Friday, April 01, 2005

The seven-month doldrums

Doctors may not have diagnosed it yet, but I am pretty sure there is a condition that the stay at home mothers of six to eight month old babies commonly suffer. I have dubbed it the seven-month doldrums.

When babies are tiny, they make so many demands that there is little time for anything other than feeding, changing, bathing and sleeping. New mothers can barely see to their own needs, much less to think beyond the house. While baby is not very interactive, she is in need of nearly constant attention and sleep deprived moms simply stagger from one necessary task to the next.

As baby grows and begins to sleep for longer durations, mom gradually gets a little more sleep. Baby's first smile, first sit, first grab for a toy all make her realize that her little bundle is growing, developing and turning into a person. At six months, baby starts on solid food and gives mommy new challenges of feeding, monitoring allergies,
and suddenly, baby wants attention. Not just the diaper-changing-feeding-bouncing kind that she wanted when she was tiny, although she still wants all of those things, too. Now baby knows whether mommy is paying attention to her. She wants to play and play the same game over and over and over. Baby can drop a toy and watch mommy pick it up endlessly.

Suddenly, mom is required to entertain someone who, while cute, cuddly, brilliant and adorable is also just a teeny bit boring. Mom has been getting just enough sleep to want a little bit of social and intellectual stimulation, more than Baby Mozart or Elmo can offer. Unfortunately, baby isn't quite up to the task.

So, mom finds herself stir crazy, craving something, but not sure what it is. Should she go back to work? She may feel baby is still too young. Mom feels a little selfish worrying about herself and her own needs while baby is still so clearly fragile, needy, tiny.

It gets better. Mom is driven out of the house to do something, meet someone. Whether she starts going to the park, joins a mom's club or just goes to the gym while plopping baby in childcare, she has to do something. And, baby soon gets beyond this stage. Soon, she will be walking, talking, throwing, climbing enough to keep mom stimulated and exhausted in whole new ways once again. One way or another, it all works out. In the meantime, assure yourself. The feelings are real. They are normal. You'll be happiest if you do something about them.

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