"Today we need some organization and planned activities."
July 5, 2017 9:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm a late-20s male who is going to be a single working parent of a 1-month-old baby for two weeks later this month. I feel like this sounds like the plot of slapstick comedy and am asking for the hive mind's help to make this time as boring and uneventful as possible.

Mrs. NSAID and I are taking care of a newborn baby (said baby is living with us), with my wife being a stay-at-home parent and me helping out when I'm not at work. I have basically zero experience with babies while Mrs. NSAID has lots, but she's a great teacher and I'm doing my best to be fully involved.

It's been an educational month - I now know why my wife giggled when I asked a friend if their newborn was sleeping though the night yet (I kind of thought babies had 3 square meals a day... 4 or 5 if in a growth spurt?), and I can just about change a poopy diaper without soiling an extra one during the process.

Later this month, however, Mrs. NSAID is going to be out of town for 2 weeks. We have caretakers lined up for most of the weekdays while I'm at the office, so not much will change during the day, but I'm a little intimidated by the rest of the time, since we alternate feedings overnight and can trade off things like cooking dinner or washing bottles while the other person can tend to BabyNSAID. I'm totally prepared for the individual things that go into taking care of a baby, but it starts to look like a lot when added to a 40 hour work week, especially when I can already see my lowered mental capacity from the whirlwind of a month we've had in sorting out life with a surprise baby.

I know there are people who are single working parents, so this shouldn't be any sort of impossible task (though I have a newfound respect for parents of newborns and single parents), but I'm probably missing a lot of the tips and tricks and experience needed to avoid this turning into a stereotypical Daddy Day Care mess. What do I need to know?
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ramp up with some meal prep now so you have easy dinners for yourself. Set yourself up so you can just pull something out of the freezer and microwave it when you're hungry.
posted by hydra77 at 10:12 AM on July 5, 2017 [12 favorites]


This is will be great - you and baby will get a chance to work out your own relationship and you will let your own systems and solutions that may be different than the ones that Mrs. NSAID has with the little one.

Sleep is the valuable thing to parents of tiny ones. Be mentally prepared, if possible, to let work know that you need a few hours off and take a good solid nap while the caretakers are in your home to make up for any truly awful nights. It will make you a better employee (and help you feel more human.)
posted by metahawk at 10:13 AM on July 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Make sure there's someone you can call with questions. I'm a first-time parent and having someone to call helped a ton. All I really needed was someone to say "that's normal" or "try x".
posted by MsMartian at 10:18 AM on July 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


Have at least vague backup plans in case a caretaker falls through, or you are sick or get completely exhausted, or Mom's return gets delayed, etc.. It will be harder to problem solve in the moment.
posted by amtho at 10:19 AM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


"t starts to look like a lot when added to a 40 hour work week"

Yup.

It's only two weeks, so if you can buy a little time by calling in favors or spending more than you usually would, go for it.

Stock up on food that you can eat with one hand and minimal or no preparation.

If you haven't figured out any kind of baby-wearing arrangement, it can be a handy way to get other stuff done while taking care of the kid. It can take some getting used to, so better to start now.

Sleep when the baby sleeps. Clean when the baby cleans....
posted by bfields at 10:31 AM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Since babies often sleep longer in the first part of the night after they go to sleep, if at all possible go to bed when the baby does, that will mitigate the effects of any later night wakings. This was huge for me, getting some solid sleep in the early part of the night - the temptation is to use that time to do work, or bum around online, or shower.

Do not try to cook during this time, have premade meals and easy snacks ready to go, buy extra bottles if needed to make night feedings easier, maybe make your lunches at work your biggest meal and have a snack before you leave work so you don't get hangry on the way home, and go into a bit of vacation mode during these two weeks at work if at all possible so that time at work is the break, cause it is.

When I used formula I would put the formula powder into a clean bottle and keep a thermos of sterilized water warmed and ready to go so that there was less night-time thinking and to help my baby (and thus, me) go back to sleep as soon as possible.

