Motherhood is: Being home alone with a baby wondering how to fill the hours

I sat in the shady garden, idly splashing water on my daughter's bare skin as she squealed and laughed in the baby bath I'd brought outside on this sunny summer's day. My mind wandered elsewhere, to the road where I could hear a car driving off from next door to go somewhere, anywhere… to the faint drone of the plane above that I imagined was full of excited passengers off on their vacation of a lifetime.

It wandered away over the trees and hills in the distance to the city and to my old, pre-SAHM, job dealing with grown-up issues which meant I had to dress in suits and speak to adults all day long and could drink coffee that didn't go cold before I could get to it….

A shriek from my baby brought me back to the present where I realized I had mistakenly thrown water over her head and now had to get her out and dry her before the whimpering turned to a full-blown meltdown. I glanced at the time as I hauled her out on to the waiting towel: 3 pm. Only another two or three hours to fill before my husband got home.

Sighing, I started tickling my daughter's toes and was quickly rewarded with a smile and a giggle that could melt any mother's heart. Except at that point in time, all I could think about was what on earth I was going to do with the rest of the afternoon.

The hours stretched ahead of me, a yawning gap of emptiness that I knew I would be filled with cuddles and tickles and baby-talk, with passing the same ball back to her over and over again, singing the same songs, reading the same books.

It's one of those secrets many women don't like talking about but that I suspect most of us feel at some point. Motherhood can be spectacularly boring.

Okay, let me explain: I realize how lucky I was to be able to stay at home with my child instead of having to rush back to work like so many others. Circumstances changed for me after giving birth and I ended up leaving my job even though at first, I went back. So I wasn't really expecting to be at home on my own with a baby while my husband drove to an office 50 miles away early every morning, returning in the late afternoon to a wife who sometimes hadn't spoken to another adult all day long.

It was always a relief to chat without having to use a sing-song voice and there was nothing better than being able to hand the baby over and then take a nice long shower on my own.

But because I hadn't really planned to be a stay-at-home mom, I hadn't really thought about what it would be like to be at home all day with a baby. Not that I would have been able to do anything differently even if I had known in advance—it took me about 10 minutes after returning home from the hospital two days after giving birth to realize that actually there isn't much you CAN do with a baby except hold them, feed them, and try to persuade them to go to sleep anywhere except in your arms. But perhaps mentally at least I would have been more ready for it.

As my baby grew, she became more interesting, there was more to do together. Getting that first smile is very special, and who doesn't love the silly sounds they make as they begin to learn to use their voices? But there's only so much joy to be had from listening to your cute daughter blow raspberries for the umpteenth time that morning as you try to get another spoonful of baby rice in her.

Finding solace with other mothers with children of a similar age was the key to coping with this period and I did join as many local parent-and-baby groups as I could find (oh how I really didn't like singing those nursery rhymes and keeping that false smile plastered to my face as I sipped coffee with the other tired moms!).

And through these groups, I found fellow-passengers on the new mama ship: women like me at home with a non-speaking baby, desperate for the lifeboat of another grown-up to cling to. We started hanging out and life became more bearable. But ultimately most of the time I was still alone, at home, just me and the baby.

It ends eventually. Once you get past the point where everything has to revolve around the nap-feed-bath-bed daily routine (that as a new parent you believe you have to stick to in order to ever get your life back), you can start to venture out more often and for a longer time. Then your baby starts to walk, and talk. And you can go to parks and take them swimming.

Before you know it, they're in nursery or preschool three times a week and help! You're pregnant again! Yikes, you think, as you look back over those long, dragged out days of nothingness, do I really have to go through all of that again?

The good news is that you won't because if you have your two children as close together as I did (two years and three months, to be precise), you'll never be bored again. Caring for a baby at the same time as a toddler means your life will be a non-stop blur of feeding and wiping and potties and cooking and juggling.

In fact, for most of us, this will be the time when we look back enviously to the person we were when we only had one baby. When everything seemed so easy, so quiet, so peaceful, so serene.

And now they are older. Now they are at school, both mini-adults with their constant chatter and their full schedules, their social lives that I have to fit my own life around, packed lunches that need making, problems that need solving. And so I look back (perhaps with my rose-tinted spectacles on) and think, Bored? What was I complaining about?

On our busiest days, I find myself wondering: What I wouldn't give to be a little bored today… 😂

You might also like:

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.


Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.


Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.


The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.


The Snoo bassinet


Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!


Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.


Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!


Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.


Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

Keep reading Show less