Q. Our 2-month-old son is the delight of my life, but he was a "happy accident." Now I'm afraid that life isn't as child-friendly as I had hoped it would be before we started a family.
I telecommute from home for a full-time office job, run my own fitness franchise and do a significant portion of the household chores while watching our son, but I am spinning many plates and feel a bit frazzled.
Since my husband is in school, I am our sole financial support, so I can't quit my job or afford full-time day care.
I could sell my franchise but I've always hoped it would grow big enough to become my main job. Also, it would be emotionally hard to give it up but I'm willing to do that if it would be better for us as a family.
At this point my son seems very happy with the babysitters who come in several mornings a week to play with him while I work, and he spends the rest of the time in his play yard or his swing, which he loves. I set a timer to be sure he's not in the swing too long without some interaction with me, and when it rings, we take a break for some music and dancing around the room or for a brief walk around the yard.
I also nurse on demand so he gets some cuddle time with me while he eats.
In the evenings he "helps his dad do homework," often in his swing or play yard, while I teach my fitness classes.
Our son is happy, healthy and thriving -- which makes us think we're doing the right thing -- but I feel like he's getting shortchanged since I don't have time to take my son to classes and play groups like other mothers do.
Is it wrong to have him fit into our schedule rather than build our lives around him? Is he going to be okay? Should we make changes?
A. Keep listening to your instincts and your little boy will be just fine, but don't expect him to like the same activities six months from now. Parents have to make adjustments continually because children change all the time.
Don't feel that the family must revolve around your son, however, or that his interests always come first. You and your husband are in charge and you must make the decisions that seem right for your family.
Although many parents prefer a child-centered home these days, their children are often overwhelmed by too many choices and too much responsibility and this can make them quite hard to handle.
You also shouldn't offer any activity to your child if it costs you more than you can afford, in either money or time. There is no need to take your baby to swimming classes before he can walk, to gymnastics while he's still toddling or to art classes as soon as he can hold a paint brush, and he won't suffer if he has to wait for years for this enrichment. Although your son needs plenty of stimulation, particularly in his first few years, he mostly needs attention, affection, a few friends and a chance to do as much as he can on his own.
He also needs you to talk with him -- not at him -- and to do it clearly and distinctly and whenever you can. If you put your face just inches from his and say the same word over and over again, he'll try to use his tongue and purse his lips like you do and will probably talk a little sooner, which is just what you want. The sooner a child talks, and the clearer he talks, the easier he is to rear.
You also want your son to join a play group with two or three other children in a year or so -- or even younger if he's quite sociable -- but only a group that will meet at a time that's comfortable for you. Perhaps you can give a discount to their moms to take an early evening class at your fitness center while the children meet in another room with a sitter. This arrangement could be a boon to working mothers.
A play group would be good for you, too. Even though your husband is an active parent, you need to hang out with other moms, if only to find out that they are frazzled -- just like you.
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