I would ramp down your caffeine intake a bit now if possible so you can maximum benefit if there are some nights where your sleep is really interrupted a lot. Routinize and organize now - what you'll wear to work, what you'll eat at work (stock your work fridge with microwaveable meals and healthy snacks like yogurt if there aren't good options nearby), what you take to work.

Is baby staying at home or are you taking them somewhere? Have extras of baby things in your car especially if you're taking them out - diapers, wipes, formula, changes of clothes.
posted by lafemma at 10:33 AM on July 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


Dad of twins here. You're going to do a fantastic job.

Before Mrs. NSAID leaves, go shopping. If possible:
* Stock up on baby-related consumable supplies (diapers, creams and powders, wipes, formula if relevant, etc.)
* Have two weeks worth of adult food in your fridge and cabinets. Think in terms of buying easy or pre-made items and meals. If you have a microwave, consider picking up frozen vegetables that can be cooked in the bag in 5 mins. Get soups, too. Cooking can be time consuming. Your recurring motif for the next two weeks is Make Your Life Easier.
* Don't forget batteries for baby-related items, too. Dreft or baby laundry detergent. Etc.

My biggest stresses during the first few months were lack of sleep and having to run to the store and shop, with one or more babies in tow, after a full day of work. You have the opportunity to plan around the latter issue. Do so. If your budget doesn't allow for stocking up on food and supplies and you have an Amazon Prime, FreshDirect (or other online shopping account,) consider using it while Mrs. NSAID is away. It will make your life easier.

* Sleep when at all possible. It's easy to exhaust yourself when you're going it alone. Catch your Z's whenever you have the opportunity. You have to be able to function during the day, and for part of the night. If you don't get all the sleep you can, you'll wear down much more rapidly.
* Write down all the chores that you will need to do. Make a list. This will help prevent you from forgetting important things, like laundry. Lack of sleep makes remembering everything difficult.
* Create a loose schedule for yourself. If you need to do laundry every other day, then put that on your schedule. Etc.
* Don't allow the cleaning of bottles or washing of laundry to pile up. They can quickly become overwhelming.
* If possible, ask your caregivers to clean bottles and do laundry and other chores that will cut into your time.
* If you are prone to sleeping through alarms, set more than one. I used to place one on my night table and another across the room.
* Avoid alcohol. For the obvious reason, and also because it can depress your CNS, which reduces your ability to remember things and can also induce sleep. You do need sleep, but it should under your control.
* This one's controversial: consider keeping the baby on a set feeding schedule if possible. That means waking it to eat at specific times. Many parents don't agree with doing this. But we did this with our twins and it allowed us to sleep and saved our sanity.
* Plan for emergencies: draw up a list of reliable, trustworthy people you know that you can call on if something happens to you. If you get food poisoning, for example. Alert them that they probably won't be needed, but if things get dire, they may receive a call.

---

If you are prone to anxiety, recognize that your situation is temporary. You are in control and can do this. Take time to breathe if something feels overwhelming. Calmly count to ten. Or consider the three minute breathing space practice. It focuses your attention outside, inside and then outside, allowing you to control your emotional and physical reactions. I used similar techniques when my kids were babies, and both were screaming at the same time. It helped ground me and allowed me to focus.
posted by zarq at 10:33 AM on July 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Make a checklist ("feed X times per day", "bath every X days", "check diaper every X hours"...). Make it really detailed. Then ignore the specifics (if BabyNSAID wants to eat X+2 times per day, let them), but check it every now and then just to be sure that you haven't missed something fairly big.

Talk to the caretakers a lot. Remind them every now and then that you are freaked the fuck out, but that you want to know everything.

Tell your boss (or clients, or equivalent) and co-workers that this is happening. Try to offload work stuff as much as you can for this two weeks, with the understanding that you'll make it up to the other people.

