There are a lot of articles floating around out there on the majestic internets talking about what it’s like to be a parent. Now, I’m still relatively new at this (you’re new until the kids are as old as your favorite scotch, right?), but I’ve noticed that a lot of the articles seem to float around one major concept.
Apparently, being a parent, while rewarding, also means that everything else sucks.
Yes, completely. Absolutely. There is just no grey area. Your kids might be the most awesome thing in the history of things, but, well, aside from your kids, your life is an empty void, without any sort of meaning or outlet. Now again, I’m still pretty new at this. I mean, I’ve only been home with Nugget for the last seven months, so clearly I just don’t have a handle on perspective yet. And true, she’s just starting to truly become independently mobile, which leads to all sorts of fun, so maybe I’m just missing what exactly it is about parenting that’s supposed to be terrible. So, in the spirit of explaining just HOW AWFUL parenting must clearly be, I’m going to give some confessions about the ways that my life has changed in the past 7 months.
1. You Can Still Have Childless Friends
I know, shocking. I mean, sure, you have to carve out time to see them, and you either need to figure out a way to do it without the child in tow, or make sure that your friends are totally kosher with you bringing the tiny ball of chaos with you everywhere you go. But, let’s be honest, the first is totally applicable as long as everyone in your friend circle is employed, and, as for the second, well, most people are their own forms of chaos. True, that chaos is totally different from the kind brought by a child, but to say that you don’t sometimes embody chaos would be like saying that you don’t need to stop to breathe once in a while. Everyone has a little bit of crazy within them, that will spring out at the most inopportune moments. If you’re really friends with someone, they’ll actually be able to roll with those punches. If they think your chaos is too much, maybe they aren’t friends. But yes, it IS possible to have friends that don’t have kids of their own, and it IS possible to still enjoy doing some of the same things with them. Scheduling is more difficult, but that doesn’t mean that you should bury your head in the sand because you’re the only one in your circle who made a baby.
2. Sometimes, Being the Stay-At-Home Parent is a Choice
Let’s just get this out in the open and cleared up right away. Yes, HawtWife makes a whole lot more money than I was able to dream of ever making myself. Even if that hadn’t been the case, I would have fought tooth and nail for the opportunity to stay home with Nugget, and my gut instinct says that we would have found a way to make it work for us. Overall, society seems to be viewing SAH moms in a better light, but us dads who choose the route of the stay-at-home parent still get met with some derision. Clearly, if we were really men, we would have wanted to bring home the bacon, and provide for our family. Um, no. Not all of us. I do love bacon, but I’m perfectly content to let HawtWife bring it home. I’ll just take care of cooking (and eating) it. I am in no way, shape, or form, lesser for choosing the path of being the primary caregiver for Nugget. It’s allowing her to have a good bond with both parents, and makes it WAY less stressful when HawtWife needs to go away for a few days. Which brings me to my next point.
3. You Can Actually Spend Time Away From Your Child
Sometimes, due to her job, HawtWife needs to go on business trips. Sometimes she just needs to get out-of-town to reconnect with friends (see point 1). As for me, I’ve got plenty of things to keep me going, and not all of them are things I can do with Nugget. In fact, I just recently finished a long stint where I was barely home on weekends, working overnight security to get some quick cash. While HawtWife and I don’t get as many date nights as we would like, we do get plenty of time where we’re interacting with adults (or, admittedly, “adults”) away from Nugget. That’s an important time to recharge your batteries, get prepared to tackle whatever new challenge your child presents you, and remember what it’s like to be a person, not a parent. Yes, parents are going to spend at least part of that time talking about their little ones, because they are a big focus of life. But, given a chance, we’ll also happily talk about ANYTHING ELSE.
