Before I had kids, my friends who already had kids would try to describe just how much your life changes when you become a parent. I think they explained it pretty well, and I took their descriptions to heart. I knew I wouldn’t sleep the same, or have as much free time. I mean, I was becoming a parent—of course everything would be different.
But I definitely didn’t really understand how literally every aspect of your life changes when your baby arrives. It’s not like you feed and change your baby and then go live your normal life in between. It’s not like your day of parenting ends at a certain time and then your “me” time begins.
Parenting is a 24-hour job, no two ways about it. It can be pretty relentless, especially when you have a newborn. And yet, even then, it can be hard to describe the reality of all that to someone who has never been there.
This thing is, when you don’t have proper expectations for what parenthood is going to be like, the reality of it can hit you really hard. I remember feeling very alone, wondering if it was really supposed to be this hard. I wondered if maybe I was doing something wrong, or if there was something wrong with my baby for being so needy.
All of this made my transition to new parenthood traumatic in certain ways. I experienced so much worry and guilt, on top of insurmountable exhaustion. It was brutal.
It’s also why I was so excited when I saw a chart circulating on Twitter that depicts the day-to-day life of a new parent—and shows in vivid detail the extent to which your life does a total 180 when your baby arrives.
It should be noted that Hudon is showing her personal reality of new parenthood, and it might not match every mom’s. Hudon notes that she is a breastfeeding mom, and her chart definitely emphasizes the feeding schedule of a breastfed baby. Hudon is also a working mom, and apparently has a baby who started sleeping through the night at two months old (mine definitely didn’t!).
Still, I think the chart is incredibly relatable to moms everywhere. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely a visual learner and I think that if I’d seen a chart like this before having my first baby, I would have understood a little better just how much of a life-changing, enormous change being a mom would be.
For example, as her chart shows, her pre-baby life definitely was busy. She spent over eight hours working and commuting. But then she came home and had six glorious hours to herself.
As Hudon’s chart shows, after her baby was born, those six free hours were completely obliterated. As in, she had zero free time in her baby’s first two months. Yep. This is 1,000% realistic … and why you should never expect a new mom to send a thank you card or answer your texts.
Her chart also shows that breastfeeding is a full-time, 24/7 job, especially at first. Oh boy, can I relate to that — although as I mentioned, my kids definitely were still waking up to nurse well past that second month.
Now, obviously all parents are different, but I think your “free time” — although definitely less than it once was — starts to creep back in by three or four months, as Hudon’s chart shows. And by five or six months, most babies start to go to sleep regularly before their parents do, so you kinda-sorta get your evenings back.
I found that to be true for me, and I think that even if the schedule and exact number of hours is different for different folks, the idea that you start to have some semblance of a life by time your baby is six months is definitely encouraging for those brand new, exhausted moms out there.
Speaking with Scary Mommy, Hudon said that part of the reason she wanted to share the post is to gather a bit more empathy for new moms.
“It’s sparked a lot of conversation on Reddit and Twitter,” said Hudon. “I’m just happy to see increased awareness and empathy for what new parents (especially breastfeeding moms) are going through.”
Hudon also wanted a way to really describe the life of a new mom to her friends—and decided to use her background as a data scientist to do just that.
“Before having a baby, I knew that (obviously) I’d have less free time, and my days would look different, but I had no idea what, exactly, my time would look like,” Hudon explained.
“Since having baby, I’d tried to explain what my new days looked like to friends, and eventually had the idea that explaining it visually might be easier,” she continued. “I’m a data scientist by training, and data visualization is a big part of that, so I used that lens to design a simple visualization to communicate how my time has changed.”
Of course, being the
nosy curious person that I am, I had to ask Hudon about the whole “two-month-old sleeping through the night” aspect of her chart. Maybe it was a mistake? Maybe she just had a unicorn baby?
It was totally the latter for Hudon.
“This was, like, the #1 most mentioned thing about the viz beyond what it was trying to convey,” said Hudon. “We have a very good sleeper. And we’re definitely aware of how lucky we are for that!”
Well, clearly Hudon isn’t just a freaking genius data scientist and mom. She’s humble too. And yes, very lucky.
I truly think charts like this — and any way we can help expectant moms understand what parenting actually entails — are really important. Yes, maybe a new parent can’t really understand what it’s like until they are knee-deep in it, but it’s super-helpful to have as realistic a picture of the whole thing as possible.
It makes you feel less alone. Less worried. And more empowered to make it through. Because it does get better. It really does.