A reflection on parenthood then and now
“You’re going to be tired for the rest of your life,” the only grandmother in my class tells my friend, a youngish, first-time mother who has just admitted to nursing her eight-month-old at 40-minute intervals all night, every night. Everyone laughs, but nervously.
Of course, she is tired. We all are. It’s a time-worn trope of new motherhood, widely understood by parents and childless adults alike. This much I can accept.
What I find more challenging is the frequent “your life is over now” messaging coming at me from folks my parents’ age. I’ve only been a mother for one year, but of course my life has changed, in ways I both expected and ways I never could have imagined. I can no longer walk out the door without a second thought. I can’t sleep in, can’t drink too much, can’t take a day off from dishes or laundry, it would seem. My joints hurt, and I can’t say they would hurt less if I had become a mother at 15 or 25 instead of 35. My days are nearly constant work, keeping our toddler fed, clean, entertained and safe. The song and dance required at every nap time.
I love it, I love my baby, but it is a time and energy suck to be constantly switched on. And I took the transition better than my husband, who doesn’t have my go-go-go Type A personality.
I’ve now joined the ranks of the people who get it, the knowing looks, the chuckling while you shake your head in agreement with the struggles of other parents. It’s a fun club to be in, and not overly exclusive. I imagine it’s that sense of camaraderie that Baby Boomers are trying to convey with their slightly doomsday proclamations aimed at new parents.
I’ve had a ton of conversations with my mom about this. She raised us the in 80s, which was apparently the last acceptable decade for questionable child-safety practices. Her typewritten instructions from the clinic indicate the best alcohol to drink if you have to drink while pregnant. If you have to drink. You can’t make this stuff up. I’ve made a really concerted effort to follow modern recommendations for infant health and safety, which my parents in turn, have made a concerted effort to respect. Still, it’s baffling to them and you can…