No one NEEDS a night nurse.
Even parents of TWINS don’t need a night nurse. (That said, holy moly if you are having twins and you can swing it, GET A NIGHT NURSE. I have done it alone, and let me tell you: NIGHT NURSE IS BETTER.)
If you can swing the costs – and they are high – night help is AMAZING.
You can hire night help on a 12-hr (night nurse) or 24-hr (baby nurse) contract.
- Night nurses are generally SLIGHTLY less expensive than baby nurses, but they all tend to charge in the neighborhood of $15-20/hr, which on a 24-hr clock can be a bit much.
- Night nurses tend to live out, and arrive in the evenings for their shift. They feed and change baby overnight, and some do baby-related dishes or laundry overnight, too.
- Baby nurses live in, and work around the clock, generally sleeping for a few hours in the mornings when baby sleeps. They do baby dishes, baby laundry, nursery organization, take baby on walks – basically, old school Downton Abbey nanny-with-a-capital-N care. It’s amazeballs.
In both cases, you get some sleep, so that you are better equipped to care for baby during daylight hours (night nurse), or so that you can go back to work or run errands or go out to lunch if you want to (baby nurse).
But no, none of this is necessary.
I have done it solo, and here’s what I know:
- When I was pregnant with Diddy, I was TOTALLY against having night help. Diddy was my first baby, and I wanted to be the one providing for her around the clock, so I declined my grandmother’s kind offer of paying for night help, and hacked it solo.
- I managed alone with Gaga, too – which was kind of hell because she was up all night every night, far more than her sister, and for many more months. But it was do-able. Even with a toddler (Diddy) running around.
In both cases, I relied upon adrenalin, caffeine, and attempting to sleep when baby sleeps. You can too.
Then I got pregnant with the twins … and night help started sounding better.
The boys arrived slightly earlier than planned, and our baby nurse was still on another job, so I had 2 weeks to test my hypothesis that doing nights on my own with twins would SUCK.
And OMG IT WAS AWFUL. Nursing twins takes about a zillion times as long as nursing one, and you can’t just latch two kids on and fall back to sleep. You have to get up, and arrange TWO babies on the boob, and burp two babies, and then most likely change TWO diapers afterwards, and then settle two babies back to sleep.
It takes forever.
I was a wreck by the time our amazing baby nurse arrived.
The first night, every time I woke to feed the twins, she sat with me, and then SHE burped them, and SHE took them to change diapers, and SHE settled them back to sleep, and I went and pumped for fifteen minutes.
All day, I pumped post-feeds, too.
The second night, she used the bottles I’d pumped for one feed and I slept THROUGH that feed, and it made a WORLD of difference.
Twenty-four hours later I was rested, showered … and then I went out and got my nails done.
The following day I had lunch with girl friends.
The day after that I got a cut-and-color.
Maybe a week later our baby nurse woke me up because she was worried Sausage’s head cold was becoming something more serious. She told me to take him to the ER, and it turned out she was right: Sausage had RSV, and spent 2 days stabilizing in the pediatric ward thanks to HER catching what I might have dismissed as a bad cough.
Four days later, she sent me back to the ER with Pancake. He did a night in NICU.
Not only do I believe our baby nurse saved my sanity, she may also have saved my sons’ lives.
So here’s the more NUANCED answer to DO YOU NEED NIGHT HELP?
If I had to do it all over again, I would be ALL OVER getting night help for each one of my babies.
And if I couldn’t afford night help, I’d manage. Because parents just DO.
I STRONGLY ADVOCATE GETTING SOME SORT OF DAY HELP with your first baby.
Even if it’s just for one day a week – or even just one afternoon a week – having someone come in to do dishes and laundry and watch your newborn for a few hours while you GET THE HELL OUT for a bit is, in my mind, indispensible.
Maybe that person is your Mom, or your uncle, or your partner.
If not, start budgeting to pay for a person like that for NOW.
Because my biggest most important piece of advice to new parents is:
Don’t forget your village.
Friends can bring you meals. Family can babysit for a few hours at a time.
And even if you live far from friends, and farther from family, the village is still available to you. You just might have to pay for it. You can order in, or find a babysitter a few afternoons a week, or trade babysitting hours with another new mom.
No matter what you can or can’t afford, tap into WHATEVER variety of village that you can.
I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...
