Couple-time after the baby

He's asleep! Delta force: Go go go!
He’s asleep! Delta force: Go go go!

If you have a baby and still want to do date/couple things with your spouse, you need planning and opportunism.

When the baby is awake, you’re generally going to want to spend time with him. Especially if you work in an office away from home, the time you have with him is pretty precious.

However, you and your wife will still want to do adult things that babies cannot participate in. Some examples:

  • Baking something complex
  • Playing a co-op video game
  • God forbid, actually having sex

The natural time to do such things is when the baby is asleep. However, how many of you just waste the precious nap-time duration just laying around playing with your phone? Yep, guilty as charged. The antidote to this is planning and opportunism.

The first step is planning, and all this entails is keeping in mind a few things you’d like to do together with your spouse over the next few days. Yeah – it’s lame to plan. I get it. Spontaneity is way better. However, even lamer than planning is not-doing-anything. I think some planning is just required now…

The second step is opportunism. Once the baby goes down for a long nap (based on his daily routine and patterns), you and your spouse should waste no time, and jump into action.

Now don’t take me too literally – I’m not saying you must have planned activities all the time, nor am I saying that you must do couple things right every time the baby falls asleep. And obviously it’s still cool to lay around and play with your phone – it’s a great way to relax.

But if you’re finding you have no time for couple time, this is one strategy Mary and I have used sometimes to get our date-time achievement.

Taking Sebastian to the Park

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We took Sebastian to the park for the first time. This particular park had a tiny little pond with ducks and turtles. The park is awesome for small children because:

  • They get to be outside in the sun and get some Vitamin D.
  • If they’re big enough, they can roll around in the dirt. (We didn’t do this for Sebastian yet.)
  • They get to see some animals. Ducks are especially interesting, because they swim, walk, and fly.
  • They get to see some other kids.
  • There’s no time limit, usually free parking, and enough space to bring your stroller and all the baby gear.

And potentially most importantly:

  • Mommy and Daddy have an excuse to go outside and enjoy the day also.

And one more thing: it trains your children to enjoy going to the park as a recreational activity. Living in the city, entertainment generally becomes associated with exclusive things you pay to access. It takes conscious effort to avoid “the Disease that tricks people into thinking that the expensive and exclusive options are better than free or cheap ones” (Source).

If you’re paying taxes to your city you may as well enjoy its benefits.

The Hand Obsession

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Bash is now almost 3 months old and has entered a new phase of his life. He’s become obsessed with his hands. They are basically always in his mouth. Although he prefers his right, he keeps both of his hands coated with a generous layer of saliva at all times. As gross as it sounds, I like smelling his stinky spit-coated hands. This probably disgusts everyone else, but he is my child, so it seems reasonable.

This all started right after a feeding growth spurt. I wonder what finally clicked in his head. With this grossness has come new abilities:

  • He can now use his hand to push in the pacifier and keep it in his mouth. His technique is crude and imperfect, but it kind of works, and he’ll only get more proficient with time.
  • On the ghetto baby gym, he’s actually able to grab toys and pull. We have this one toy elephant where if the baby pulls it, it jiggles on the way back up. I saw Bash do this for the first time the other day!
  • He is now constantly touching things, especially after “priming” his hand with spit – especially Mommy and Daddy’s faces. Sounds pretty gross when I write it out – but it’s adorable.

Although this sounds like a very small milestone, watching him advance from laying there dumbly to manipulating things with his hands was a huge step for the two of us who have been paying very close attention.

Ghetto Wooden Baby Gym DIY

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There is nothing more awesome than seeing your baby (which you created) playing happily under a ghetto baby gym you also created.

First off, I did not invent this concept. There’s a billion variations of these ghetto baby gyms on the Internet, which is a wonderful thing. I followed the directions on this blog post Mary linked to me.

Total cost under $5 from Home Depot. Here are some abridged directions on how to make one:

  1. Have a drill and a saw. I guess you don’t even need the saw technically.
  2. Go to Home Depot or Lowe’s or something.
  3. Buy one 1 x 2 x 8 piece of wood. I think this was under $1. Saw it into quarters (2 ft length each). You can do this either with a saw they have in the store, or you can ask the person operating the wood cutting machine. They will do it for free, since it’s just 3 cuts.
  4. Buy one 3/4 x 3/4 x 48 inch dowel.
  5. Just have some twine around the house. Or string or something.
  6. Drill a 3/4 inch diameter hole at the top of every piece of wood.
  7. Drill a 1/8 inch diameter hole around the middle of every piece of wood.
  8. Assemble as shown in the picture.
  9. Friction holds the dowel in place, though you can hold it in place with an additional piece of dowel if you prefer. See the above blog post.

Total cost to make this was under $5, since it’s just some wood from Home Depot. This assumes, of course, that you already have a saw and a drill.

Five ways the baby makes you buff

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The after pic

Dad-bod has a bad rep, but personally, my rippedness has dramatically increased since Mary gave birth to Sebastian.

