Many EAs are of an age to be considering having children, and are looking for information about how this will go.
Unfortunately we live in generally a quite age-segregated society. In past times people would have helped their siblings and cousins raise children, so would be intimately aware of the practical details. Alas, if you only have one sibling, leave your family for Boston when you’re 19 and the Bay Area at 23, and then socialise exclusively with other upwardly-mobile 20-and-30 something-year-olds, you might easily lack this sort of very basic knowledge.
One piece of information several people I have spoken to have found useful is just a breakdown of a typical day as a parent of a toddler (1.5 year old). I think a lot of people are so very unclear about the time requirements that even a single data point can be useful, so here is the situation for us:
- 7:30: Get baby out of crib, change nappy, run around, quick bit of food, get dressed, go to daycare
- 8:15 - 17:00: Daycare (playing, art, friends, food, nap etc.)
- 17:00-18:30: Walk home from daycare, playing in the park, greet dogs in the street etc.
- 18:30-20:00: Play at home, read books, dinner, bathtime, brush teeth
- 20:00: Bedtime. She sleeps continuously until morning.
- 7:30: Get baby out of crib, change nappy, etc.
- 8:00-12:00: Various activities, including park
- 12:00-15:00: Nap. She sleeps continuously for the duration.
- 15:00-20:00: Various activities, probably park again
- 20:00: Bedtime. She then sleeps continuously until morning.
Note these are average days; covid has made things a bit worse at times, and things are better when grandparents help out etc. In particular, a newborn will not be able to sleep for 11 hours in a row!
In general when the baby is awake she needs one adult on her - the other can be sleeping, working, cooking etc. While looking after her you'll be able to do a little - e.g. email, slack - but not 'proper' work. Having guests over is great - they help keep you company, it's enjoyable to show off the baby, and she likes meeting new people.
Fortunately she sleeps a lot more than we do. This was aided by sleep training, which as you may be aware is a very controversial practice - some parents regard it as cruel to delay responding to a child at night - but one we have no regrets doing. With children it is always hard to know what is due to luck, or genetics, or your parenting, but we have deliberately invested in an extremely consistent sleep routine and the outcomes have been very good. She is happy to go to sleep, doesn’t cry at night, and is happy when she wakes up.
The combination of daycare plus our daughter being a good sleeper means we actually have a lot of time for independent work. Without one or other of these things things would be more tight. We could have more 'us' time if we used a TV/iPad, because kids seem to find these hypnotic, but we choose to closely limit screen time. Conversely, we are fortunate enough to have a very good daycare; absent this things would be a little more logistically awkward. Hiring a nanny or an au pair becomes increasingly economic with second, third etc. children. Similarly, you can hire a night nurse to help at night.
Obviously this is focused on couples where both members intend to continue working, but I don’t mean to suggest this is the best lifestyle. Stay at home mums do extremely important work! But that’s not a setup I can shed much light on.
Despite the above caveats, hopefully this is helpful to some people, to at least show one possible (out of many) way of organizing life with a young child.
Thanks for this breakdown. I'd be curious if other parents here have radically different experiences, especially for kids of different ages.
Also, just to flag that stay at home dads do extremely important work too!
Yeah, I enjoyed the post and am grateful for the data point, but when I read that sentence I was definitely like "huh? ...".
Thanks for sharing! I'd also like to share my experience, which is quite different from yours, just to give a different perspective.
My currently 15-month old daughter neither sleeps through the night, nor does she nap for 3 hours during daytime. We currently have on average 2 nightly wake-ups, which varies a bit every day. Sometimes she falls asleep again quickly, sometimes she keeps us awake for several hours. Typically, she naps for 1.5 hours around lunch time.
I talk to many people with kids of a similar age, and there seems to be a very large range of experiences (from 3-year olds frequently waking up 3-4x at night to newborns sleeping through the night from day 1), so I don't have the impression that we are strong outliers.
Before I became a parent, I was mentally prepared for a few months of sleep deprivation, but I had no idea that this can go on for years.
Also, I think the daycare situation varies a lot across countries. In Germany (where I live), there are not enough daycare spots for all kids, and I know some parents who had to delay going back to work by several months or even years simply because no daycare spot was available. We were very lucky to find a spot on time, but it's not something everyone (at least here) can count on.
"With children it is always hard to know what is due to luck, or genetics, or your parenting" :-)