I hope everybody had a lovely Thanksgiving or is still enjoying a delightful Thanksgivikuh as I type. Ours was and has been NUTS — 32 people for Thanksgiving dinner, fabulous evenings out to celebrate my brother’s seemingly endless 33rd birthday (I mean, seriously, dude, THREE MEALS? I barely rate a DVD at home around here), brunches and Chanukah parties and ENDLESS leftover magic-making with the remnants of the feast for 32.
I instagrammed the whole thing like crazy (as you can tell) and I’ve even blogged all about it but as we seem to be ending the last possible moments of the leftover-cycle, I’ll save my notes and recipes for next year when people can actually use them.
Till then, and drum roll, please:
Not too long ago my sister posted THIS on Facebook:
I get to be an aunt. Aunt-ing sounds LOVELY. Brand new adorable blood-related bundle of joy who is NOT my responsibility? Count me in.
Plus I’m always excited when someone I love has babies and can join me in my bitching about all the ups and downs of caring for those babies. Always need another mama at the bitch fest. And this one is getting off to a great start. I am loving getting to listen to her complain about being tired and cranky and hungry and enormously breasted … those were the days. (Ha!) So glad it’s not me, lemme tell you. NEVER. AGAIN.
But I do love complaining about it.
But perhaps MOST THE MOST EXCITING THING OF ALL is that all those boxes and boxes and boxes of baby clothes I’ve been saving for her are FINALLY exiting my garage. I may park my minivan in there yet.
The thing is, though:
All those boxes are on their way to her charming and lovely but kinda tiny, fourth-floor-walkup, two-bedroom apartment in Park Slope.
My sister and her husband are planning to totally reconfigure their space in order to accommodate their new baby. Office equipment is moving to the living room, guest beds are being shifted about. Supposedly they are getting started on all this shortly after the New Year.
It will be better organized after all this moving-and-a-shaking, but at the end of the day it’s still gonna be a fourth-floor walk-up tiny two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.
Which has me thinking about ways to minimize baby crap in their lives for as long as possible, and here’s what I’ve come up with:
BARE MINIMUM NECESSITIES for bringing home baby and living with him awhile (SMALL HOME EDITION)
- PACK N PLAY – so he has somewhere to sleep that isn’t her/your bed, but can still sleep nearby
- SWADDLING BLANKETS – to encourage the sleeping
- SWING– so he has somewhere (almost) guaranteed that he WILL sleep, for when he won’t sleep in the pack-n-play
- BREAST PUMP / BOTTLES – gotta feed the kid
- DIAPER PAIL – if you feed him, you’re gonna need to change his diapers
- PLAY MAT – somewhere else to put him down
- STROLLER / CARRIER – so you can get him out
- CAR SEAT – so you can take him farther afield
- DIAPER BAG or equivalent – so you’ve got what you need when you take him there
- BABY CLOTHES – so he won’t be naked
Niceties, but not necessities, include:
- CHANGING TABLE or DRESSER – I vote for a dresser to hold baby’s clothes, with a changing pad on top. But if you have closet space, you don’t even need the dresser. You can put the baby stuff in the closet (try to mac it out with double rails and drawers if you can) and then change baby on a pad or towel on the floor or on your bed. As you get better at it, you won’t even need the pad or towel.
- ROCKER / RECLINER – I would have said, before the twins, that a recliner was a necessity. But I couldn’t use ours with the twins. Generally I cuddled up on a mattress on the floor with the boys, and they didn’t seem to notice the lack of rocking motion. In a small house, I might eschew the chair for a bed, mattress, or couch already in place near the baby’s bed.
- CRIB – a pack-n-play is generally a bit smaller than a crib, and more portable. You might even be able to get away with using a pack-n-play until baby is ready for a toddler bed. I only advocate buying a crib in a small space if your baby is NOT sleeping in your room. If he’s got his own dedicated nursery that you intend to use from day 1, then go for a crib. Absolutely. If he DOESN’T, however, as is the case in many smaller homes and apartments, stick with the Pack-N-Play as long as you can.
My kids are growing up fast – this morning Pancake explained that turning 3 next month means he’s going to be a big boy as tall as Daddy – but my sister’s pregnancy is giving me TONS of ideas for back-to-baby posts over the next few months, so if you wandered over here because you’re pregnant or just had your first baby, pull up a chair. There’s gonna be a ton of new content just for you!
