I’m in baby jail- four years and counting.
What is baby jail? It’s this precious, exhausting, all-consuming, finite period of time when it is all about the babies. It has to be: they need to be fed, rocked to sleep, be bathed, be changed, be entertained, be soothed, all while Frozen plays in the background.
Baby jail is 24/7; a chore-intensive existence without breaks. In baby jail, going to work is a vacation. When I go to work as a CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) counselor, I am busy breaking down clients’ issues into their thoughts, their feelings, and their behaviors to help improve their quality of life. At times, there are challenging sessions. However, while at work, I do not clean up anyone’s bodily fluids, gatekeep toddlers who defy gravity, or frantically search for the Disney-Plus remote. Instead, I sit in a chair alone. There is adult conversation. There is hot tea that I get to drink while it is still hot, should I remember that I made myself a cup of said tea.
However, that vacation quickly comes to an end when I walk back into my house and am tackled by the babies and their latest baby chore demands. Who is smelling? Who has their milk? Who had markers? Who declined to take their nap? Who ripped off the baby-proof lock that bars the babies from the dishwasher soap tablets? Did anyone eat the dishwasher soap tablets? And does it even matter- because there are three babies, and I am outnumbered? I am tired from yesterday and looking at more of the same tomorrow.
Baby jail attire? There is a uniform for moms in mom mode. High-waisted yoga pants (that do not hurt) are better WITH pockets. Pair with a flowy tunic style shirt- sleeveless in summer, long sleeves in winter. Tennis shoes, check. The more obnoxious socks, the better. Some personality has to be buried in there somewhere.
Leaving the house in baby jail is complicated. Getting out of the house can take hours, literally. Ideally, the destination is worth it. Sometimes the outing is magical, and the #latergram pictures bring forth joy. On other days, the adventure turns into a nightmare that makes me question the inner workings of our life. Baby jail is humbling.
I have a wonderful college friend who forged the baby jail path long before me. She was a perfect Louisiana Tech girl. She had perfect grades, more or less ran her sorority, got engaged to the SGA president, and married him shortly after graduation. She had three-plus kids by the time I started dating guys who texted me back. So I looked to her, now a stay-at-home mother of four, when I needed advice about my first, very adorable, yet very un-sleep trained six-month-old baby who was waking up (on average) six times a night. As a very sleep-deprived, first-time mom, I pleaded with her, “How does one survive this? How long before they sleep?!” She calmly responded, “They sleep when they sleep.” I was taken aback. What does that mean?! I needed an end goal, I needed encouragement and hope so that I could sustain enough energy to complete all of the baby chores. And to wash my hair, on occasion. But back then, I was just a first-time mom of one. I did not know then, because I could not know.
She was right. They do sleep (eventually) when they sleep. Sure, sleep training helps. There are even sleep training specialists who coach the mamas (like me) who are too tired to read the sleep training books. But mostly, these torturous baby jail milestones do pass when they pass. Because baby jail is temporary, a moment in time when you look at the big picture. Accompanied with sleep deprivation, diapers, and tantrums are the ever-evolving baby smiles and the on-repeat “I love you’s” every four and a half minutes. I will not be as excited about buying my future tween girls matching pajamas as I am while in baby jail. I doubt they will allow me to dress them when they are older. In baby jail, I am the sole smocked dress stylist and I have excellent taste.
So no, I cannot get bottomless mimosas this weekend. Or next week. Or next year. But we are very available for impromptu tea parties and bounce house moments. This is not our time of life to remodel our kitchen. It is likely the girls are going to draw on the walls… again. Enjoy your relaxed backyard BBQ at 7:00 PM- that is when my babies completely start to fall apart. If I had to guess, I will be at home, knocking out bedtime and deciding between the Bravo show that is currently on versus the recorded Bravo show. In baby jail, after the babies are put to bed, an hour of uninterrupted peace passes. And I start to look at pictures on my phone and I miss my babies. It is inevitable- my babies really are that cute.
So until my time in baby jail ends, I choose to embrace Frozen and Frozen II. I will take as many pictures as my squirmy babies will allow, and match as many smocked dresses as I can. Because it will end. And when I am freed from baby jail, I am going to happy hour and decorating my house in porcelain. Because I can.