Do you ever hear this question from people who just brought home a brand-new baby -- "When does the fun part begin?" I hear that sometimes from new parents struggling through the first few weeks of motherhood, and I always have to chuckle. Did I say chuckle? I meant cackle. Wickedly. Into my glass of wine. The fun part of babies! Oh yes, I have heard of this mythical state that resides just over the rainbow, where fountains of pain-free breast milk flows and there is nothing but bubbles and giggles. FUN?!? Where on God's green Earth did you get the idea that having babies was supposed to be fun?
Instagram, right? You've been looking at photos of celebs -- and your friends -- squeezing their babies and grinning like they've just inhaled all the nitrous oxide at the dentist's office. Baybeeez! Wheee! And maybe you've been mooning over Pinterest boards of tiny tots wearing adorable wee outfits.
But here's the thing: Babies were never meant to be fun.
Oh we all have our moments. I'll give you that. But think about the history of humankind. People have been having babies for all kinds of un-fun reasons:
- To work the farm.
- To inherit the property/title/name.
- To take care of me when I'm old.
- To take over the family trade.
- Every sperm is sacred.
And don't forget this one:
- Birth control hadn't been invented yet/was unreliable in ye olden days.
Babies are many things. But if you're expecting them to be fun, you need to manage those expectations. I feel like early parenting is hardest on the people who have the most idealistic conceptions of it. If you anticipate a lot of hard work, highs and lows, vast amounts of boredom, and at least some interesting moments, you'll do okay. If you expect it to be all cuteness and fun all the time, you're in for a hard fall.
I was lucky. Way before I was even thinking about babies, I read Anne Lamott's searingly honest memoir of motherhood, Operating Instructions. She made babies sound painfully difficult -- well, hers had colic. I fully expected my baby to be just as grueling and was relieved when he turned out to be a little bit easier. I think Operating Instructions should be required reading for all prospective parents. It certainly would be an instructive cure for anyone addicted to baby photos on Instagram.
So don't hold your breath, waiting for the "fun" part to happen. It's going to get easier, and then just when you've figured it all out, your baby will change the game on you and it'll get hard again. You may cry a lot. But you'll also have moments of pride, horror, awe, fear, tedium, wonder, panic, hilarity, and heart-smushing love. Forget the "fun" part of parenting and expect much, much more.
How would you describe the experience of parenting a baby to a friend who hasn't had kids yet?
Image via David Quitoriano/Flickr