop? Or am I some kind of CPS nightmare in the making?

4) Is some of this "no seconds" conversation down to the fact that moms are now more confessional, sometimes to the point of hyperbole? Can a baby really not amuse himself in a bouncy chair or on the floor for 10 minutes while you send some emails?

I hope you will shed some light on the above for me (without giving me nightmares.)


  1. HI ! I found your blog off of ESB. I'm glad I did because I, too, am a Brooklyn mama, and I love having like-minded moms to keep track of.

    Anywho, I think this is crazytalk ... but that's just me. Every mother and baby is different. Our daughter takes 2 - 3 naps a day (for now, LOL), and during that time I get plenty done. Furthermore, I feel completely comfortable sticking Little Critter in a swing/seat/crib if there's something I need to get done while she's up and I can't do it while wearing her. I also don't mind taking the dog out for a leak if the baby is sound asleep ... what's the point of waking a blissfully sleeping child so I can drag her along on a 1 - 3 minute walk to the curb ? Especially considering it would take at least 15 minutes to shush her (she hates being startled awake) and bundle her up for the cold.

    Only when your little one arrives will you know what kind of mom you will be. Congratulations on your pregnancy -- may it be healthy and restful.

    1. Thanks for the reassurances.

      It does seem semi-hysterical to say you can't put your kid down for a second. I was reading another thread on Babble about attachment parenting (not sure how I feel about that one yet) and a woman had been advised by her midwife that if she left her baby with a family member to go out to dinner with her husband before the baby was 3 months old, the child would have abandonment issues. For life.

      I think all of this is a little excessive. If you're a good, caring mother with decent common sense, surely that's enough, right? Total self-sacrifice doesn't seem like it would be good for anyone, baby included.

  2. It really is hard to know exactly how you will be until the baby arrives. There are lots of things we said we would never do that we immediately found ourselves doing. And there are lots of very polarizing issues: breastfeeding, attachment, co-sleeping, sleep training, pacifiers...the list goes on and on and you can find strongly worded opinions from both sides all over the internet. Having said all that, there were definitely seconds where we could get things done. Rory spent a lot of time wrapped up in a pouch from 1-4 months. She was not a great napper then, but I could bounce her on the exercise ball while sending emails or checking facebook. She did not start napping well until I went back to work, but then it was a glorious 3 45 minute to hour long naps a day and a pretty solid 12 hours at night. That's a lot of seconds! We had a swing and a bouncy chair that we would stick her in if we needed to prepare a meal, go to the bathroom, etc., but she would only stay happy for 10 minutes max. If only one of us was home, we would bring the bouncy chair into the bathroom and she would happily watch us perform in the shower.

  3. 1) Yes, babies nap. Mine does. Well, now that she's almost 3 she sometimes just sits in bed and reads- but I still get 1-1.5 hrs to myself. Priceless. (However, we traded a good sleeper for a picky eater- pb&j for every meal these days) I am a firm believer in sleep training (a little light on the veggie training)

    2) The day I figured out that I could put her in a bouncy thing in the bathroom while I showered was golden. I have to admit that I did not think it was possible to shower without someone else to watch her- I blame the hormones for making me crazy. They will make you crazy. But she was fine. I talked to her and sang to her. And now I sometimes lock my toddler out of the bathroom while I go. (Damn the day she learned to use the door knob!) I'm a horrible mother, I know. I also now know why my mother spent so much time in the bathroom when I was a kid....

    3) Sit on the stoop. Those baby monitors have a good range these days.

    4) It's very healthy to train your child to play by him/herself. And nothing wrong with propping him/her up on a boppy while you check email- especially since when s/he's older, s/he'll be interested in what you do on the laptop and try to "help."

    But make sure you do do something for yourself in those seconds when the baby is sleeping, content-- there is laundry to do and food to cook, but you also need to be good to yourself. :)

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