It was nine months ago today that Sam was born... and I remember wondering, even that first day, what I'd gotten myself into. Granted, a lot of the things I worried about initially didn't end up being that big a deal. I worried about breastfeeding, which he took to like a pro. I worried about supporting his head, holding him correctly, and changing his diaper right. All that stuff just fell into place. When your baby's there, expecting you to take care of him, you get past the fear of doing things wrong and just focus on doing what needs to be done.
On the other hand, there were a few things I underestimated about parenthood... for example, the ongoing shortage of time. We imagined naps and early bedtimes, with at least some amount of time to ourselves. After months of blaming Sam's sleeping issues on diaper rashes or teething, we're beginning to think the kid just isn't much of a sleeper. So crafting — along with eating, showering, and bill-paying — all get squeezed into extremely limited naptimes.
Over the months, I've come up with some ways to make the best use of the polymer clay time I do have. Here are a few of them:
- Pre-condition your clay. While someone else has the baby (so you're not worried about being too noisy), use a food processor to bulk condition various colors of clay. That way you can get right to work when naptime rolls around, without being tempted to under-condition the clay just to get to the fun part.
- Cover your work surface. I got pretty frustrated having to spend precious naptime cleaning dust and hair off my partially-completed clay pieces. Turns out, one of those plastic under-the-bed storage containers fits nicely over my self-healing mat. Now when I finish my crafting session, I can cover my works in progress.
- Use someone else's project. You may have noticed I started doing more book review projects in the months after Sam's birth. This was my way of keeping my hands in the clay even though I had limited time for creating. If you have trouble coming up with something to work on when you're pressed for time, consider looking at books and tutorials online. Following someone else's guidelines gives you a way to get good results without as much risk of failure.
- Follow those safety guidelines. Be sure to wash clay off your hands before handling the baby (I love the Polymer Clay Cookbook's sugar scrub for this). You may also want to look at ways to make the baking process safer. I was fine with using a toaster oven in my craft room when it was just me, but I moved it to a separate part of the house when I found out I was pregnant.
- Try to get some dedicated crafting time. If you have family members who are willing to take care of your little one and give you a few hours alone, take them up on their offer. It's amazing what filling the creative well can do. I can tell a big difference in the way I relate to my son when I've just come from a fulfilling time in my craft room. I'm happier, so I can enjoy my time with him more.
Of course, I'm still new at this. We're just now starting on the getting-into-everything phase, so I'm sure I'll have a lot to learn when it comes to that. Whether you have additional new mom tips to share or suggestions for surviving toddlerhood, I would love to hear from you!