You know how even though you have a kid, you're still you, which means you still want a beer sometimes? And how the logistics of having that beer suddenly seem more difficult than the entire coordinating of having your baby including the insurance? That is because the world is not set up for you to have a beer and have a baby. It wants you to choose. I'm here to tell you that you don't have to.
No, I'm not encouraging wanton drinking of the sort you were into literally up until the minute you found out you were pregnant. I'm talking about how you manage to be a responsible parent and also a human being with an affinity for a glass of wine or a beer or a cocktail every now and again or with dinner every night or whatever it is you are into within a reasonable amount of consumption.
Right now you're thinking, "But isn't it obvious/easy?"
I thought so! As far as I can tell, there are a couple of ways to do it:
- Have a drink or two at home.
- Go out to dinner somewhere you can take your baby AND have a drink.
- Hire a babysitter and go out for a drink, but not too many drinks because you must always be prepared to stay up all night, drive to the ER, or wake quickly after returning home.
- Take turns going out for drinks with partner, who stays home not drinking, aka, "tandem socializing." Note: this free pass doesn't cover a next-day hangover. Therefore, avoid hangovers by not drinking very much.
But then there's this little advice exchange over at the Atlantic reminding me that some people have it even easier:
Q: My husband and I live above a bar and, naturally, patronize it several times a week. It does not serve food, so according to state law, minors cannot enter. This has not been a problem for us so far, but we are expecting the arrival of our very first minor in just a few weeks. Can we leave a sleeping baby in our apartment and go down to the bar? It is right downstairs, easily within the range of our baby monitor. People have babies in those giant suburban houses with, like, five floors, and nobody says anything.
—L.P. Dover, Del.
Before we even get to the Atlantic response, I just want to note that if I lived above a bar that might be something I'd have considered doing as well on occasion with a newborn. It's so tempting, what with how it's literally right there. Especially if it was a fairly chill bar, and everyone there knew what I was doing and that I lived just upstairs and everyone was cool with it, because community.
But I wasn't born yesterday with a beer and a baby, so I probably wouldn't tell people about it if I did. Nor would I even go seeking advice from randos online. Because they don't know! Because the Internet lives in black and white! It don’t know gray! It don't know nuance! Take Nuance Offline! is the Internet's secretly not-so-secret slogan.
However, I'd have to suss out the following, possibly even with a trial-run:
- Precisely how long would it take for me to sprint to the child?
- Would I have to pay a tab first or could I literally flip a table over and run out very dramatically at the first sign of a fuss?
- Would I need to pass through multiple locked doors wherein there is a reasonable concern that I would be prevented from getting back to my child?
- What if suddenly I heard the voice of that baby monitor hacker instead of my baby?
- Is it actually illegal?
We have a patio, and on occasion, while in the living room hanging out after our daughter has gone to bed watching TV, I wonder if I could even tell if someone broke in through the patio and made it to her room, since they wouldn't have to even pass by us. #coolparentingfears
But hey, maybe these people know this bar. They know the risks. Why are they asking for advice? Because they want to be told it's ok? I bet it probably is ok and that probably nothing will happen. Especially if the obstacle course from them to the child is, in essence, no greater than the same amount of time/distance it would take to say, stagger from sleep to awake to a child's room in the middle of the night in a reasonable sized house, as they point out.
But, the caveat is the caveat is the caveat: Anything Can Happen, says the nagging voice in the parent's head, and this is a good thing to wrestle with as a new parent, because it basically informs every single decision you make from now on. Balancing the likelihood of Anything Can Happen with the likelihood of Nothing Will Happen is the thing about the thing. So we take measured risks. We balance Thing We Want/Need with Safety of Offspring.
This issue actually came up before in this New York Times piece where Ginia Bellafante wrote about a Manhattan mother who left her kid in a hotel room while she hit the slots. The kid was fine (not that it was a good idea) but deeper in the piece, she writes about this murky area of how long can you leave the child, if at all. She cites the common practice of New Yorkers taking a baby monitor down the hall or, up to two blocks away to a bar from their tiny apartments:
The standard rationalization for this, one much in evidence on parenting message boards, is that in New York City, going next door, from one 1,200-square-foot apartment to another, say, is really no different from living in a house in Larchmont, where you might put your baby to sleep on the third floor and eat dinner on the patio.
But over at the Atlantic, no such gray zone was even allowed its first sip of booze when it turned 21:
I think this is a question better directed to Parenting magazine. Or maybe Alcoholics Anonymous. But let me give it a shot: no, you may not go down to the bar to drink while your baby is alone in your apartment. However, why don’t you try re-creating a barlike atmosphere in your apartment? Leave your baby monitor downstairs and listen to the sounds of your friends getting drunk while you do the same, but in close proximity to your baby.
Reasons this is a dick answer:
- Wanting a drink doesn't make you an alcoholic.
- They are saying very clearly that they ARE in close proximity to their baby.
- Nice try, but the least interesting thing on the planet is the sound of people talking in a bar when you're not in it. Hell, it's not interesting when you ARE in it.
Oh, and the first comment by a reader on the Atlantic question says, "I don't think this duo is ready for parenthood."
Burn. Shut up, ya fuck. Adults are talking, ok? About nuance? I know it's hard.
Besides, all this ignores the real issue: The bigger problem in trying to kick back with a cold one with a newborn no matter how close you may procure it is that you're more likely to fall the fuck asleep anyway. I genuinely wonder if they will change their minds in those initial weeks.
I didn't go out for a while after I had a baby because it was a huge transformation for me to have a baby, and I really didn't feel like it. But I got hounded for that, too. So will the parent who is immediately ready to hit the beer garden with their 3-day-old. And so it goes.
So if, immediately after giving birth and adjusting to parenthood, you are actually feeling good and rarin' to go and want a beer and can walk down to the bar to have one while being totally cognizant and capable of assessing all risk and living with the uncertainty therein GO FOR IT. May this be your most difficult parenting choice.
Not Those Dick People
Image by Jim Cooke, source images via Shutterstock.