I have a part-time job as a moderator for the parenting forums on boston.com (which is great because there’s a ton of friendly and knowledgeable people out there sharing advice and experiences on a variety of parenting topics, and I love hearing their thoughts.). Recently, a poster on the cusp of TTC (for the rest of you, that is “trying to conceive”) wondered how others knew they were ready for parenthood. As expected, many eloquent and helpful responses were soon posted. Sure, making room for baby and saving a bunch of money are good ideas, if you can manage those sorts of things in this economy, but there’s more you should do to get ready for parenthood. Here’s a quick course for the parent wannabes:
Before Becoming a Parent You Should…
- Become a celebrity. Celebrities usually come with personal assistants, who are handy for things like reminding you to brush your teeth. Plus, despite annoying paparazzi baggage, celebrities get lots of free stuff and are mostly rich. I myself forgot to do this, darn it. Learn from my mistake.
- Embrace chaos. Give up your old control freak ways. The new boss is the little mewling thing in pink pajamas. She will set the schedule, run the roost. Nothing will ever be tidy, clean, or organized again. Love to be on time? Yeah, never going to happen again. What will happen is a last-minute diaper change that leads to getting stuck in rush-hour traffic, thus entirely missing the first semi-grownup party you’ve been to in months. If you are extremely well-balanced, you’ll really believe that old saying, “it’s the journey, not the destination.” Or, if you’re like me, you’ll wish you had just stayed home for another reading of Good Night Moon and a late-night (read, 9 p.m.) glass of wine and couch cuddle with husband.
- Grow a few additional arms. You’ll need extra limbs when trying to feed the baby, talk to Mom on phone, play Candyland with preschooler, fold laundry (which never ends, see #4), email boss to explain for the 84th time where that client file still is, prepare healthy, fresh food, and blow your own nose. Multitasking takes on a whole new definition in the universe of Parenthood.
- Learn to love dirty clothes and lots of laundry. By some weird cosmic Maytag conversion table, your clothes will be so neglected they’ll stand up on their own, while the kids’ clothes will get constant washing. Like your daily surprise at the stuff that comes from their bottoms, you’ll be unceasingly amazed that something so little could create so much…mess. (Which, of course, grows with them.)
- Give up that pesky need for sleep. First, any sleep you attempt will be disrupted by crying, calls for water, or monster-slaying. Second, interrupted sleep is not at all restful, just a giant tease. Third, interrupted sleep usually leads to insomnia where you lay awake for hours trying to figure out how much rest you might get if you fall asleep right now. Right now. Now! Then the alarm goes off. Just give it up. I hear that retirement is good for resting.
- Invent a time machine that allows you to add five extra hours to your day. This, plus the aforementioned elimination of sleep, will allow you to not only get ahead of the laundry (#4), but also finally write those thank you notes from your baby shower. During those extra hours you might also manage to, oh, read a book. Or a chapter. Or the dust jacket. Or at least the cartoons in this month’s New Yorker.
- Suck up to your neighbors, even the ones with the incessantly barking dog. Emergency babysitting is far more important than 3 a.m. yipping or that blue spruce you’ve been arguing about for the past five years. Get over yourself and bring them a pie.
- Get an advanced degree in diplomacy and negotiation. You’ll need those skills when your daughters break out in a fist fight over who gets to be Cinderella and who has to be the mean step-sister, and your son swoops in armed with a glowing light saber, declaring himself the Great Turbo Galactic Obliterator Of All That Is Pink and Sparkly. Handle that, and you can take on the Middle East.
- Realize the true luxuriousness of a minivan. I know, they’re not as badass as those giant SUVs, but they are far easier for little legs to climb into. Plus, they come with automatic door openers on your keychain, which turn out to be pretty handy when juggling the infant seat, groceries, toddler’s hand, and your own purse (which is actually a diaper bag, but we can pretend, can’t we?). And there’s something endearing about your manly husband behind the wheel, especially if he’s the sort who swore while you were dating that he’d never drive such a stupid girly car. It’s okay to giggle.
- Accept that while you may have found true love in your significant other, you have yet to experience the kind of fierce passion and devotion that can split atoms and render you paralyzed by the resulting joy and humility that comes when a perfect human spirit looks into your eyes and calls you Mommy.