What DO we do all day and why are we so insanely tired at the end of it? One key to approaching the issue is to look at how babies perceive the world and how they learn to interact with it.
They say days are long and years are short when you care for a baby. But can we talk about the nights?
Innumerable teas gone cold before they could be drank. Almost half of us suffering from depressive symptoms after the birth of a person we love passionately (or maybe we don’t…why don’t we? We definitely should, right?).
Facts and questions, emotions and opinions mix up when it comes to the first 1,000 days of a baby. And if we are the ones doing most of the caring, we are likely to get that famous “What do you do all day?” that leaves us angry and perplexed… and yet without an actual answer.
What DO we do all day and why are we so insanely tired at the end of it?
One key to approaching the issue is to look at how babies perceive the world and how they learn to interact with it. In the last decades, we have learned so much about when and how babies take in the world. We have more and more elements about what they can and cannot feel/do/experience at different stages. That in itself is worth looking into, because it’s like opening a window in a previously dark room: things come to life and it’s just amazing!
But that is not all. We are getting more and more evidence that in order to ensure healthy development, the role of a caring and attuned adult is demanded pretty much 24/7.
This does not mean that the adult has got something to “do” 24/7 - not even that he has something to “say”, let alone “worry about”. But it does mean that he has to be aware of “what the baby is at” so that he can be there when baby needs him.
This is the case for example when it comes to social relationships, and simple things like imitating and being imitated assume vital importance (more than that pile of laundry. Maybe even more than that promotion that might be slipping away as I play peek-a-boo!). That subtle attention and aware mediation is key also when the baby learns to perceive the world (smelling a rose, or seeing a kitten), and even when she learns to perceive her own body (being hungry or needing to poop). Yes! Even in these very personal interactions between the baby and the world, the mediation of a devoted adult is necessary for healthy development. So we end up feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling for two and then sort-of-bridging all those perceptions between the baby and the rest of the world.
To understand how this actually works, we have asked the researchers of the BabyLab at the University of Essex. Dr Rigato, Dr Filippetti and Dr De Klerk have shared their most recent experimental and theoretical work with us, letting us peak into the newest facts and ideas of the ever-evolving field of developmental cognitive neuroscience, and shedding some light on both the amazement and the exhaustion that caring for a baby carries with it.
It looks a lot like what we do all day is something similar to learning a new dance, because just as it takes two to tango, it also takes two to adjust to life as a person.
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