Listen to the baby. Does the baby seem hungry? Feed the baby. Does the baby not want to sleep? Snuggle for a while.

Get someone you can vent to, who understands that you're just venting and you don't really want their advice just then.

Get Mrs. NSAID something really nice while she's gone. Remember, for the rest of your life, how much relief you felt upon seeing her return.

You'll be fine. You got this.
posted by Etrigan at 10:35 AM on July 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


If the baby likes to be worn in a carrier, have a carrier available and practice putting it on without help. (At this age, a front carry baby bjorn style is the easiest) This allows you to do laundry and dishes while carrying baby. If you don't have a baby swing, you might try to borrow one or get one off Freecycle - sometimes a swing will enable you to put down a baby who otherwise refuses.

As far as leisure time, I am a pretty anti-TV parent after the age of about 4 months, but I had NO compunctions about sitting around watching TV or playing Playstation games with a tiny infant on my lap. I just avoided anything with a particularly violent or crash-filled soundtrack.

As far as chores, don't have it in your mind that you MUST accomplish a certain household thing (e.g. laundry) at a certain time. This can send your stress levels through the roof if the baby decides not to cooperate, and that can make you angry.

Sometimes people get angry with newborns, especially during an extended period of caring for one alone. It's ok. It's a thing that happens. If you feel yourself starting to get angry, it is absolutely OK to deposit the baby in their crib and take 10-15 minutes to calm down, even if the baby screams the entire time. You will not hurt the baby by leaving it for a little while you get your composure back. You may hurt the baby if you lose control. It DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD PERSON if you get mad at the baby. And maybe you won't! But keep an eye on how you're feeling and have an action plan just in case.

Others have covered the prep, supplies, and sleep aspects. So I would just add - have a thermometer, diaper cream, the number of the baby's pediatrician, and some sort of reference material about when to call the doctor. You don't need to be paranoid, just aware. (For example, you should know that if a baby under 3 months has a rectal temperature of 100.4 or higher, you should call the doctor right away)

Finally, ask your wife if there is any baby-care stuff she does that you might not know about.

This will be tough, but you will make it, and your baby-care skills will seriously level up. You got this.
posted by telepanda at 11:08 AM on July 5, 2017 [8 favorites]


One of the things that surprised me about having a newborn is how easy it was compared to how hard I expected it to be. It's easy for me to say that; my wife was always there to help me, and she did a lot of the work once my PTO was up. But the thing about babies is that they let you know if they need something. You might not know what it is, exactly, but you'll know when to pay attention. They aren't subtle. And there are really only a few things they need: food, burping, diaper change, nap, etc. You get a sense pretty quickly of what they're crying about. If you just fed him/her a half hour ago, they're probably not crying for more food, for example. More likely, it's a burp or a dirty diaper.

If you have friends with slightly older kids, this would be a good time to host them at your house (the friends, not the kids). They'll know what you're going through, and they'll be able to help you out.

Having easy make-ahead meals is good, but I'd go a step further and just do Grubhub or something similar if you have the option. It frees you up from both having to cook and having to think ahead (which is not easy to do when you're not sleeping). Having the aforementioned friends bring some food would also be nice, but you can't really ask for it, just hope they have the social skills to take the hint.

Everybody told me the "sleep when the baby sleeps" advice too, but I found that really hard to do. I'm the kind of person who can fall asleep pretty quickly, but when you're as busy as you'll be, your head is spinning, and it's hard to put all that out of your mind right away. Do as best you can, but yeah, expect to be sleep-deprived. If there's a way around that, we didn't find it.

Make sure you have an emergency contact number, probably your pediatrician's after-hours number. You probably won't need it, but it's stressful enough when you're trying to find it with two parents. It'd be impossible to find when you're on your own.

"it starts to look like a lot when added to a 40 hour work week"

Absolutely, which is why paid family leave is such an important political topic. But that's a soapbox I don't need to get on right now.

