It never occurred to me that you can do other things while holding a baby until my mom came to help me after the birth of our first son. I watched her shushing him while she baked cookies and sewed nursery curtains, and even tried to paint my dining room table with her remaining free hand. I put my foot down about the table, but I admired her spirit and have never forgotten the example she set.
I was not very brave with that baby. I was terrified much of the time, having never spent time with babies, and also with a husband working overseas for weeks at a time. As a result, I clung religiously to our routine and to the sleep training process, so that I could count on predictable breaks in those long days. We did not venture out much.
We were relatively isolated at that time, living far away from many of our friends and from all of our family, so I didn't realize how extreme my reaction was until I came up for air in later months. I had other friends with children in tow and they seemed to do lots of things with them. Sometimes it was because they had no choice but to bring them along, and sometimes they did it because they felt too confined if they let having children stop them from doing their preferred activities.
I appreciated the predictability of our household routine, and it worked for us, but I had the vague sense that I was missing something. I promised myself if we had another baby that I would get both of us out of the house and moving around more. That, at the very least, I would not be so afraid.
I'm pretty sure that I have succeeded at that, having recently completed the sale of a home, and a move into a new home, all during our second son's first few months of life. He has enjoyed a meal at my breast in local coffee shops, at the inspection of our new home, at the closing of our old home, and even while movers loaded and unloaded our belongings. He has been on two road trips and he continues to keep me company during various appointments and unpacking sessions.
One recent morning, when he suddenly deviated from his mostly predictable morning sleep schedule, and caused me to rearrange my morning plan even before I had ingested any coffee, it occurred to me how much life with small children resembles life with a hangover.
When you first wake up, everything feels impossible, even small matters like brushing your teeth or getting dressed. As the day progresses, you become accustomed to your limited radius, but those first moments are rough.
The physical limitations are taxing, and very real. Moving around, either within the house, or to leave the house, involves extra effort and strategic planning. Energy must be reserved for the most strenuous tasks and corners must be cut elsewhere.
Simple foods are surprisingly satisfying. Fussy foods with adventurous flavors are generally unsuccessful. Macaroni and cheese becomes critical.
You feel emboldened and virtuous when you accomplish everyday tasks while the children are awake, and you feel the same way when you are productive in spite of a hangover. Also, You can get more done than you think you can while dealing with both. Organizing a closet, cleaning the kitchen, or even cooking dinner all count as victories when hung over or when tripping over a toddler. Bonus points for painting a bedroom while holding a baby.
Everything is improved by a nap or a good night of sleep. Unfortunately sleep is elusive and sometimes even unattainable, in spite of desperate need by all parties.
And finally, in either situation, you may experience poor recall of recent events. Ultimately, this condition contributes to your urge to repeat the events which led to babies or hangovers in the first place. It's a vicious cycle, and you are deep in it, so you may as well try to get something done while you're there.