In other news: I have recently changed my Twitter account from @checklistmommy to @sarahakatelevy. If you were following me @checklistmommy, please make the switch as I will no longer be using my old handle. But don’t worry — @sarahkatelevy still intends to post information relevant to ChecklistMommy readers. I just wanted a little more latitude to tweet about writing, politics, and whatever else hit my fancy that wasn’t strictly Mom/Baby/Kids news.
I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...
QUIETING OUR RAGING (2yo) BEAST:
In Which I Completely Lose My Cool,
Re-Affirm Spanking DOESN’T Work,
& Muddle Through As Per Usual
You can’t tell by looking at him (because seriously just looking at him you want to grab this kid and hug him till he fights free) but:
Pancake is a screamer.
Always has been.
Whereas his brother just needs a quick hug, knows to ask for it, and then takes a deep breath and moves on …
Pancake just DOESN’T.
I’ve talked about it before. And for a little while, THIS worked to help with the screaming.
But now it doesn’t.
For one thing, now he’s smarter.
He will not go quietly, nor be brushed off.
I love that about him.
Now, when I tell him NO, he asks WHY?
Now, when he wants something I don’t have, or don’t want to give him, he says, LET ME SEE!
He says these things at top volume.
And for long, protracted periods.
Lots of tears and snot and ruined meals and mornings while he screams and cries and throws things and the rest of us try to hear ourselves think.
He’s a passionate kid.
With a great set of pipes and extraordinary willpower.
It can make the best of us nuts. And I am way way way NOT the best of us.
- I have experimented with extinction.
- I have experimented with attachment.
- I have followed basic Harvey Karp. Pancake has no interest in making a deal with me anymore. Deals are for suckers, apparently.
- I have tried and failed at time-outs. There is simply no sure way to keep this kid still short of shutting him in his room and that does nothing but freak him out worse.
- I’ve even tried spanking. (Cue story of my mother telling me she never spanked us and me and my sister bursting into great gales of laughter.)
But here’s the thing:
SPANKING DOESN’T WORK.
At least not the way I do it.
I have spanked all of my kids exactly once, and they’ve all found it hilarious.
All of them. Clearly I am not doing it “right.”
This is okay with me.
Better that than THIS. I mean for CHRIST’S SAKE (and I say that with great irony as they purport to be Good Christians) WHO THE HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE? Someone ought to take a switch to THEM and lock THEM in a closet and hose THEM down in freezing weather. WHO DOES THAT TO CHILDREN? I MEAN, COME ON! AND IN THE NAME OF JESUS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
IMO they can go to hell.
Which leaves me with:
Two nights ago, about 60 minutes into one of Pancake’s tantrums, I finally lost my cool and screamed at Pancake so loudly to BE QUIET AND PUT ON YOUR PAJAMAS! that Diddy came running into his room to say this:
Mom, you have to be nicer to Pancake!
(Sometimes she’s an absolute ROCK STAR, don’t you think?)
I don’t know if this counts as nicer, but here’s what I said next (and to Diddy’s credit, I said it MUCH more politely):
Pancake, if you don’t stop screaming and kicking RIGHT NOW I am going to throw your Ducky in the trash and the garbage man is going to take him away.
Lemme give you a little insight into DUCKY:
Yep, that’s me, my four kids, my husband, and DUCKY in that caricature we sat still for on Father’s Day this year.
DUCKY is part of the family.
So the idea of DUCKY going away … welll …
I have never seen a kid shut-up so fast. His whole body stilled. He looked at me, and then he put on his pajamas and got into bed and didn’t make another sound.
Then he slept through the night.
For the first time over a month.
CLUTCHING THAT DUCKY.
I have now used that Ducky & the Garbage Man threat (which is the title of my next album of we’re really talking here) several other times, including such instances as yesterday’s morning whine-fest, last night’s dinner tantrum, and yesterday’s toothbrush fight when I took away the tube of toothpaste he was using to paint the walls of the bathroom.
No screaming. No hitting. No ignoring him or shutting him in his room.
Just threatening to take away the lovie that means most to him in the world.
I am conflicted about this.
- On the one hand, I am thrilled to have found a way to help my kid regulate his temper – I mean, it’s pretty amazing how quickly he can stop crying and screaming when he wants to, which gives me hope that self-regulation is something he is capable of (I mean, truly, I was getting a little concerned).
- On the other hand, I am a little worried that I am scaring him to PIECES to get him there. The look of shock on his little face the other night was … well, pretty damn deep.
But the quiet-ing response is Pavlovian to say the least.
