I always thought I was pretty cool, to be honest. But then I had a baby and suddenly was filled with earnestness, concerns about chemicals and safety hazards, a newfound interest in organic foods and a desire to experience conflict resolution.
In other words, I got pretty lame for a minute. If cool is defined by a certain lack of caring tinged with bits of nihilism and scoffing — always the scoffing — then I became the most deeply caring, meaning-finding optimist you ever did see. I am like a walking Celine Dion record.
And I embrace it. Nonetheless, I am always hearing how hard it is for childless people to deal with their new-parent friends and the realities of schedules, attention-deficit and all-around friendships taking a dive. You know, 'cause you're different now, you're distracted now, you don't get all gussied up and hit the town like you used to. Your alcohol tolerance is for shit and you're not even fun anymore.
But now all I can think is, duuuuhh, it's definitely harder for the person with the baby? I mean, sure, it's hard to lose out on a friendship and have a person go in a different direction when you had a thing going — I get it; that has happened to me. But that can't possibly hold a candle to the thing with the baby where you have to actually keep it alive and stuff? And all the caring? It's so much caring.
And yet, these antagonistic feelings about new parents persist. Is it because we are Ghosts of Your Future that you childless people aren't ready to face? Is it our lack of hygiene? Is it the Toms? (They are so comfortable!) Is it our hypocrisy? It's true, now I won't ever buy fruit that isn't organic, but before the baby I was practically eating gas station burritos every day.
But here I am! I've jumped to the other side. And here are some things you (and I) used to think about new parents that aren't even fair or true, and we both know it.
"New parents are selfish." Sure, I'll bite. Having a baby is selfish, it's true — it's literally a forced externalization in human form of yourself. But there are so many ways to copy yourself for more instant gratification that are cheaper and probably more satisfying if being replicated is what you're after, like buying a Real Doll with your exact style of pubic hair, or becoming famous.
If it's selfish to have a baby, what exactly is the payoff? It's one hell of a long-ass con where in exchange for not killing something you get no guarantees that it won't one day write a memoir about you. Plus, it's a form of being a good ancestor to produce a good person. True, it's not the only way to be a good ancestor — you can invent things or just be really nice to homeless people. But having a baby is definitely the most efficient way to earn karma points, because if you just pop out a baby and do nothing and it becomes a social worker, you have already won. Doing nothing good or making a bad person, however, is negative karma for all possible lives. Mama needs some snake eyes!
Also: Not having a baby is totally selfish, too! Because you don't make any new yous to keep paying for stuff and shouldering the cost or whatever. You know, like the whole giant oneness thing. You're just a big old taker. Hope you solve the financial crisis or something, gaahhhh.
"People with babies are a pile of bullshit excuses." I'll have you know I was a veritable treasure trove of excuses before I ever thought of conceiving. But true, having a baby is a get-out-of-social-jail card for practically any event that runs late or, hell, runs at all. So is a pet. But in exchange for this built-in bail you get two decades of never actually being able to cut loose for real again. Fair trade? You decide. Most people use that card wisely, knowing that pretending your kid is sick just ain't worth the weird karma it generates.
"People who have babies immediately become lame." If by lame you mean no longer down to party in the spontaneous sense, then yes, Lamesville coincides with becoming a parent. But this finger-point of a playground insult ceases to mean much when your choices are now basically "be cool" vs. "parental neglect." One of the lamest things I've ever seen is a parent trying super hard to be considered still with-it. "Yeah I just had a kid, or whatever, but at least I can still get it together to listen to some chillwave." Yes, the fact that I just namechecked chillwave a year late only proves how lame I am, too, and I couldn't be happier about it.
"Parents are always saying they are tired but, come on, they are not that tired." Tired is relative — granted. But baby tired is a kind of eye-bleeding, crazy-tired that you can never really actually opt out of. Not really. Sure, someone can take a kid off your hands for a day, but 'tis a brief respite. Other kinds of tired seem to have built-in exit doors that actually open when things reach a critical mass, whereas having a baby is like a faux mural that looks like an exit door but when you try to hit that bar thingy to go outside, it just laughs at you.
"Parents change immediately when they have a baby." Childless people are all, "I know she had a baby, but isn't she still supposed to be her own person with an actual identity?" Sorry, hon. No, she isn't. Not really. At least, not for a hot minute. It's taken me two whole years to feel basically like myself again due to breeding, and by "myself" I mean somewhere in between a sea lion and a sloth.
Having a kid is such a huge, monumental gut-punch of an experience, so what would actually be weirder is popping out your baby and going on Facebook talking about how the same you are. I call bullshit on that shit. How can anyone not be totally utterly changed by parenting? It's impossible for me to not see parenting as transformative, both because I can no longer wear my old shoes but also because I now feel like a gently undulating walrus with a muffin top.
"All new parents can talk about is their kid." If you're not thinking about your kid constantly right after you have it, call social services. You're doing it wrong. If someone talking about Fifty Shades of Grey is more interesting than an entirely new person you just made, well then I just don't know what. Moreover, keeping a new baby alive trumps all friend's haircuts. And in extreme cases, it also trumps everything but maybe 10 minutes of a breakup story.
"Parents aren't funny anymore." Well, OK. Listen, I admit it. There were jokes I probably thought were funny when I was childless that make my heart actually wince now. It's a strange, strange thing. I also wouldn't change this new open-heartedness for all the laughs in the world. It happens to you for a reason, and it is good. There will always be enough people in the world for whom nothing is off limits, which is also good, but those of us who have crossed over to the soft side will just have to hold up the pillows.
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles. She watched some movie about a kid and a dolphin today and actually thought it was kinda good. Suggest more middlebrow on Twitter @iusedtobepoor.