Can I handle taking care of a baby?
Because Babies Don’t Come With Nice Leather-Bound Dayplanners
I’ve been reading you at Amalah & here since the beginning of the school year (I even read the archives; I had a lot of time on my hands before the kids came back) and I love the amount of thought that you give to what you write about. I need someone to explain something about having kids to me & you seem like you would do the subject justice.
I’ve been with my husband for almost 10 years, married for almost 4 and we’re thinking about getting on the baby train. We’re both excited about the idea of adding to the family, but I’m stumped about how the day-to-day stuff works. I already feel like my days are lather, rinse, repeat. I hit snooze in the morning, usually run out the door 5 minutes later than I should, workworkwork, exercise, figure out what’s for dinner, cook it, clean it up, get maybe one small project done (like ironing or bill paying, not craft projects), then brush, floss, wash, moisturize and fall into bed ready for some good hard sleep. It’s a good, happy, full, fun life. I like it & I’ve almost figured out how to do it well. I do the food shopping & cook on the weekend, so that we have lunches & dinner stuff all ready to go for the week. My husband does an awesome job with the laundry. Food & clothing, we have down. We’re not so organized (there’s a some clutter) but nothing squallor-like & we’re working on that.
I just cannot fathom fitting something/one else in. Getting me out the door is a challenge – me being responsible for getting another person ready to go & where they need to be? Please. I will never have my keys & wallet with me at the same time.
I’m exaggerating only a little and I have faith that it things fall into place when they need to, but I have such a Need to Be Prepared, and from everything I’ve read, nothing can prepare you for what it’s like to have a child. The falling in love with that tiny person, the willingness to do anything in your power to make them happy and protect them. I look at the video that you made for Noah’s first birthday and get teary thinking “I want that. I [hopefully] get to have that.” And I feel so lucky that that is even a possibility that I get to pursue. Any words of advice on how to prepare to have your world rocked by that?
Um. Jeez. Why couldn’t I have just picked another question about primer?
So…technically you already know the answer to your question — you even typed it out, all pretty-like. “Nothing can prepare you for what it’s like to have a child.”
But this isn’t that unusual of a thing. Think back to every major life transition you’ve already been through: living with a roommate or by yourself for the first time. Moving in with a significant other. Getting married. Buying a house, renovating said house. New jobs, new cities, new friends. You probably did your best to prepare for each of these events, but were still probably a little blindsided at times (your new roommate is a FREAK! your new husband leaves towels on the FLOOR! the new kitchen cabinets just FELL OFF THE WALL!). But you got through them and are probably scratching your head as you read this, because…did I really just compare having a baby to meeting your college roommate?
Like everything in life, there’s stuff you can control and stuff you can’t and stuff you just aren’t going to be 100% ready for. Having a baby, I think, does have the built-in benefit of some biology and evolution factors — you’re just sort of…programmed to love that baby and think it’s the cutest and best-smelling and even in your darkest moments of sleep deprivation and inadequacy, you cannot imagine life without this little squawling, selfish creature anymore than you can imagine life without your limbs.
I’m going to make a guess here, even though I don’t know you at all beyond the words you’ve typed, but…the fact that you ARE worrying more about the nitty-gritty day-to-day scheduling of a baby more than the more existential “will I love it? will it love me? do I really, really want this?” is actually a sign that you are pretty ready and everything will be fine. The schedule just sort of falls into place — you wake up earlier because the baby wakes up earlier. You divide up diaper and daycare drop-off duties the same way you divide up laundry and cooking. It might take some time and there may be a fight or two along the way, but then you find your rhythm and you cannot imagine your life without the world’s screechiest and squishiest alarm clock.
And while this may make your Need to Be Prepared Self cringe, there will be THOSE DAYS. DAAAAYS. For every morning where I found a spare 15 minutes to lie in bed and bask in the joy and beauty and miracle of my son’s belly button, there were also mornings when I left his bottles in the foyer and got a parking ticket and locked my keys in the car and cried in front of strangers at daycare and got to work two and a half hours late and yes, that all happened in the same morning.
And yet. We lived. We eventually figured out an arrangement and schedule that worked for us. Jason does the bills and the laundry and takes care of the cars, I do the dishes and take care of the pets and make everybody’s doctor and vet appointments. We take turns cooking dinner and shopping and we both put Noah to bed every night. I stay home so Jason can work whatever hours he needs to; Jason gets up with Noah on the weekends so I can get some extra sleep.
But hey, as I type, this column should have been done an hour ago and I need to be in Baltimore in two hours and neither of us are showered or dressed and Noah is eating breakfast out of a Ziploc bag on the couch. So some days I still kind of fail at the daily grind.
And yet whenever I look at him, all I can think: I can’t wait to mess everything up and do this all over again.Published February 4, 2008. Last updated July 23, 2017.