I wonder how long it will last.
I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...
If you’ve been hanging around here a while, you may have noticed I’ve been pretty quiet for the last several weeks.
That’s basically because I haven’t had a second to think much less blog a single thing while my movie was shooting. Just writing that makes me think I have somehow stumbled into someone else’s life. I can’t get over how lucky I feel and how professionally gratified and just … well. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky. (I am uncharacteristically short of words to describe this feeling but hey, it’s been a long month and I am EXHAUSTED, so there you go.)
Here are a few things I really DO want to say about the last month, however, so even if this post is a bit of a mess, here they are:
- It is in no way usual or normal or even remotely pro forma that I got to spend the last month on the set of my movie. That’s because, in all honestly, “my movie” is nothing of the sort. I’m just a writer on the movie. Once it’s written, it’s the director’s movie, and most directors don’t want writers coming anywhere near them during production. In this case, the director happened to be my co-writer, and we’ve had a pretty great thing going since we started writing together, and he wanted me on set. For this I am intensely grateful as I haven’t really been on a movie set since I was a PA in my early 20s, and when you’re a PA you learn about, well, nada. Zilch. You’re too busy running errands and picking up dog poop. This time around, however, I got to sit next to the monitors and hang out with the producer and chat with the script supervisor and I learned A TON about movie making. I mean, really – I feel like I got a complete film school education in 22 days.
- If you are old like me: 4 am call times are WAY BETTER than 4 pm call times. I had no problem hauling my ass to set at 4 am, knowing that 12-ish hours later I’d be heading home. What killed me was the night shoots, and the splits. This might have something to do with the fact that when you have kids, and you work until 4 am, you go home and get to sleep about … 90 minutes till the kids wake you up again. NOT. FUN. AT. ALL. Granted, that’s basically the only time your kids will ever SEE you – most days I was out the door before they woke up and home after they went to sleep. In case you think your kids will just roll with this sort of behavior, let me tell you what Gaga thought of the whole situation the one night I WAS home before her bedtime:
Mom, are you ever sleeping in Daddy’s bed again, or are you moving in with (the director)?
Meanwhile Diddy stopped doing her homework and the boys COMPLETELY stopped sleeping through the night.
- I am married to the best man EVER (no really, EVER) and he handled the chaos with some pretty heavy aplomb all month. Even some grace. And if four kids and several massive home renovations hadn’t already proved the strength and extraordinary resilience of my marriage, my first movie went and rammed the point right home. I mean, come on, how many of you can say your husband does THIS for you the first day of a big new job?
- If you are in the process of writing a movie with kids in it – STOP. No really. RIGHT NOW. Either age that kid up to 19 or write her COMPLETELY out of the story because holy god are kids a problem on a movie set. Especially in California, where we have a labor board that is as protective of minors as a bureaucratic agency can possibly be. This is, of course, a good thing if you are a minor. It is a TERRIBLE thing if you are a movie production attempting to work with minors, as the amount of time a kid can work every day is really not amenable to the amount of time a director NEEDS that kid to work every day. Our movie had a bunch of kids in it. Including one of mine. Don’t do that, either – DO NOT CAST YOUR KID IN A MOVIE. It’s just too stressful protecting your child while also trying to protect the artistic integrity of your movie at the same time.
- On kid actors: Some kids have it. They just do. Gaga absolutely does. It was nuts. I would teach her her lines in the car on the way to set and not only would she learn them, she’d question the cue lines, sometimes RE-WRITE the cue lines, and ask for context, too. (She was four when we started and turned five during this process.) She was not into rehearsals and is a wiggle worm at the best of times, but the moment the AD called “Action” she sold it. In spades. It was nuts. AND I WILL ABSOLUTELY NEVER LET HER DO THIS AGAIN. She spent the time between takes glued to an iPad and stealing candy off the craft service table and listening to people tell her how special and cute and smart she is. This is just not healthy for any kid. Ever. So if you’re considering signing your kid up for a life of this, I would just like to VERY VERY NICELY encourage you to re-think that. Remember how I said all my kids would be in the movie? I changed my mind about that pretty darn quick and so Diddy got a nice little cameo towards the end but I never even brought the boys on set.
