bedtime strike

jared & i tried something different yesterday. we divide our baby care into shifts: jared takes ramona in the morning until he has to start getting ready for school (usually between 10am & 11am), which gives me a few hours to have breakfast & coffee, pump, get some stuff done that is harder to do when caring for a baby, get my head screwed on straight for the day, etc. then i take over & he goes to school. he usually comes home in time to start making dinner at 6:30pm. i try to time everything so that ramona is clean, fed, & happy by the time we have dinner so she can just hang out without needing anything from either of us. after dinner, jared takes over–usually somewhere between 7pm & 8pm. if it’s bath night, he gives her a bath, & he puts her to bed. on the very rare occasions she wakes up in the night, jared tends to her. (but i still get up in the middle of the night every night to pump, so it’s not all sleepytime goodness for me.)

but yesterday, jared said he was tired of putting her to bed every night & he floated the idea of trading shifts on weekends: he takes her all day, & i take over when he starts making dinner & am responsible for putting her to bed. i pounced on this idea for two reasons:

1) i thought it would give him a little taste of what i do all day during the week. i mean, i am responsible for a baby for like nine hours a day, everyday. it’s a lot of work. i imagined him crawling to me on his hands & knees at 6:30pm & gasping, “oh my god…i don’t know how you do this everyday…you’re a goddess…i could never do what you do…”.

2) i figured, how hard is it to put ramona to bed? i put her down for naps every single day & it’s a snap. wait until she’s acting sleepy (ie, being pretty quiet, not kicking, just looking at me), put her in a fresh diaper, stick a bottle in her mouth, & within a couple of minutes, she’s out like a tiny little light. surely it would go the same way for bedtime, right? especially if i’m giving her a bath first–baths always tucker her out.

so, jared & ramona had an exciting day of hanging out together. they went to a yard sale, they stopped by the baby consignment store because we decided ramona is finally old enough for an umbrella stroller (& it’s soon to be wicked hot in kansas–way too hot to be wearing a baby all over town), they wandered around the farmer’s market, they went to the library book sale at the fairgrounds…it wasn’t a replica of an average ramona/mommy day because i am hardcore about ramona’s nap schedule & usually won’t take her out somewhere if she’s acting sleepy. my theory is: good naps during the day = good sleep at night, & a happy baby through it all. i also work like a dog while ramona is napping. jared spent ramona’s naps napping himself, or laying on the couch reading “the new yorker”. maybe he imagines that this is what i do, but in fact, i am usually racing around doing laundry, washing dishes, working on writing projects, paying bills, pumping, washing bottles, etc etc etc. i wound up just washing bottles for him all day because i can’t stand it when ramona is out of clean bottles & screaming for food.

meanwhile, i spent the day working feverishly on my new zine. i decided to change things up: instead of being enclosed in a bag, each zine will have a fabric cover. i spent like an hour at the fabric store examining different fabrics, trying to decide what i liked & how i would use it. i finally settled on a print that was OF COURSE the most expensive fabric in the store. well, maybe there were some really luxe leathers or something that cost more, but i probably chose the most expensive printed cotton. so much so that when i asked for ten yards (yeah…i need a LOT of fabric for this, & it will entail a LOT of sewing because i can’t stand the idea of just cutting out a square & slapping it on there; each cover has a backing fabric & everything will be seamed & hemmed…you’ll see), the counter girl said, “do you know how much it costs? because it’s REALLY expensive.” i don’t even want to talk about the cost per yard. i felt like i was on “project runway”.

anyway, i bought my fabrics, took them home, prepped them for cutting, copyedited my zine one more time, made the master, made masters of all the other elements that will be photocopied, rushed to the copy shop, was frustrated by the incredibly slow-moving copy shop employee who wouldn’t let me use two machines simultaneously (“in case other customers come in”–no other customers came in), cut everything that needed to be cut, etc etc etc. it took HOURS to do everything. i used my last half hour of baby-free time to race around trying to clean the house, because it was somehow a fucking disaster area. that’s the thing about a small house: it doesn’t take much clutter for the mess to start seeming overwhelming.

then i took over with ramona. who went down for a nap at 6:30pm. i almost broke out into hives. usually ramona is UP from her last nap of the day no later than 6pm, so she’s good & tried & ready for bedtime at a reasonable hour like 9:30pm. i was imagining her sleeping until like 8pm, & then wanting to party until midnight…so i intentionally went into the bedroom “to read”. i did read, but i also know that ramona is more sensitive to noise now & i hoped she would wake up before sleeping too long so that she’d be ready to go to bed sooner. & it worked! she woke up & was all happy to see me.

i gave her a bath while jared put the finishing touches on dinner (homemade ravioli! wow!). she started acting sleepy–being all still & quiet–while we ate. as soon as we were done, i put her in a fresh diaper & a sleep sack. i took her into the bedroom & gave her a bottle & read her stories.

& then…she woke up. with a vengeance. this baby was ready to party. i gave her some time to hang out in her bouncy chair playing with her toys, but when she started getting scream-y in that over-tired baby way, i knew i had to move. on went a fresh diaper & a swaddle, in went a fresh bottle…& ramona commenced the screaming. & the screaming. & the screaming.

she doesn’t scream like that during the day! we have entire ten-hour stretches together where she doesn’t even CRY! i sat with her in the glider, i bounced her on the exercise ball, i read her stories, i gave her a bottle, i swaddled her, i unswaddled her, i laid her in her crib…but all she did was scream. at one point, i laid her on the table & she started smiling & giggling & it hit me: i think this baby was trying to avoid bedtime! she naps easily during the day because she knows she’ll be sleeping for a few hours & then it’s back to party time. but she did NOT want to go to bed. it’s crazy to me that she’s old enough to know to understand the concept of bedtime enough to try to fight it.

after HOURS of this, i asked jared, “i am seriously asking, what am i doing wrong?” he said, “well, she likes to be rocked.” this, while i was rocking her in the glider while she screamed like she was being murdered. i burst into tears. jared took her from me, walked her around the room a few times, & i’m not kidding, she was asleep in under five minutes.

i worked on getting my sobbing under control, & jared was like, “you did the hard part! it’s really easy to put a baby to sleep when someone else has already dealt with the three hours of screaming that precede bedtime.” but i was left feeling like a terrible mother, a terrible partner…you know, just an all-around failure. i had wanted jared to come to me in a state of wonder for my amazing parenting skills, & instead, i was reduced to tears when i tried to do what he does every night. (though jared’s mom insists that baby screams just affect moms more than they affect dads. oh, i was also dealing with all of this & a plugged duct, which is really painful. it KILLED to hold ramona to my chest or cross my arm over my chest to pat her back, which i’m sure was depleting me of a lot of the patience required to handle her crying.)

anyway, the little beast is awake & demanding breakfast, so off i go.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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