If you’re up all night with a newborn, why not try these activities | Ben Jenkins

Muttering odd things, doom-scrolling social media or simply going insane are just some of the fun things you can entertain yourself with in the early hours

Congratulations on your brand new bub. If you’re anything like us, your newborn is keeping you busy, busy, busy in the day and awake, awake, awake at night! While completely normal, these sleepless nights can take their toll, but they don’t have to be all doom and gloom. Here are some things to do while you’re up and about.

Read the first paragraph of a novel 70 times

Calling all bookworms! Think of your long nights awake as an opportunity to get stuck right into some reading! Whether it’s one of the classics, contemporary literature or just a breezy beach read, take some time for yourself while you’re desperately rocking your baby to sleep to squint hazily at the first paragraph of a great book, immediately lose the ability to parse its meaning, and read it again five minutes later. If you don’t have a novel on hand, you can also struggle to make sense of the words on a tin of formula over and over again in the half-light of the kitchen. It’s up to you!

Scroll social media in a state of near catatonia until you accidentally drop your phone on your baby’s head

Just because you’re a parent, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep up with the outside world! Pop bub on your chest, grab your phone, fire up Twitter and get up to date with the opinions of some of the most unwell people on planet Earth. Keeping your mind active during this time is so important, so get your brain moving by mutely seething about the thoughts of people who you would actively avoid were you to see them on the street, until your phone slips from your grasp and lands on your newborn’s face, just as they were getting settled.

Work out what plastic is made of so your four-year-old doesn’t scream at you in the morning

The middle of the night is a good time to work on stuff for yourself, but it’s important to remember the needs of others.

If, for example, your four-year-old son who is not coping very well with the arrival of his little brother asked you yesterday what plastic was made out of, and you said “oil” because that’s something you heard on a podcast, and then he asked “what do you mean by that” and then you realised you didn’t really know what you meant by that, but you were in too deep and so you just sort of sheepishly mumbled “oil” again, and this caused him to go absolutely ballistic at you, which seemed a little unfair in your opinion, but of course this isn’t really about what plastic is made out of, it’s because you and his mother just ruined his life – if that happened, then you can use this time in the small hours to try to understand what, exactly, polymerisation is, and how you’d best go about explaining that to a four-year-old who hates you.

Look at your baby, mutter odd things

Take some time to look at your brand new bub and mutter some stuff to yourself that, were you to mutter them on public transport, would probably cause people to move away from you. “A whole universe in those eyes”, is one such thing you can whisper in the dark while you look at the baby; “a life where there was nothing before” is another. There are no rules about what you can mutter, but a good guide is “Would Ralph Fiennes in Red Dragon scream this at someone glued to a wheelchair?” If the answer is yes, mutter away!

Become insane

Becoming medically insane, brain-wise, is an absolute must for parents of newborns. Going cuckoo-bananas in your mind is a great way to pass the time on those long sleepless nights; whether you want to gaze mutely into the abyss, compose a series of threatening letters to the zoo or briefly convince yourself you’ve invented a new number – take some time for yourself to glide seamlessly into a state of exquisite madness; an elite and decadent mindset previously reserved for the syphilitic kings of old.

Look into whether babies can go to jail for this

Unfortunately, your baby not sleeping despite being gently wrapped in a cuddly swaddle and sung to nonstop between the hours of 3.30am and 5am is not in violation of any current state or federal laws. However, Googling “sue baby no sleep” and “baby court for bad baby” can be a fun and cathartic distraction.

Do not sleep

While doctors and cowards generally recommend a person sleep seven hours a night, this does not take into account that you have a baby on you and if you take the baby off you and put the baby in the baby’s bed, then the baby will make a noise loud enough to humble the ears of God. If you’re feeling left out of the “sleep club”, just think of all the notable people who slept very little but still achieved great things, and try to ignore the fact that the most famous of these was Margaret Thatcher.

Think up fun ways you could fake your own death

While pacing around the living room for the 20th time trying to make soothing ocean noises but instead sounding like a steam train wrought by Satan, let your mind conjure up various ways you could fake your own death and flee to Aruba, where you run a beachside bar serving cold beer to the locals who have given you an affectionate nickname in their local tongue which roughly translates as “the person who does not have a baby”.

Realise with a mix of joy and horror that you would die for this thing

If you’ve exhausted this list and are still in need of something to do, why not have an earth-shattering epiphany? Look at your child. Just take a moment to really look at them. The architect of all your misery, laying there in your arms, looking more like a magic frog than a human being, and have it dawn on you with equal parts elation and dread that you would, in no uncertain terms, die before any harm would come to this weird little thing.

  • Ben Jenkins is a writer, TV producer and occasional podcaster


Ben Jenkins

The GuardianTramp

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