Q. "My baby is due shortly and all of a sudden I realize that there is no turning back, even if I wanted to. And sometimes I do. On the one hand I can't wait for the baby, but on the other I'm beginning to realize how many problems a baby can bring.
"To be frank, I'm not much of a housekeeper -- it's not a job I enjoy and neither does my husband. We just like things reasonably tidy but we don't like to spend a lot of time worrying about it.
"My friends seem to be about as casual as we are, but once they have babies they fall into two categries -- those who have so much to do they never seem to get out of the house, and those who always visit in the park and have time to stroll about. How is it that some women have this freedom and others don't?
"I plan to stay home for at least two years, but if I thought I'd have to spend my time cleaning house, I'd go back to work the day after the baby arrived."
A. Will you be spending more time taking care of the house? My goodness, yes. Even though your standards will drop from "reasonably tidy" to not too awful," you still have to work harder in the house than you ever have before, for a baby creates a lot of debris and a lot of laundry. Just picking up toys can be a big hassle.
While housework will take longer, it needn't take all your time. In fact, we think it should take as little as possible.
It's a matter of priorities.
Since you'll be staying home to take care of your baby, it should be the baby who is answered before the laundry timer. And if you have to make a choice -- and you usually do -- it's much better to spend time singing "Tea for Two" to your baby than scrubbing the bathtub. Bathtubs won't grow up and leave home.
When you take a walk so leisurely there is time to admire a neighbor's garden, watch a butterfly and listen for birds, you child will revel in these sensual joys. They may be minor moments to a parent, but they are miracles to the baby who has never smelled a rose.
The more you open a child's world, the more he will learn. He would, of course, still learn if you let him play around on the floor while you cleaned house, but when you work slowly enough to invite his curiosity he is going to learn a lot faster.
A child thinks people -- especially parents -- are the most thrilling toys in the world. Anything they do or say is more exciting, or soothing or fascinating than anything else. This is true if the baby is only a day old. The enrichment he gets from people is the food of his mind and his psyche.
NIMH has just published a slim pamphlet which explains how important this is and we recommend it. Stimulating Baby Senses is available free from the Consumer Information Center in Pueblo, Colo. 81009.
For a step-by-step plan on how to help a child grow, there is a new and excellent book called "Growing Wisdom, Growing Wonder," by Elizabeth Gregg and Judith Knotts (MacMillan, $13.50). Except for turning Jean Piaget into a Frenchman, the information is well-founded and you will find out that growing a baby can be as interesting for you as it is for your child.
And when you stroll around the neighborhood, you can feel virtuous. The baby not only isn't rubbing Zwieback on the baseboards, but you have a good solid reason to ignore the baseboards he's already rubbed.