4. You Can Have Interests That Don’t Revolve Around Your Child
This is a big one that bugs me. I see so many parents, both SAH and not, talk about how, once that baby is born, they no longer have a personality of any kind aside from one tied to their kid. Mind you, if this is their choice, to completely allow this tiny human to subsume every part of them that makes them who they are, then that’s fine. But when you phrase it in some sort of “woe-is-me” fashion, I’m going to flinch. As mentioned above, yes, parents are going to talk about their kids. It’s what we do. That said, I also like to talk about video games. And horror properties. And movies in general. And beer. And good scotch. And roller derby. And comedy. And and and. I’m not pigeonholed into only knowing what’s happening on Sesame Street; I can take the time to learn about what’s happening on Wall Street. Honestly, if ALL you can talk about is your kid, you either really need some more time away, spent with your favorite “adults” at an establishment little ones can’t get into yet, or you didn’t have a strong personality in the first place. Don’t be surprised if people start tuning you out when all of your conversations revolve around what amazing color of poo filled your precious child’s diaper.
5. You Stop Thinking Everything Is Magical
This doesn’t mean that I’m not still floored on a regular basis by the things that Nugget does. I am. She’s pretty damned cool. It’s just that, eventually, the magic does wear off a bit. It has to. You can’t survive life flitting endlessly from one state of 100% amazement to another, without a break in between. The first couple of times Nugget tried a new food? Shocking and oh-so-cool. Now? Hey, I’m happy she didn’t spit that one out. The first words? OHMYGOSHICANNOTEVENHANDLEIT!!! Realizing that your child is clearly prone to talking as much, if not more, than you do? Um, okay, take a break, and did you really just swear? I mean, by accident, but I’m pretty sure I heard you drop an F bomb in there. We’re going to nap while Daddy laughs about it. Kids are amazing, and the way that they pick up skills quickly shows just how cool the human mind actually is. But that doesn’t mean you need to be in constant awe. Save it for something really cool, like the first time they realize how to make fire in the CORRECT place.
6. Your Decision To Have Kids (or Not) Is Nobody Else’s Business
This extends somewhat into how the kids are raised as well, so long as there’s nothing truly dangerous being flitted about in the way the children are being brought up. I’ve seen people shamed because they had kids too young, too old, too married, too single, too poor, too rich, too whatever. And I’ve seen people shamed for not having kids for a lot of the same reasons. It isn’t anyone else’s choice. It’s up to you, and your chosen partner (or, in the case of insemination, you and whoever you choose to help you raise the child, which could be nobody). When raising kids, it isn’t for you to say whether or not someone should breastfeed or not. You don’t get to decide if co-sleeping is cool or the worst thing possible. And you certainly don’t get to pick what type of schooling other people sign their children up for. Again, assuming that there is no sort of dangerous practices being used, you don’t get to step in. Personally, I feel that, for me, enough kids to fill out a full football team starting line-up is a bit much, but if that’s the route that you want to go, and you have the means for supporting them, that’s totally your call. It’s time to stop being the overly judgmental members of society, and assume that others are actually trying their best, instead of their worst. And yes, before you say anything, I am noticing the irony in this.
7. It’s Perfectly Fine To Miss Your Kid, No Matter How Much Time You Spend With Them
Once again, I’ve been the stay-at-home parent for just a little over 7 months now. Nugget and I have had a lot of fun during this time. It’s been so very cool to spend days with her, watching her develop, seeing her personality to start coming forward, and realizing exactly how similar she already is to HawtWife. And yes, I get my time away, to be around other grown-ups, doing grown-up things. I host a comedy panel show. I work with professional wrestlers. I work with roller derby leagues. These activities are great, because, for the most part, they’re one night out and I’m back with my family. I mentioned above the recent string of working night security. That was six weekends in a row. The weekend before that, I was out-of-town for roller derby. That means I was away from Nugget for seven weekends in a row. Yes, I get to spend tons of time with her, but even being away for those weekends, I missed her. And that’s perfectly acceptable. Just because your life doesn’t revolve 100% around your kid doesn’t mean that you won’t miss them. It’s a great opportunity to look at the things you do in your life, and decide which ones are truly important, and which ones are just filler. Besides, the really important stuff tends to be both more fun and more rewarding.
Just a few confessions about how I’ve noticed that my life has changed over these past few months. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world, and every time I see an article talking about how hard it is to be a parent and basically cut all social ties, I just know that they’re doing it wrong.