Rainbows, butterflies, boredom
“Having a baby will change your life!” people often gush. “The love you’ll feel for your baby is a love like no other!”
There’s a lot of truth in these statements, however clichéd they might be. However, amidst the starry-eyed admonitions to “enjoy it now because it goes so fast!” all sorts of uncomfortable truths about parenting are forgotten.
For example, while caring for a baby will often make your heart swell with love, taking care of a baby can also be … really boring.
It feels mean and ungrateful to even write that.
“What will my parents think?” I worry. “I really do love them!”
To the angry audience in my mind, I protest: “Many people would give their right arm to have a child!” I think, ushering in the feelings of self-loathing. “Having the privilege to be bored is a total first-world problem!”
But I can’t be alone here, right? I can’t be the only parent staring vacant-eyed out the front window while my baby makes yet another break for the plant stand?
Lydia, my first, was a very colicky baby. And the thing about a colicky baby is that you’re never bored. Bordering on psychosis, maybe, but definitely not bored. Since the baby is always howling, you’re constantly bouncing, rocking, pacing, shushing — doing anything in your power to settle your child. You have a mission, and the mission gives you purpose.
But with most babies, there comes a time when things settle down. You’ve figured out how to feed them, you know what you need to pack in the bag when you go out and, hopefully, they’re even sleeping on a somewhat predictable schedule.
And this is where the ennui can creep in.
How was your day?
When the colic era came to an end and Lydia transformed into a happy little baby, I was thrilled. Suddenly things were so easy — I could take her out in public without fear. She started sleeping at regular times during the day, giving me time to work and clean up the house. I started to feel like a human again.
But with my return to the land of the living came a return to the mundane frustrations of daily life. I started to notice exactly what I was — or wasn’t — doing with my time on a daily basis. Interactions with my husband when he got home from work usually went like this:
Him: “So, what did you do today?”
Me: “Oh, you know … stuff. What about YOU?”
I practiced this deflection technique with Nick so I could use it when I ran into friends or met someone new. Better this than the truth, which if I answered honestly would usually be something like this: “My day? Well, I fed Lydia her breakfast and it took forever. She totally smeared the food all over her head, but I just cleaned it off with a wipe. I checked my phone while she ate, but all I got were emails from Groupon. Then I changed her clothes. Wow, those baby jeans I got at Goodwill sure are hard to put on! Eventually, she took a nap and I wrote some headlines for that brochure about heat pumps.”
Back to your pre-baby self
With Felix, my second child, I knew what to expect. I thought I’d be better prepared to answer the question I often asked myself: “Is this all there is?”
But then I ran into a friend, who asked me what I’d been up to — aside from taking care of kids, of course.
I gave it some thought. Does watching all five seasons of The Wire in under a month count as an accomplishment?
“Oh you know … the usual,” I answered. “Working and stuff. What about YOU?”
What I’m trying to say is, it can be easy to let your life swing out of balance when you have small children. Try to notice if this is happening, and realize it’s not shameful to feel bored or less than elated.
It very well might be time to get back to some of your pre-baby activities and parts of your pre-baby identity, too.