I used to love bath time — when it was mine all mine. I'd fill the tub to the brim, , burn a candle, sip wine, and soak away. Ahhhhh.
But "bath time" has taken on a whole new meaning. I'm now a mom to a 4-month-old girl, Phoebe. She's the cutest and the smartest, and all the wonderful things people say about having a kid are true.
What's usually left out is how relentless it all is. Each day is its own marathon, starting at 5 a.m. when Phoebe fusses for a pacifier. I ping-pong back and forth between her needs and mine, trying to keep both of us alive. She eats every four hours, and between her meals I have to figure out how to eat, work, and clean while keeping her happy, stimulated, and dry. I know people have multiple kids and insurmountable problems, all I'm saying is at the end of each day I think I deserve a medal (skip the awards ceremony, I'm too tired) instead of another back-breaking hurdle.
Each night, when the clock starts to inch towards 7 p.m., I almost feel relieved. We nearly made it through another day. I can read a little, watch The Real Housewives of New York City, have some wine. But first … first the bath. Imagine approaching the finish line, then just before you hit it, someone tells you there's actually another mile left. To me, that's giving my baby a bath.
I hate it. It hurts my back. I get sweaty and damp. I'm scared to death I'm gonna drop her. It takes 30 minutes but, with prep and cleanup afterwards, it feels like three hours. It's manual labor. You have to fill the tiny baby tub; gauge the temperature like a meteorologist; lay out the soap, rinsing cup, washcloth, and clean towel; get the baby naked; and bend down to dunk her in. Then you have to scrub in all the nooks and crannies: behind the neck, inside the ears (scream), in between toes (giggle). Phoebe now weighs more than 15 pounds, and the transition from lifting two-pound weights in a spin class to carrying her weight around all day is tough work.
Feeling mom guilt for my aversion to this nightly ritual, I Googled "I hate bath time" for some support. Instead, a ton of solutions popped up about how to make bath time less traumatic — for the baby. Try to rinse the head last, don't use too much soap. What about Mommy? Why doesn't anyone admit bath time sucks?
New York-based tells me lots of mothers keep their least favorite parenting chores to themselves out of fear of being mom-shamed. "But all moms have tasks that they hate," she says. "It's normal. It doesn't mean you're a bad mom — it means you're human."
Bath time is typically a hard time of day, she explains. "One option is to give your baby a bath at a different time of day that is more convenient for you," she says. "That will separate it from the end-of-night rush. Another alternative is to do a quick bathing and cleaning sequence that isn't a full bath. It'll save you time and frustration. Most of the time, a mom who's less stressed is more important than a long bath."
But figuring out a way of communicating my needs is as important as solving my bath time blues. "I often tell people to say, 'Can I make a request?'" says Dr. Lasky. "This is sometimes an easier way to ask your partner to do something and makes everyone a bit less defensive."
When I told my husband — who, in fairness, does take on baby cleaning duties (just not as often as I did) — that bath time has become this horrible ordeal, he truly had no idea. I was happy to hear I was hiding it well, at least for Phoebe's sake. "I can understand why you look at it like a chore you don’t want to do," he said sympathetically. "It's very physical, bending over on a tiled floor, leaning over into the tub, lifting her … yeah, it does kind of suck."
Then I ticked off a list of things I'd rather do: Scrub the kitchen floors nightly, vacuum 68 times in a row, scoop the cat litter box, strip the bed, wash the duvet cover, empty the dishwasher, fold all the laundry, clean the toilets, etc.
"Is there anything you kind of hate doing with her?" I asked him. Turns out, he'd rather give her a bath any day than change a poop diaper, which oddly, I don't mind so much.
We came up with a solution. He now bathes the baby on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.
On those nights, I've gone back to doing my own bath time.