For a computer programmer who spends 8 hours a day (actually more) in front of a computer, I’m basically Hercules now. I attribute this to the following activities I now must undertake:

  1. Core strengthening – Holding the baby. He’s basically a squirming weight that slowly gets heavier.
  2. Cross training – Lifting the baby from any permutation of your position and his position. The more awkward the lift, the greater the pump.
  3. Pushing and pulling – Rearranging the bedroom furniture 3+ times because your wife can’t make up her mind.
  4. Arm training – Cloth diaper laundry using the bucket and plunger method. (Neighbors wouldn’t want our baby’s poop in the shared washer I’m sure.)
  5. Wearable weights – We have a baby carrier front-backpack thing. Major back strengthener.

Sleeping in Shifts

After much experimentation, this is the system that allows us to get the most sleep:

Shift 1: 9PM to ~3AM.

The baby and I sleep in the living room. Me on the fold-down futon, and he in a little bassinet. When he is hungry or needs a diaper, I take care of it. If he can’t fall asleep, I watch an episode of Parks and Recreation. That always puts him to sleep.

During this 6 hour period, I probably get about 3-4 hours of sleep, and Mary gets 5-6 hours of continuous sleep.

Any time the baby wakes up after 2AM, that means my shift is over, and I holler: “Mary!! Time to pump.”

Shift 2: ~3AM to 8AM.

I sleep like a baby (not an actual baby) in bed. Mary and the baby are either sleeping in the living room, or in the bedroom. I’m not conscious for this part, so I don’t care.

Having done my duty (and being quite tired), during this shift, I sleep guilt-free and continuously for 5 hours.

Mary actually doesn’t get a lot of sleep here. She is a lighter sleeper and wakes up as soon as the baby fidgets (is much more attentive than me), and the baby is more active in the morning-time.

How we arrived here – or, The Bad Old Days

For the first few days with the baby, we tried the “obvious” approach: We’d put the baby down in his bedroom crib, and both go to bed.

Lo’ and behold, in 2 or 3 hours, the baby would start fussing. Mary is a lighter sleeper, and by the time I woke up, she would already be taking care of it and reassure me: “It’s okay Tommy, I got this. Go back to sleep.”

By 3AM or so, Mary was very visibly tired – and cranky. And the next day she’d be useless too. By that time, I’d feel so guilty that I wouldn’t be able to sleep either. I’d get up to “help” her, but she didn’t really need my help, she just needed sleep.

Clearly that wasn’t working, and we had to switch to the shift system.

Cuddle time

In the shift system, we are nominally sleeping apart and don’t get cuddle time. Mary says she gets it anyways by sneaking back into the bedroom during second shift, “coming over” to my side, and I instinctively cuddle her.

I guess I am a baller unconscious husband.

Mary can’t wait for the baby

It’s Week 38 and a few days. The baby is due in just over a week. Mary has been antsy. Since she’s done a good job of prepping everything, there’s nothing left to do for her but wait.

She’s just sleeping and complaining a lot. Today she was bored, so she went through her photos to order about 100 prints. She complains about the heat once it’s a hair over 70 degrees, so she’s hot a lot.

Here are the latest things she’s done to prepare for the baby to come:

  • Prepared the hospital suitcase. This is just the suitcase full of clothes, gadgets, etc. to take to the hospital. It’s pre-loaded into the trunk of the car. Therefore it’s all ready for me to “get a pack of cigarettes” and never come back.
  • Started smelling bad again. She posted about her B.O. months ago. It’s come back. She pretty much smells like a homeless man these days.
  • Made a bunch of frozen meals. She read this thing online about making a bunch of frozen meals so she doesn’t have to cook after delivery. Mmm… I’m sure that frozen curry in zip-lock bags will be exactly what I will want to eat.
  • Endured it all with good humor. Actually though, if I was carrying around a huge sack of flesh and couldn’t sleep right, I would be a lot more grumpy than she’s been. She’s even managed to continue to cook meals and keep the apartment clean.

Using the gaming cave

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Since we moved to a 1-bedroom, Mary has relegated my gaming rig and all my gadgets to the closet. She claims that since she has set up little shelves above my monitor to hold my controller, she is doing me a favor.

She tells me there is no need to come out of the closet – and the only way to get me out is to cook something. Once I was gaming all day, and I finally came out when I was hungry and I heard her cooking in the kitchen.

Anyways – let’s get to the point of this post. Basically all of the other posts have been about the various things I do for Mary. Let’s talk about doing something for Tommy.

I anticipate that once the baby comes, I will have a lot less free time. That is why I am gaming so hard. I’m clearing out all the titles I have been meaning to play but never completed.

So far I have finished the campaigns of:

  • Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
  • Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

I am currently playing:

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • http://agar.io/

And I still need to do:

  • Fallout
  • Fallout 2
  • Fallout 3
  • Fallout: New Vegas

I’ve been gaming really hard. I told Mary I took this Friday off so I could take her to the doctor. But actually, I was also able to get in a ton of gaming the rest of the day.

I don’t think I’ve ever gamed for so many hours per day. Actually I’m not even enjoying it anymore. I just have to do it.