Among the many, many things that will stick in your very tired craw upon becoming a parent is the accusation of "losing your identity" once you spawn. Once, you were capable of a conversation about the latest vegan cheese, so the argument goes, and now you can only speak of little Isabelle and her preternatural ability to shit her pants. I'm paraphrasing.
Hey, allow me to do some speaking for myself and millions of other parents I pretend to "get" when I say I'm sure it is like that for some people, but I don't actually know those people. Every parent I know is still the person they were before to varying degrees of accessibility, and if they are not, they are the type of person who was actually just a bowl of oatmeal in the first place, anyway. Like, the kind that isn't steel cut. Yes, parenting changes you on fundamental levels, but as far as I can tell, it never decimates the core preferences so much as temporarily mutes them: French things, dream pop, coffee. You know, all the good stuff.
So if you're not a bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal and you had some actual interests and thoughts prior to having a baby, you're now finding yourself on the bad end of a craw-sticker of an assumption about your inner life. Remember how you used to like movies, books, new bands, doing stuff? I guess your friends think all that has been replaced by a never-ending series of images of that baby in the sun at the end of Teletubbies vids.
But it's not true. You didn't lose your identity. I am happy to report, new parents, that your identity is exactly where you left it, in the freezer behind that carton of cigarettes you'll never smoke again. But what you have lost, dear friend, is your time. You are still thinking about reading the Sunday paper and the best pair of black ballet flats on the market and if that crazy-good dish with the peaches and ricotta and agave is still in season. Whether you will ever find the time to thaw out all of the above is another matter — much less while the getting is still good.
What's more, it's just that you don't make choices from that place anymore. It's also just that there is a tiny person jumping on your foot asking you to dance to the mambo. And of course you will oblige, because it is an absolute honor to be asked to dance the mambo with a 2-year-old person, even if said 2-year-old person doesn't know the moves and wants to do it 147 times. Everyone should be so lucky. Don't you people understand anything?!
Oh, let's not argue about it.
Sure — speaker concedes a point — when parents say there are no free minutes in their lives they are exaggerating. There is free time, it's just that if anyone told you how much actual free time it is, you would riot. The world would scud around in some weird, pouty way no one would like very much. No one would believe it. People would never breed. No one would sign up. Don't believe me?
Fine, it is exactly 12 free minutes. The free time. I know, I know. It sounds ludicrous. But I've done the math and it is exactly 12 minutes a day with a young child*. That's after factoring in all the stuff you have to do just to regenerate from the stuff you did with the child all day.
Picture dashing around all day beginning at 6:30 a.m. picking up volcanic, injurious falling debris that slips through your fingers as it scalds them and then suddenly at 9 pm the debris magically stops falling. What're you gonna do? Catch up on foreign affairs? Nope. You're gonna lock eyes with a heretofore-unnoticed spot on the wall for your goddamn 12 minutes and call it a day.
Sure, you can try and access some dusty old thoughts you use to have that were amusing, or dig up some fresh ones if you left the house recently and interacted with a human, but overall that's effort and effort is energy and your energy is like a low-flow toilet in an eco-friendly home you aren't actually living in because you're too tired to pack.
So when parents say "Yeah, I'm lame now," believe you me it's a convenient shorthand they are offering because they don't have the time or the energy to explain the above to someone who doesn't get why you can't just catch up on the Syria situation real quick and give them a call.
Things I love: Cigarettes that I don't smoke, martinis I don't drink and foreign films about ennui that I don't finish. Sure, I could force those things into my life somewhere, but at the end of the day I am a person who just wants to take the 12 minutes I manage to scrape together in this baby-does-mambo world and read a book or decide in less than a minute if I like that new Wild Nothing record. I do. I really do. But not as much as I feel I'm expected to. I won't go willingly, Pitchfork, I won't!
Furthermore, the fact that I'm taking a break from incendiary living for a couple of years for early parenting (bonus exit round from very hot rat race) is not going to slow down my ability to crack wise with you about anything much, so long as that something doesn't require me to have watched 12 to 15 hours of prime time television.
Which reminds me, are we all doing this now? Is TV great now? Are we actually now acting like the people who don't watch television are lame instead of the opposite? Because back in my day, people had bumper stickers about killing their televisions, or at least strongly felt intentions of causing them significant harm, and those people were the ones we called interesting! Hey, televisions are on the Internet now so perhaps the sentiment has changed. Though I'm not seeing the Kill Your Streaming Device bumper sticker quite so much. Or, you know, at all.
See, see what I'm doing here? We're talking about something and it's not even about my kid. MY KID MY KID MY KID. MY KID IS THE BEST THING EVER. No really, my kid is the BEST. She's been looking at this book about a kid who has a monster in his closet. It's kind of the funny, cuz the monster isn't mean, just sad, so the kid invites the monster into his room and the kid finds out the monster is actually scared of another monster who is, booyah, still in the closet. The drawings are legit scary. When I ask her what she is doing, she says "I'm nightmaring, Mommy."
Nightmaring? Gah, slayed. I'm slayed. Sorry, but, in one beautifully invented word, she has lit up my brain as well as any foreign film or good story or extra dry martini ever could and then some because all I want to do now is use nightmaring in one good sentence, such a beautiful word it is. Now, whatever shall I do with the remaining 11 minutes and 54 seconds of my free time?
*Haha, I'm exaggerating. I did that thing where I acted like I wasn't but I totally was. I have no actual idea how much free time there is with a kid, but it sure as hell feels like only 12 minutes.
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles. She feels a lot. Feel her on Twitter @iusedtobepoor.