I don't think you have anything to worry about. If I can do it, I'm sure you can!
posted by kevinbelt at 11:16 AM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Make sure to have a baby thermometer and that you know how to use it. Have urgent care and doctor numbers handy. Chances are you won't need either, but it's better to be prepared.
posted by vunder at 12:03 PM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Be as involved as you possible can be now - don't wait for trial by fire when the Mrs is away. Id' take a few shifts of "solo" overnight caretaking now so you can see what it's like with your wife there as backup and to answer questions. You can totally handle this though. Babies aren't that hard and 99% of mistakes are easily remedied.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:11 PM on July 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Make sure you are comfortable with taking baby out of the house and to a store.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:04 PM on July 5, 2017


Since this will be an 'out of the norm' two weeks for you, if you drive yourself anywhere with the baby, take off one of your shoes and put it in the backseat next to the car seat when you get in the car. This way you won't forget the baby. Seriously. Put the baby in the car seat, take off your shoe, put it next to the car seat, THEN get in the car.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:52 PM on July 5, 2017 [13 favorites]


Here's a good rule of thumb for when you *need* to put the baby down (like for a bathroom break or to get something from the fridge) - babies *can't* fall off the floor. You'd be surprised how babies can sometimes scoot themselves around to the edge of the couch or the bed. Put a blanket down on the floor and lay the baby there.

When I was home alone with baby I would put the blanket on the floor just outside the bathroom door and leave the door open so baby would know I was still there. If I had to walk out the room I just kept talking all the time "I'm just right here at the refrigerator, I'm going to get myself a drink and then I'm going to come and pick you up again". Some babies need that constant reassurance that they are not alone, some don't. You'll figure that out together.

Nthing go to bed when the baby goes to bed, even if it's at 6:30pm. You can wake up later and fix yourself some dinner or whatever.

When you get up at night with the baby, don't turn the lights on. Use a nightlight or turn on the light in the closet or the hallway, but don't sit in a brightly lit room with the baby, that screws with their sense of night and day. Keep it as dark as possible. Don't talk to the baby at night, as much as possible. Whisper when you must, otherwise be silent. That lets baby know that it's still bedtime, we're only feeding or changing the diaper, it's not time to get up and party.

Don't be afraid to ask the caregivers to stop at the grocery store for you on their way over in the morning. You might tip them a little extra for this.

Make good use of all delivery systems like Amazon or Target.

That shoe thing is an excellent suggestion.

Otherwise, just sit on the couch with baby in your arms and enjoy the quietness. You can read or watch tv, but babies really like it when you make eye contact with them and talk with them.

You're gonna do great.
posted by vignettist at 9:28 AM on July 6, 2017


Wow, thanks all, this is great stuff. Some of the things mentioned I already have down solid, which is helping me already feel better prepared, and there's a lot of good reminders in here on things to pay attention to.

I figure to some extent this is going to turn into white-knuckling through the nights, but overall I think it'll be good. I'm looking forward to hanging out with BabyNSAID a lot more than I'd normally have the opportunity to.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:15 PM on July 10, 2017


I wanted to follow up and let everyone know that it was a completely uneventful time, as I hoped :)

Handling feedings throughout the night by myself was tough but I think it went better than I expected. A "side sleeper" really helped with this as I didn't have to get up every time BabyNSAID made a noise.

One piece of advice for anyone in a similar situation: get out of the house when you can. I spent a lot of time in front of the TV and got pretty sick of being home since he's at the age that requires a lot of holding/cuddling, and had I just gotten out and about a little more, even just killing time at a bookstore or mall, I think I'd have been doing a little better mentally.

Also, bottle washing pro-tip: Just throw them in the dishwasher already using the handy holder you previously got at a rummage sale. Doing 8+ bottles by hand daily, by yourself, for 13 days is the worst. the worst.


It was really fun to learn more about BabyNSAID's routine and to be with him a lot more than usual, so I'm very grateful for that aspect of things. Thanks again for all of the advice!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:15 PM on August 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


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