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Living in "baby time"

QUESTION: My life has totally changed since I gave birth to my daughter two months ago. I decided to stop work and stay home for her first year, but now I'm wondering if I made the right decision. Our days involve sitting, nursing, changing diapers and not much else. Right now I feel like I'm riding a wave, but sometimes I worry I'll be pulled under. I think it's important for a mom to be with her new baby, so any ideas on how I can relax and learn to live in "baby time"?

ANSWER: What a wonderful decision you have made to be a primary part of your baby's life by staying home with her in this first year. But careful what you ask for, you might get it! Indeed, the change of lifestyle from one of working in an adult oriented environment to spending your days with a baby is a huge transition. No wonder you find yourself doubting your decision. But this does not mean that you made the wrong choice!

Below are some tips that can help:

Maintain a life perspective

Babies change enormously in this first year, and as the months go by, you will come to appreciate and likely be excited by the developmental milestones your daughter masters. Smiling, rolling over, scooting (for some babies) crawling and walking, not to mention talking are just some of the experiences you will be likely to witness in this first year of life. So why not document it? Doing so, will help you maintain a perspective from the vantage point of this first year, without feeling lost in the enormity of the change. A family project of this nature also gives you an adult oriented activity that is focused on your baby but requires your brain to work on an adult level of interest, too!

Activities such as making a photo album, even inviting other family members to write an observation of her in this first year could result in a family project that you cherish in years to come. Some parents create "birthday videos". What kind of birthday party might you have, showing the video, "baby's first year" to friends and relatives? Or maybe you want to call it "mother's first year"! Pick music, take pictures, write your script, or create a collage. The key is to find a way to enjoy looking at the present from the perspective of the past!

Sometimes this first year feels very, very long. Until it is gone, you can hardly believe how the time flew by. Take time to consider framing "baby-time" into a meaningful, larger life perspective. You will enjoy it for the special time it is now, by viewing it from the vantage point of your larger life's journey.

2) Connect with other moms

Do not stay alone with your experience. Seek out a moms support group that can support you through this first year. Similar needs for childcare and concerns about parenting will help focus your energy on the important work you are doing! Baby time will become easier to enjoy when you surround yourselves with other moms making similar choices.

3) Establish a satisfying routine

Adjust to your baby's feeding and napping schedule, but also expect your baby to adapt to your needs, too! For example, if you want some sunshine and exercise, consider a walk with your baby as part of your daily routine. Your baby may nap, or look around at the sights. Make it relaxing, but varied. Check out new parks, activities for children in your area or shop with your baby in tow. Babies are able to adjust to going places and doing things. And if this is a first baby, you are freer to do so, than with more than one. So take advantage! Find ways to blend your needs with your baby's. But do not stop there!

4) Take breaks

We all need breaks in our workday, and motherhood is no exception! Schedule time for you that you can count on to maintain activities or interests you enjoy. For example, although you may need to cut back on time spent at the gym does not mean that you must obliterate it! Adjust your schedule down, as necessary, but retain your interests through this first year.

Establish a structure and schedule that nurtures your baby's growth, but also supports your interests. Join a book club if you are an avid reader, make a weekly habit of ice skating Saturday mornings if this is your love, or take a cooking class you have always wanted to take. Babies can enjoy watching you cook, sew or any other number of activities.

The way in which you adjust to your child's needs changes as your baby grows. But the success of family relationships depends upon meeting your needs and baby's needs in a complimentary manner. Experiment and see what works for you and your child.

And remember that baby time can be mommy time, too!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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