- Despite the candy on the craft service table (which I still maintain was stolen from my private stash in the fridge on our third set and NOT in fact purchased from Smart & Final): You don’t HAVE to gain fifteen pounds at craft service. I, for instance, lost 8. This had something to do with my refusing to give up my seat at the monitors for a single MINUTE (first rule of set club: don’t abandon chair as you will never get your ass in it again) so I basically never ate. I now think making a movie is a great way to diet.
Gonna do my best to diet like that again and again and again …
I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...
When I was pregnant with Diddy, my parents went a little bit nuts. Yes they were excited, yes they were supportive, yes I got a lot of calls about how I was feeling and what I was thinking about strollers and carseats and nursery décor (no, really), but I also got THIS:
I don’t want the baby to call me Grandma. I’m not a Grandma.
(Umm, well, actually this whole baby actually makes you a …)
And your father doesn’t want to be Grandpa, either.
And here’s the thing:
It wasn’t just MY parents. My friends’ parents all made similar comments to THEIR breeding sons and daughters. One went so far as to craft an ENTIRE email about WHY he had no interest in being called Grandpa that went a little bit viral among my parent’s larger social circle.
I mean, they were QUOTING it to me. Ad nauseum.
This was annoying.
Until the kid was born and then … I … REALIZED SOMETHING.
(Call out Gossie, people. Have you READ Gossie?)
They might not want to be CALLED Grandma/Grandpa. But that didn’t mean they weren’t obsessed with my baby. They were constantly begging for photos of her.
And that meant:
I never had to spend another second of my life overthinking gifts for the grandparents ever again. As long as it had a picture of my kid on it, it was all good.
That first year I sent old-school photo albums which I made with prints I ordered from Kodak. Then I upgraded to calendars. And photobooks.
But Kodak.com is dead, and for my money, Shutterfly just ain’t doing it for me. I can’t tell you how many photobooks I’ve printed where the shots were just fuzzy and NO ONE OVER THERE flagged it for me. They are full-on robo-copping production over there and I am fully McKayla-unimpressed.
So I am over the moon to have discovered CanvasOnDemand. They take your photos and turn them into gorgeous canvases with a wide range of effects, and in a ton of sizes. The site does a great job of showing you the range of their products, and I got to say, I was pretty impressed just surfing around.
I wasn’t completely sure, however, what I would actually DO with a canvas print. I mean, we have a family photo wall and we’ve got fireplace mantles and we’ve got pictures of our kids taped up in our closet and on our office walls (you know how it goes), but a CANVAS PRINT is a totally different thing.
It’s, uh … fancy like.
And mine is NOT a fancy family. There is no way to be a fancy family once you have more than one kid.
Still, I was pretty curious to see a CanvasOnDemand canvas in real life, and my grandmother has a birthday coming up, so I went ahead and ordered an ENORMOUS Canvas (16×20), which is apparently their bestseller, using a truly great photo of the kids I took on my phone.
Ordering was easy-peasy.
Then SOMETHING AMAZING HAPPENED.
I got an email.
From an actual human.
And that actual human was actually CONCERNED that my Canvas would look like crap. He wanted to let me know I should switch out the image, and even included the link I’d use to do that.
I was a little too busy to deal with this problem. In case you haven’t been following along: my movie is shooting this month.
So I ignored it for three or four days.
And they sent me ANOTHER one.
Which was super helpful, obviously, because TOP OF EMAIL = TOP OF MIND.
So I zipped on over and switched out the file, and they printed it, and FedExed it … and even sent me actual FedEx notification after they dropped it off.
AND IT IS AWESOME GORGEOUS.
Yes, it’s fancy enough to hang in a big house on an island somewhere so fancy you don’t even know how to get there.
But it’s also low-key enough that I threw mine on the desk in our family room and I think it looks FAB there.
Grandma may not be getting this one, is all I’m sayin’.
And here’s the great thing:
CanvasOnDemand also does an Instagram package, in case that’s where you tend to get your best shots, and they do mugs (I love mugs with my kid’s art projects on them) and key rings (yeah, I love KEY RINGS with my kids’ art, too).
And photo albums and calendars and mousepads.
And, umm …
I’ve got a COUPON CODE for a whole 65% OFF!
Head on over to CanvasOnDemand and use code D7ABTGS98U4VSBF — I’m pretty in love with this company and I think you will be too.
This is a sponsored post. CanvasOnDemand offered me a free canvas to review on this site, and I am a participant in their affiliate program. Arrangements like these help to support this blog. That said, I have never — and WILL NEVER — recommend any product or service to my readers unless I use AND love it myself.