Today I met with a friend who has no children for a coffee. It is important to mention that he has no children for a few reasons. The main being that I appreciate friends who have no children and still want to hang out with me. Not because I am suddenly not interesting enough or talk exclusively about diapers (do I? tell me if I do), but because it requires a lot of effort, energy and understanding on the part of the friend. I know because I was that friend.
It is not uncommon in Russia to get married and have kids in your early twenties. I watched a few of my girlfriends become mothers while I was changing jobs and countries every half a year. I didn’t get upset if they didn’t call me — I always called first. I would tag along to a playground or a class at preschool or stay at my friend’s place the whole day, because meeting up for cocktails was not an option anymore.
It didn’t bother me, truly. I just accepted the new rules of the game. The only annoying thing was that I could never have an uninterrupted conversation with my friend for longer than 5 minutes.
Now that I have a kid, it is me who gets distracted, asks “where were we?” every few minutes, and has to suddenly leave without saying proper goodbye. Such was the case when I met Seb for coffee.
Between making sure Kroshka doesn’t run to the road or grab something of value at the flea market where we met, I said: “You probably look at us and think: I never ever want to have kids of my own!”
“I am not sure I am cut out for that”, he replied.
“I don’t think anyone is cut out for that”, was my immediate answer.
Either no-one is cut out for that or everyone is, because I don’t think any one of us is ready for what’s coming, but then we somehow do it anyway.
I once spent a whole day with my friend who looks after two kids at home. I arrived at 9 am and left at 6 pm. The one thing I remember most distinctly is that she had to come up with fun activities for her four-year-old every fifteen minutes of the day, because that’s how long kids hold their attention. In the evening, I left to see a play at a theatre. She stayed to feed the kids dinner and tuck them in bed. “I could never do that!”, I thought.
I felt bad for my other friend who had to walk after her 2-year-old around the restaurant instead of enjoying a meal with the girls, because 2-year-olds are not particularly fond of sitting still and listening to adults blabber. “Nope”, I thought, “I love to eat my food in peace.”
Most frustratingly, I watched my friends stop traveling almost entirely after having kids. “Oh no no no no no! When I have kids, I am going to travel. I am so going to travel!” While the everyday routine of staying home and not being able to enjoy dinner felt unbearable, I was sure I was cut out to spend twelve hours on a plane with a screaming baby, if I had to. Ha. Ha-ha.
We have a lot of preconceived ideas of what we will look like as parents, what we are able of, what we will tolerate and what we will never allow. But as soon as the baby comes you learn that you somehow both under- and overestimated yourself.
Right after disembarking from the plane on my first flight with Kroshka — two hours, no connections — I swore I’d never do it again. I had to go back home, however, so I did. It was even worse.
I never thought I’d be the kind of mother who gives her child a croissant just to keep him in the stroller, and yet here we are — the stroller forever covered in crumbs.
But I also never imagined that I would be able to stay up and rock my baby to sleep for 10 straight hours, while both of us had fever, because every time I tried to sit — or, God forbid, lie down — he’d cry. At 8 pm that day, I didn’t believe I’d get through the night. At midnight, I thought my legs would give in. At 6 am, I gave Kroshka to his dad, collapsed on the bed and fell asleep, knowing that that was the roughest night of my entire life and I made it.
I didn’t know I had it in me to cook a healthy meal from scratch, observe my son smear the food on the table, the floor and himself (not a single spoon making it to his mouth), clean everything up and start cooking the next meal only a few hours later. I won’t say I do it with a smile on my face, but the fact that I don’t smash the plate on the wall after this exercise in futility is astonishing.
No-one is cut out to be a parent, just like no-one is truly ready to become one. If we knew for sure what’s waiting for us on the other side, we would cease to exist as a species.
No amount of watching your friends take care of their kids will give you a real idea of what you’d be like as a parent. Turned out, I really don’t mind staying home and playing a new game with my son every 15 minutes. Actually, every 5, as he’s not yet two and his attention span is even shorter.
I am even ok with not traveling as much as I used to — and this comes from a travel blogger! Gasp!
I learned, however, that if a certain someone doesn’t let me put his shoes on after 5 tries, a song, a dance, and a role play in which “look! a bear puts his shoes on, too!”, the shoes might fly into the wall. See? I thought it would be the plate with untouched food, but it’s the shoes that do it for me. You’ll never know.
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