Society and Babies

Surprisingly, my most interesting observation about having just had our first baby has nothing to do with our baby *or* our travails as new parents! This observation has to do with the way people talk to new parents about their lives as parents.

stressed-outWhether the person is a parent or not, they often exhibit what I can only describe as an ersatz schadenfreude over how hard life is for new parents! Certainly, some of it is good-natured teasing (“Getting lots of sleep?”, “Got lots of free time on your hands?”, etc…), but a startling amount of it seems quite gleeful, as if they enjoy thinking about how much torture you must be enduring. One of the most common things we hear, upon mentioning some minor issue or other we’ve had, is some version of, “Oh you just wait, it’s going to get so much worse!” Seriously, they are almost wringing their hands in anticipation when they say it, too. I want to assume the best of people, that they intend this as a helpful caution, but it’s hard to get past the (for lack of a better term) joy on their faces and in their voices when they say it.

Even weirder, and possibly related to that last response, is the way people react when we tell them something *ISN’T* going so badly for us. We get an almost angry retort to the effect of, “That won’t last!” It’s as if we’ve stolen some of their satisfaction at our discomfort, and they’ll do anything to get it back! For example, we’ve worked out a plan/schedule where despite two-hour feedings, we’ve arranged for each of us to amass about 5 hours of sleep a night. This is a pretty survivable amount, and so isn’t really causing us all that much distress. When we point this out to people, especially those who’ve had children, they almost universally respond with some variation of, “Well, that’s fine, but you’re deluding yourselves if you think things are going to stay that way.” It’s usually couched in more palatable terms, but it’s as though they can’t bear the idea that we should be comfortable with our child, and that they need us to augment the real suffering we *don’t* have with anxiety over how ‘the other shoe will drop’. That other shoe may very well drop, but there’s nothing we can do to prevent it, so why would you want us to ruin this small island of solace by stressing over the rough seas ahead? Isn’t that kind of dickish?

I am perhaps over-thinking this, but hey, you know, I’m sleep-deprived, covered in baby-crap, and have no free time, so clearly that’s what my first choice would be, right?