This Essay appears in the May edition of the Burlingame Mother’s Club Newsletter
Time is short for us now. Soon the BMC will eject my wife and I from their warm embrace. We will be cast out, as all seasoned parents are eventually cast out. It’s not like we broke some rule. To the contrary. We followed the tenets of the BMC closely and raised our kids diligently. However, our youngest son will soon age-out of the BMC. He will cross the threshold and we will no longer qualify for membership. The BMC won’t want us around. We will know too much.
So, because they are going to kick us out anyway, I’ve decided to break all the rules and tell you the real truth about parenting, the one that the ‘Mommy Mafia’ doesn’t want you to hear. Are you ready? Here it is: parenting is easy. Yup. You heard me. Easy. The BMC wants to keep this inconvenient truth a secret so that it can corner the market on bliss. But I’m hijacking their newsletter to tell you what to really expect as a parent. So, if you have a bambino on the way or you are new to the game here is the straight dope on parenting. It’s the truth. Cross my heart.
You know all those horror stories about parents losing sleep, losing freedom and losing sanity? Complete bunk. Absolutely nothing will change about your current life when you have a baby. Actually, your new child-filled life will be even better. You’ll be getting an exciting new roommate; albeit a roommate that doesn’t help clean or cook or pay rent or (initially) talk very much. But, really, don’t we all yearn for an unchatty roommate?
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning. After a fast, painless delivery (yes ladies, definitely decline the epidural, you won’t need it), your new child will arrive. Your baby will not be covered in goop or look like he’s just gotten back from a weekend bender. Your baby will be bathed in the welcoming light of rainbows and unicorn sparkles. You won’t feel like you’ve brought him into the world prematurely or that he’s too fragile for what lies ahead. He’ll be ready to rock!
As your child looks up at you, you won’t feel even a little bit terrified. After a short stay at the comfortable hospital, staffed with attentive, warm, patient, caring healthcare providers who are unconcerned about bureaucracy and lawsuits, you will bring your new baby home. You won’t stop five times to re-check the child seat. You won’t drive 22-miles-an-hour on the highway.
Luckily, when you get home, you will have all of your instincts to guide you. It will all seem so natural. Of course, you paid close attention and took notes during all those many baby classes you took when you were expecting, so that fills in all the blanks. You will be an expert. Feeding and caring for your baby won’t be foreign to you at all. You won’t struggle to dress and wash and swaddle. Moms, your baby will latch to you the way two legos snap together. Dads, you will know your role intuitively. You will also be a mind reader, responding to your wife’s every need (which will be totally obvious). You will never take an inopportune break and drive to Home Depot to simply stroll the aisles in an aimless stupor. Also, conveniently, dedicated relatives will soothingly appear to quietly help you. They will never judge you. Nor will they compare your baby to your childhood self when something troublesome occurs.
You will be so stress free and rested during the first few months that you won’t experience any psychological impacts at all. There will be no postpartum depression for you, mom. And even if there is postpartum depression, it certainly won’t manifest itself as a seething, unquenchable rage focused at dad. Why would it? Your interest in your husband’s well-being won’t diminish a bit with the arrival of your child.
Mom’s, you definitely won’t become obsessed with protecting your child from questionable threats like diaper rash, cradle cap, non-organic applesauce, or water allergies. You won’t constantly awaken to the late night sound of air molecules colliding with your baby’s skin either. Dad, you won’t become fixated on improbable hazards such as: earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, CIA drones, Peak Oil, alien invasions, home invasions, British invasions or a Fed-led currency conspiracy against gold. That stuff won’t even cross your mind.
While on your maternity/paternity leave, relax. Nothing is really happening at work. Younger coworkers without kids certainly won’t be working insane hours in a bid to steal your job. Even if they were, why worry? Your bosses will value your experience and family grounding so much more than the contributions of employees they see every day. And best of all, you won’t miss work while you’re gone. Who wants to experience those boring adult interactions and suffer through the camaraderie of working with an enthusiastic team to realize fulfilling goals? Instead, you get to sit there in your fully-mortgaged house, staring down at your dozing baby, for hours…and hours…and hours…and hours. Oh look, she breathed! These may be some of the most intellectually stimulating time you’ll ever spend.
Kids are magnets for self actualization too. You’ll now have plenty of opportunity to act on those plans you had: to start your own business, write your first novel, or go back to school. Babies are a gateway to new dreams! Post-baby is also the best time to join clubs, volunteer in your community and start a political movement. There’s so much time! Kids are so well behaved that you won’t find yourself getting interrupted by your child’s demands every moment. And honestly, it won’t mess your kid up at all if you ignore their needs. Want proof? Just look at the kids of those jet-setting celebrities. They all turn out great, right?
You will also find your health soaring with the arrival of children. There will be so many opportunities to exercise. And you’ll never get sick. Your immune system will never be stronger thanks to all that sleep, good food and stress-free living. Children are certainly not a vector for contagion. They would never rub pathogens all over themselves at daycare and school (where everybody else’s kids are even cleaner and healthier than yours). You can stop taking vitamin C. You’ll never get sick again.
As for your marriage during this period, it will be filled with hours of incomparable romance. During the early months, you and your spouse (and your baby) will spend lots and lots of quality time together. Why go out when you can just stay at home? What stimulates romance more than spending days and days and days together, without a break? You’ll just keep gazing into each other’s eyes! Truly, nothing is more tantalizing than the prospect of budgeting away your savings for your new child’s itsy-bitsy little financial requirements. And there’s that erotic process of divvying up exciting new chores. An added plus? Sleep deprivation is an aphrodisiac.
But, alas, here’s the rub. There is a cost to all of this carefree joy. You see, parenting is kind of like getting dropped off at the top of Mt. Everest in a helicopter. It lacks any challenge, so it’s a bit of a let down. Because parenting is so incredibly easy, it doesn’t provide for the type of rewards that can only be earned through hard effort. If the birthing process were really agonizing and scary, it might make the arrival of your child significant—even monumental. If your child’s welfare required you to perform an array of completely alien tasks, you might eventually find yourself the proud owner of a whole new bag of tricks, which just might come in handy in other situations. If parenting were exasperating, infuriating, bewildering and confounding, you might learn patience, tolerance, understanding, and wisdom. In such a case, your struggles might actually beneficial for your child too, as it would give him a role model for successfully dealing with adversity. But parenting isn’t hard. Parenting is easy. So none of these things really matter.
In short, because parenting is easy, you don’t have to worry! It’s no big thing, raising a child. You’ll just breeze right through it. And so will your children. At least, that’s what I’ve learned so far. After that, who knows. Maybe it becomes really hard and the BMC smartly dodges the bullet by shoving us out. I’m going to find out soon. But if you are just getting started, enjoy your time. Also, one more thing. Please look for my forthcoming new essays: Marriage is Easy, Work is Easy and Aging is Easy.