21 June 2012
After some consideration, I’ve decided that the hardest thing for me about having a baby wasn’t the carrying or the birthing or the taking care of the baby, per se. I think that Pete and I did a pretty good job of thoroughly battening down all of our mental and logistical hatches during my pregnancy, and before Theo was born we had a skeleton plan in place for what we’d do in case I had a C-section and had very limited mobility for the first month or two, or in case we had a colicky baby who screamed all day and all night without cease. Years of reading so-called mommy blogs had also prepared me for the reality of life with a newborn, and the mixture of profoundly un-starry-eyed sleeplessness and tedium that it often provokes.
Instead, the toughest thing was figuring out how everything else in my life fit around my new occupation. I mean, I had Theo a few months after we moved to a new state, for a different job, far away (… as usual) from family and friends. We knew that we’d be raising a baby without a close or readily-available support network. But then there was also Pete’s starting a new, demanding, and very important-to-him job, and my considerable angst over having not finished my degree or having any job prospects to speak of. And, while there are a lot of stay-at-home moms in our area, their social circles all seem to orient pretty tightly around conservative churches, which isn’t so much my scene. No, it’s not life with a baby that’s tough; it’s figuring out what I’m going to do with myself during and after taking care of a baby that’s been difficult. When you’ve taken yourself away from the identity you’ve formed for yourself through place, family, friends, work, school, and hobbies, what’s left?
Happily, I managed to blunder my way into teaching a class up at Pete’s college next fall, which — for a temporary, one-semester adjuncting gig — opens up a number of modest visions of a future that don’t necessarily involve unsolicited SAHM ABD-dom. It’ll get me back into the classroom, pay (well, almost) for enough daycare to let me get my teaching work and writing done, and give Pete and me a taste of life with a ridiculous commute. There’s also a departmental crackdown on rogue dissertators going on at the UW, which sparked emails between me and various faculty members that seem to indicate that I might, in fact, be defending my diss sometime next year. After that, will I try to get a full-time gig at a local community college, and deal with juggling all of the scheduling and commuting logistics that go along with it? Will I try to go part-time, and keep the home fires burning a bit more brightly? Will the fact that our ultra-inefficient home -> daycare -> work route is over 90 minutes each way push us to think about that whole house-buying thing? Or at least a second car? Will we even be able to buy a house after buying a second car? At least now I get to start figuring it out. And, despite all of my serious nerves about putting Theo into daycare — kid, it would be really great if you’d consent to take a bottle, for starters — I feel like it’s a tiny step towards placing myself into some kind of meaningful social context, which is what I’ve been so sorely lacking.
Okay. Besides that, though, I’ve figured out the other thing that I’d change if I had to do it all over again. We have a cheap and cheerful IKEA Poang (er, Poäng) rocker in the nursery that I’ve logged countless hours in. It’s comfy enough, matches our decor, is easily cleanable, and has helped me regain some of the lost muscle tone in my quads by forcing me to do a fairly deep squat whenever I want to stand up without using my arms.
If I had to do it all over again, though? I’d trade the Poäng for a big, ugly, comfy recliner in a nanosecond. Recliners, see, are utterly foreign to the way that I was raised. A piece of furniture that one puts one’s feet upon? Why don’t you just eat on plates made of paper, while you’re at it? Or sleep on a mattress without a fitted sheet? (Admittedly, I find that last one genuinely unpleasant.) But, dude. What I wouldn’t have given while awkwardly nodding off during one of innumerable late-night feedings for a wide, overstuffed La-Z-Boy. One of those beigey numbers that your friends’ dads had in high school, with the big lever on one side that you could use to deploy the ultimate in semi-supine comfort. I wouldn’t even care about how much it’d reek of stale milk by now.
Expectant parents of the world, hear my cry: consider the recliner.