When Henry was a newborn, we took him everywhere. To my brother’s wedding, to a whole slew of baseball games, to cafés, to restaurants — anywhere and everywhere at anytime. Because newborns are, as one of the ladies in our church put it, like potted plants. You just set them places and they either cry or sleep, but they don’t move. I prided myself on being that flexible mom who didn’t let her baby stop her from enjoying life.
But somewhere in the past two months, Henry grew up a little. Though it is hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened, we have developed a rhythm that is slowly evolving into an actual schedule, a schedule which makes all our lives easier. Henry has a bedtime, one that helps James and I have wonderfully calm evenings. It leads to a boy that wakes happy and is increasingly napping better and at the same time everyday. It no longer seems completely ridiculous to predict how our days will flow. This is really wonderful, because I have a dissertation to write during naptime, and now naptime is actually happening.
But it also means that our days of wild newborn spontaneity are over. The beautiful rhythm that we are living doesn’t just happen. I invest a lot of work and time into making it happen. Blowing off naps, playing fast and lose with bedtime – these things wreak havoc through our days, rippling out into an exhausted baby prone to melting down.
I have felt the need to hide it, this deep inconvenience of having a baby. We’re flexible, I tell people, let us know what is good for you. I find myself apologizing that we are running late because a nap was fought and then went long, or because of some other decision that I made because I knew it would result in Henry getting what he needed. Or I disrupt his schedule to suit others and find myself apologizing for the screaming baby, even though it is obviously not his fault.
But you know what? I’m not flexible right now, and I’m not sorry. I’m tired of apologizing. I’m inconsistent, yes, but not flexible. Henry might refuse to sleep, or wake up early, or do something that might totally disrupt my plans. I will work around his schedule because him having good days directly leads to me having good days, but that’s as accommodating as I can get. Yes, I can disrupt his schedule, and I do sometimes. I can totally ignore naptimes or bedtimes for lunch with friends or an evening out. But I will pay for it. I will have a baby melting down in public because I refused him the nap that he needs, or a night where he wakes every hour because he went to bed overtired. Sometimes, this is worth it. Sometimes I weight the benefits and decide that a day of ruined naps is worth that prolonged breakfast date with an old friend, or that we will risk a ruined bedtime by putting Henry down at a friend’s house so that we can continue a dinner party. But some relationships, some activities aren’t worth what I will pay later and I’ve decided to be ok with that.
Because the truth is, we all want to be the cool people with babies, the hipsters whose lives aren’t disrupted in the slightest by the tiny human that they are sustaining. We want to be praised for our flexibility, for the way that we “haven’t changed at all” since having a baby. We want people to talk about how easy our kids are, how we aren’t “those” parents who make life revolve around their children. We want to just add a baby into our photos, our funny stories, our flawless Instagram feeds, and ignore the inconvenient reality that raising these little people involves a total restructuring of our lives.
Because babies are inconvenient. They are demanding and consuming and they do not fit into the neat boxes where we would have them.Parenting demands a recognition that life is different now and that raising these little people will change everything. You can fight it, or you can embrace it. And I’m done apologizing for embracing it.
Because this inflexible reality of a limited social calendar and outing restrictions lets me embrace a whole lot of quiet joys and routine blessings.